VGSA 12U All-Stars begin regional play Wednesday in Texas

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

When the Vicksburg Girls Softball Association joined up with Little League International, it was with an eye toward this week.

The Vicksburg 16U All-Stars wrapped up their run in the Little League Southwest Regional with a loss to Louisiana on Monday night. At the same time, the 12U All-Star team embarked on a road trip to Waco, Texas, to begin its regional.

The 12U All-Stars will open that age bracket’s Southwest Regional Wednesday at 2 p.m. against Colorado. The game will be broadcast on ESPN Plus, which is available online as well as on Smart TV platforms like Roku and Apple TV. It will provide a national audience for the game, and for players who are used to playing in front of a handful of family and friends.

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“It’s a really big deal, because it’s the first year that ESPN Plus went nationwide with its coverage of the regionals. Every regional game from coast to coast is on. We’ve been watching them since Saturday morning,” Mike Foley, the VGSA president and coach of the 12U All-Stars, said Tuesday as he was driving to Waco. “It’s a huge stage. More people will watch our girls play softball this week than probably will in their lifetime.”

The Vicksburg All-Stars qualified for the regional by default. The VGSA is the only recreational league in Mississippi that is affiliated with Little League International and thus automatically was crowned the Mississippi state champion. That’s hardly dampened the enthusiasm about getting to play on a national stage.

The Southwest Regional includes state champions from Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, and East and West Texas. The Colorado team Vicksburg will open against is from Fruita, near the Utah border.

“They’re really fired up, but they’re handling it well,” Foley said of his players. “I think they’re ready. We told them all it’s like another ballgame once you’re out there on the field. It’s just like playing in the backyard in Vicksburg.”

The literal atmosphere in Waco might help with that hometown feeling. The forecast temperature for the start of Wednesday’s game is 100 degrees. Although Fruita is no stranger to high temperatures — it’s a desert town that has had a high temperature over 90 degrees every day in July — Foley thought his team’s experience playing weekend tournaments in the heat would give it an edge.

“We do believe it gives us an advantage. We do believe the Colorado girls won’t be used to the heat. Our humidity that we play in all the time helps us,” Foley said.

The winner of the Mississippi-Colorado game will face Texas East in a winners’ bracket game Thursday at 2 p.m. The loser plays either Louisiana, Texas West or New Mexico in an elimination game Friday at 2 p.m. The tournament is double elimination.

Regardless of the outcome, Foley said he’s been very pleased with the VGSA’s move to Little League. The 16U All-Stars went 1-2 in their regional, with both losses by one run. A number of sponsors and the City of Vicksburg have also rallied to support the teams and help them make the trip to the regionals.

“We’re really, really happy with how the senior girls did. They played in three one-run games and were in it to the very end. It tells you we can put a Little League team together and go into any age bracket and compete. We’re very happy for Vicksburg, Mississippi. We put Vicksburg, Mississippi softball n the map,” Foley said. “Our senior girls set the plate and now it’s up to our girls to go a little further.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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