COLUMBIA — At Cosmo Park Thursday evening, a group of 10 young girls laughed, joked and played softball. It was the team’s last practice before heading off to the Central World Series.
Accompanying the laughter were loud pops of the softball against the aluminum bat followed by the clanking of the bat as it is thrown to the ground. Voices called for the ball as it traveled through the air.
After the glove closed on the ball, more voices said in unison, "Two down, one to go."
The Missouri Stealth 10U softball team will travel to Branson on Sunday for the United States Specialty Sports Association 9-and-under/10-and-under Central World Series. Twenty-four teams, from Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska and Oklahoma, will be at the tournament. The games start Tuesday and continue through Sunday. Stealth enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed for the 10U Class B division.
Coaches Chad Green and Jeff Kaufman have been developing this 10U team for the past two years. Most of the 12-girl team going to Branson has been playing together for the past year. In order to be on the 10U team, the player had to be 10 years old or younger as of Jan. 1.
"I think it’s easy coaching the team because of the personality of the girls that we have," Kaufman said. "They’re all extremely competitive, and they want to win. Even though they’re 10 years old, they want to win about as bad as we do."
Winning is exactly what the girls have done. In the 10U Class B division, the team is 18-3. An overall record of 50-13 has earned them the top United States Specialty Sports Association Power Ranking out of 103 teams in Region 5. The team is also ranked sixth out of 571 teams in the United States.
"We’ve worked really hard with them and they’ve worked hard and they’ve responded the whole entire year. No one’s been burned out," Kaufman said. "If we say we’re having a practice, they’re ready. If we say we’re not practicing, they get upset."