The Bertram Bandits won their first-ever appearance at a world series, playing in the Protect Our Nation’s Youths’ South Zone Softball World Series on July 13-17 in Youngsville, Louisiana. The 8-and-under softball team, which represents the Bertram Youth League, was 8-1-1 during the five-day tournament.
The Bandits had to beat Edgewood twice — 9-3 and 13-1 — on July 17 to win the title after defeating a team from Georgetown 8-2 to advance to the championship. The Bandits were 2-0-1 after pool play.
“I’m humbled. I’m still pumped,” coach Chad Smith said.
The Bandits (59-6-1) are Bailey Deal, Emerson Floyd, Kyleigh Bowen, Lynnlee Smith, Preslie Watson, Baylee Hyden, Sydnee Saldivar, Jordyn Albrecht, Keegan Parks, Hadley Huffstuttler, Riley Lindeman, Aubree Guenter, and Laramie Pape. Along with Smith, coaches are Jessica Bowen, Kellen Floyd, Joe Saldivar, and Matt Albrecht.
Hyden was the tournament’s sportsmanship winner, which means her jersey will be at the PONY headquarters for a year.
On July 15, lightning caused delays and forced games to be stopped or rescheduled. During a game against Edgewood, the Bandits had been at the ballpark since 8 a.m. that day, but lightning delays stopped play until 10 p.m.
Smith said he and his coaches purposely chose to stay at the field.
“We had 19 minutes left in our game,” he said. “Coaches got together and said, ‘We’re staying here. If we go back to the hotel, they’ll get under the air conditioners and they’ll want to go to bed.’ We kept them from running around, we fed them some pizza, got some carbs in them. Right before the game, we gave them some sugar. The girls were unbelievable.”
Then, right after the coin flip against Georgetown on July 17, lightning delayed that game for 2½ hours. But that didn’t stop the Bandits from cruising to three victories to end the tournament and earn gold medals.
“They had attitude and drive,” Smith said. “They weren’t going to be denied. I told them, ‘Don’t walk out of here with anything left. Leave it all out on the field.’ They did it.”
The Bandits also had some unexpected support: the Georgetown team and a team from Liberty Hill, which was eliminated from the tournament July 16. Those teams and fans were in the stands to cheer on the Bertram squad.
“It was incredible,” Smith said. “Our stands were loud. I never expected that it would be that loud for an 8-and-under game.”
Smith, a 2014 Manor High School graduate, was a member of the 2013 football team that reached the state semifinals, making program history.
“I played in multiple big games,” he said. “I’d put this (World Series championship) as my No. 1. We had to play big games and had to beat the same opponent twice. As a coach and dad, it’s at the top of my sports accomplishments.”