STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
A tough 14-13 loss to the Round Rock Fury at a PONY sectional tournament June 16 should have ended the Marble Falls 8-and-under all-star softball team’s season. But despite the loss, the team is headed to the regional competition.
Marble Falls had a one-run lead with a minute left in the coach-pitch contest that allowed the Fury to have another at-bat. The outcome propelled a wave of emotion from the players, coaches, and fans until Melissa Boaz, PONY South regional director, pulled head coach Nick Biagini aside to have a conversation that turned the frowns upside down.
“Based off the way you played,” Boaz told him, “you qualified to go to regionals.”
This 2019 all-star team, which accepted the at-large bid to play Friday-Sunday, June 28-30, at Old Settlers Park, 3300 Palm Valley in Round Rock, is following in the footsteps of the Marble Falls Crush, which went to regionals four years ago.
That’s when the tears came from joy.
“I looked at those girls, and they are really an amazing group,” assistant coach Kristen Jennings said. “They push and push and push. As hot as it is, the parents keep bringing their kids. It’s like a family.”
Other assistant coaches are Mike Biagini, Billie Smith, and Joey Martin. Amanda Jennings is the dugout mom.
At sectionals, Marble Falls beat the Blanco Bombers 11-1 and Lake Travis Crush 10-8 but lost to Central Austin Youth League 12-1 and the Fury.
The road to regionals was tough for this Marble Falls squad. It went 0-4 in back-to-back double-elimination tournaments in early June headed into sectionals. Coaches made the decision to go to regionals to allow players to enjoy the ride.
“We’re playing people from Lake Travis, Round Rock, and Georgetown,” Jennings said. “Those kids have been playing together since they could walk. We’re a combined team; we have two 8U teams, and we pick the best players from the two teams.”
At the hotel pool after the first day at sectionals when Marble Falls was one loss away from elimination, Jennings told the adults the players would find a way to get to regionals.
“We were mind-blown the whole weekend,” Jennings said. “The girls came to play ball.”
She noted it’s not unusual to see a player emotional after committing an error because she takes it that personally.
Coaches tell players that even professionals make errors and have implored them to move on. Jennings commended the players for prevailing over injuries, including a line drive to the face of one of the pitchers, and unexpected occurrences, such as another assistant coach being in a hospital after suffering a heart attack.
“The girls have overcome,” she said. “They’ve persevered to keep going. As a parent and coach, we try to keep them up. We’ve been a family, we really have.”