Baker County’s Junior All-Star squad recently completed its season with a strong showing at the Florida state finals in Fort Braden in Leon County. The local contingent of 13- and 14-year-olds was one of five teams to claim a berth in the state title round after advancing through tough district and sectionals.
The girls finished Baker County Junior Softball’s first-ever trip to the finals with a 2-2 record in the state bracket, earning the team a third place. They notched wins over St. Cloud (11-0) and Miami South Beach (10-4).
Coach P.J. Lefebvre had high praise for the team that clinched the North Florida Little League district 11 title with twin wins over Hilliard, including a dominating 32-3 rout.
After securing the Section Three title with a bye win, the local all-stars turned their attention to preparing for the five-team round robin state bracket. Coaches Lefebvre, Zary Alford, Taylor Jones, Tina Fraze and Steven Hancock drilled the team hard to ready it for the sweltering heat expected during the weekend tournament.
“Our girls were fire at the plate. As a team we had a .350 batting average, with seven players over .300 and both Melanie Sweat and Jesselynn Williams leading the way with averages over .500,” said Coach Lefebvre.Ashton Alford was the team’s “go-to” slugger, driving in ten runs, while third base anchor Angel Jackson smacked two triples.
The team’s starting pitchers Callie Paine and Kaylon Golden were consistent from the circle and the team shone on defense. Madison Kennedy led the defense, handling the grueling heat while catching all four games. Shortstop Ashley Cook, along with outfielders Alford, Williams, Peyton Staggs and Lindsey Love, limited opponents scoring opportunities with solid defense efforts.
Coach Lefebvre expressed his appreciation to team moms Linda Funk and Cheryl Kennedy for their help with handling the logistics and finances for the trip. He also thanked the large contingent of families and fans who made the trek over for the three-day tournament.
“We had tremendous support from the girls’ families and from the area businesses. Their contributions enabled us to give the whole team a memory they will never forget. The experience they gained will pay off in the future as they progress to their high school careers,” said Lefebvre.