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World champs about to make new run for glory
By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 30, 2000
BROOKSVILLE -- Darin Dampier and his Hernando Youth League Dixie Belles already had won a world championship, so in the spirit of further conquest, he and most of that team opted to play in the older Debs division this year. The chase, and the answer to how wise the move was, begins to develop at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Dixie League Softball State Championship Tournament in Zephyrhills.
With softball a weakly supported sport in the Debs' 16-18 age group, Hernando needs only to beat West Pasco to represent Florida in the Dixie world championship tournament.
Six players on the HYL Debs roster -- Carolyn Gant, Kristi Langworthy, Nicole Young, Whitney Griffin, Scotti Scrivens and Lindsay Grey, all of whom are 15 -- are still eligible to play in the Belles division, but they have enough youth league and high school experience to make up for a year in age.
"Out of the 12 girls we have, 10 were varsity starters or played a lot," Dampier said. "And these are girls that are coming from Hernando, that played for a state championship, and Central that was rated very high up in the state.
"I'd put this group of girls up against a lot of high school teams."
Riki Aulozzi, Tracie Ploskonka, Shauna Dampier, Heather Krasniewski, Grey and Megan Pagham were starters for Central. Gant, Langworthy and Young saw considerable playing time for Hernando.
Darin Dampier admits it would help to have a fireballing pitcher like Chrissy Hartley, who is playing for a Hernando-based traveling team this summer, but he is confident Gant, Jessica Maggard and Aulozzi can keep his team in enough games that their heavy hitting and solid defense can win.
"We'll score a lot of runs, and we'll play fantastic defense," he said. "With the quality of the girls, we should do all right."
KENNEDY PARK: It's modest, but it's progress. Kennedy Park Little League, reformed in November and buttressed by an outpouring of financial support, will send teams to the District 15 Little League All-Star Tournament for the first time in two years.
The league's demise seemed imminent when it could not afford to send teams to the postseason in July 1998.
Kennedy Park will field teams of 11- and 12-year-olds in softball and baseball this weekend. It could have sent more, but competitive issues -- not budgetary, business manager Dan Oliver said -- led the league to cut back.
"The coaches and the administrators got together and decided the 9-and-10 (players) were not ready, and you can send 7s and 8s, but they certainly weren't because they were in their first year in ball," Oliver said.
The baseball team plays at 10 a.m. Saturday in Crystal River. The softball team plays at noon Saturday in Dunnellon.
There was still extra costs to be covered, namely $640 in outfitting both teams in Kennedy Park uniforms. That money came from concession revenues, but Oliver said none of it would have been possible without the more than $8,000 donated by local businesses and citizens.
"We're pretty fortunate to come from a community that cared enough about each other to come up with the funds," he said.
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