STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — The Marble Falls Purple Crush (10-and-under) all-star softball team advanced to the PONY regional tournament by winning two games at the sectional tournament June 22-24.
The Purple Crush beat Dripping Springs 12-2 and Cedar Park 13-10.
Marble Falls begins the regional tournament against Hutto at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 29, at the McMaster Athletic Complex, 101 W.L. Walden Drive in Georgetown.
Also playing in the tournament are the Burnet Lady Dawgs, who face Medina Valley at 5 p.m. Friday.
Each team is guaranteed three games in the 15-team bracket.
The team’s coaches are Davey Roberts, John Cayce, Justin Dunk, Matt Lockner, and Tommy Hartley.
If there was one game where the Purple Crush learned more from a loss than from a win at the sectional tournament, it was the 5-4 setback to begin the weekend to the Georgetown Pride that won the tournament. Marble Falls led 4-0 going into the final minutes of the contest and simply had to get three outs for the win.
Instead Georgetown found a way to take the lead and kept it as time expired, Cayce said.
Still, Cayce commended the players for battling back through the loser’s bracket to qualify for regionals.
“They did plenty good to get to regionals,” he said. “We’ll get them mentally prepared.”
This group has played together for the last couple of years and were one out away from qualifying for a national tournament two years ago. The biggest reason for their success is how close the players are to one another, Cayce said.
“This particular group has never complained about practicing,” he said. “At the end of an hour-and-a-half practice, they ask, ‘Can we do this, can you pitch to us some more?’ They like to work, and work pays off.”
The Marble Falls pitcher is Alex Hartley, younger sister of Maddie Hartley, who also is a pitcher. Like her older sister did for her Texas Blaze Team Soriano team, Alex Hartley pitched from 8 a.m. until the end of the tournament, which was around 8 p.m.
“She never wavered,” Cayce said.
Coaches also have other players who can pitch, which is important because it gives Marble Falls more options, he added.
One challenge coaches have accepted is helping the athletes with how they view opponents. Cayce noted it’s not unusual for the all-star team to face squads that draw from hundreds of players, especially when it comes to Georgetown, Hutto, Leander, and other cities close to Austin.
“It’s like ‘OK, yes, we get our shot,’” Cayce said. “The more we get to play tough teams, that’s how we get better. If they give their best effort and come up short, that’s a win.”
A successful weekend at the regional tournament, the coach said, is winning two or three contests.
Cayce said the most valuable lesson coaches have learned is to keep a tiny word a major part of practices and games.
“This is my fifth year,” he said. “I have learned if they’re not having fun, they aren’t going to play for you, they’re not going to give their all unless they’re having fun. I think it’s everything.”