It’s a “once in a lifetime deal.”
And members of the Lebanon Babe Ruth League All-Star Team are ready to make the most of it.
The Lebanon all-star squad won state and regional tournaments to advance to the Babe Ruth Girls’ Fast-Pitch Softball Age 16-Under World Series, to be held this week at Pittsfield, Mass.
The team was to fly to Albany, N.Y. today. The squad will then shuttle to Pittsfield for the tournament, which begins Friday, Aug. 1.
“This is a once in a lifetime deal for the girls,” said Lebanon All-Star assistant coach Dan Novak. “They are real excited about this.”
The Lebanon squad is scheduled to open play in the World Series at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) against the Mid-Atlantic Regional champion — Methacton, Pa. — on Aug. 1.
There will be 10 teams competing in the World Series event. The first four games will be pool competition. The top three finishers will then advance to bracket play.
The team is comprised of all-stars from the Lebanon Babe Ruth Age 18-Under Summer League. Seven of those players are from the league championship team that went 14-0 in league competition, coached by Don Brenton, of Lebanon, and assisted by Dan Novak, of Richland.
Three players from the league title team as well as the World Series-qualifying all-star team are from Richland. They are Alicia Novak, Hannah Howlett and Tat Knapp. Howlett and Novak will both be seniors at Richland this coming school year while Knapp will be a sophomore.
The Lebanon All-Star Team won the Babe Ruth State Tournament last year as well, but didn’t go any farther.
This year, however, the squad is on a roll.
In the state tournament, held the July 4th Weekend in Washington, Mo., the Lebanon squad defeated Heartland of the bootheel area 13-0 and then shut out Sikeston 3-0 in 12 innings to advance to the finals. In the championship game the Lebanon All-Stars clipped host Washington 3-2.
The regional tourney was held July 17-20 at Englewood, Col.
Lebanon opened pool play as Alicia Novak belted a grand slam homer to lead the squad to a 11-1 win over Coffeyville, Kan. Lebanon then beat Scottsbluff, Neb. 4-3 in the second game and lost to Southern Plains – the Colorado state champion – 6-1 to enter bracket play as the No. 2 seed from its pool.
In bracket play Lebanon beat Colorado state tourney runner-up, Eastern Colorado, 10-1 and then had a rematch with Southern Plains and this time won 6-3.
Southern Plains then had to come through the losers bracket of the double-elimination event for a rematch with Lebanon in the final round.
Southern Plains defeated Lebanon 2-1 in the first title game to force the “if” game. In the final contest Lebanon clipped Southern Plains 4-3. In the final game Southern Plains loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. However, a 1-2-5 double play ended things and gave Lebanon the regional title. On the double play Lebanon pitcher Brooke Brenton fielded a grounder and fired home to Novak for the force out. Novak then threw to third baseman Jordan Carter for the second out to compete the play and end the game.
Now it’s on to World Series action.
Novak and Howlett have been part of some very big games in their softball careers.
Both played on the Lebanon All-Star team’s 2007 state championship squad. And both were starters for the Richland High School’s run in the 2007 Missouri Class 2 playoffs, which ended in the sectional round at Hartville in a see-saw game.
But the upcoming World Series competition tops the charts for both.
“It’s really big,” said Novak, a catcher on the Lebanon All-Stars. “It’s exciting, more than you can ever imagine.”
“This is probably the highest thing I’ve ever done in softball,” said Howlett, who plays first base and right field for Lebanon. “Last year we didn’t get to regionals. So this is very exciting.”
Knapp, who is a first-time player for the Lebanon All-Stars and who played on the Richland High junior varsity squad last year, is not surprised this team has made it to the World Series.
“It’s my first year on this team,” said Knapp, who is a second baseman and outfielder for the Lebanon All-Stars. “After we won state and then going on to the regionals I thought we could go on (to the World Series). We have a good pitcher and have good hitting.”
“You’re going to go and have fun,” Novak said. “Play your game, do your best. Take it one at-bat at a time. I think we can win it. We just need to play our game; we have the potential.”
“I think we know each other more this year; we know how to communicate,” Howlett said. “Most of the people on this team also played last year. I’m trying to push myself as far as I can go. I want to leave it all on the field.”
The Lebanon squad has had fund-raisers and has been accepting donations to offset the cost of the trip. Among those who helped the team made the Colorado trip for regionals were Stockstill Pharmacy, Ozarks Clinic, the Frame Shop and Ed’s Farm and Lawn of Richland. In addition, Jeff Carriger of STR Glass donated the use of a 12-passenger van.
For those who would like to donate, a fund has been set up at Central Bank in Lebanon.