It all started just one year ago, when current 8U Newton STARS head coach Scott Standard believed that his daughter and many other young girls deserved the same opportunity as his son, which was to play in an all-star tournament.
Since Newton County doesn’t offer all-stars for girls, Standard got together with his coaches and parents and they ventured out on their own to give the girls an opportunity to play as all-stars.
“We decided last year that we’d go full-fledged into it,” Standard said. “When I sat down with the parents and I said, ‘Okay ,we’re probably looking at an $1,800 budget and we’re probably going to play 25 games.’ It turned into more like 75 games and five or six thousand dollars to spend or raise. Everybody caught the fever and enjoyed it so much that we had no hesitations about trying it again this year.”
Through community fundraisers, local sponsors and much of their own money, the coaches and parents were able to get it done. It turns out that it was money well spent. The STARS went on to win the Tri-State Softball Association World Series in October.
“These girls last year when they won that world series, [it was] heart, grit, whatever you want to call it. We finished at like one or two o’clock in the morning, 30-something degrees and I just saw that in the girls, the maturity and everything else,” Standard said.
Playing for Standard is a huge commitment from both the kids and the parents. He added that it’s not for everyone. Standard says that sometimes his team practices non-stop for three hours or more. The STARS played ball for about six months altogether last year before their season ended.
“We put them through what I would equate to what I’ve done with 12-year-old boys,” Standard said. “Like I said, it’s not for everyone, and a lot of the parents, it takes a huge commitment from them.”
“I won’t say that we got the most talented 11 in the league in Newton County. I won’t say that because for some it’s just not for [them]. We had one tournament last year. We played 11 or 12 ball games in one day. That’s not for everyone,” Standard said laughingly.
Although the STARS would become tri-state champions, last year’s trip to the All-Star State Tournament left more to be desired.
“Last year when we went to state we were one of the first teams eliminated, even though we ended up bouncing back and having a great summer and fall season,” Standard said. “When we played in the state tournament last year we were eliminated on Saturday evening. For those returnees and myself and all my coaches that returned it was a very sour taste we had [from last year]. Last night [Sunday night] was extremely rewarding.”
The six players that returned were able to rid themselves of the bitter loss from last year. Newton pumped out a 6-2 victory in a one-inning shootout against the Twin Creek Twisters in the double-elimination tournament after the Twisters had defeated the STARS just 11-10 just moments earlier.
The STARS were playing with about five or six girls injured throughout the weekend. It came to a point where Standard tried to take his daughter Elle out of the game, but she wouldn’t let him.
Standard, who has won three state championships before, said that none of them felt like this one.
“This year we’ve exceeded any expectations I had. Our goal was, this is their last year before they go to kid-pitch, our goal when I got with the coaches earlier in the year was to really make them have a dream they’d always remember,” Standard said.
“I’d taken boys teams down to the beach three or four years ago. Boys that I still see today that are now 12, 13, 14 years old always remember doing that, and for some that’s the only time they’ve ever done it and ever will. I made a pledge amongst our coaches we said, 'Let’s make every effort to get them there.'”
Going into the championship game, Newton was able to make it out of bracket play undefeated, and they were facing a team that had won five or six tournaments already. The STARS, however, aren’t just some pushover team. Since April, the STARS have competed in eight tournaments, where they have finished in either first, second or third each time.
“I’m usually a traditionalist, but I actually changed the batting order for the shootout game and I wanted to be the visiting team, which I know contradicts everything in the book. We wanted it. We were hitting well, I said I wanted to jump out on top and fortunately for us it ended up well,” Standard said.
Newton will move on and play in the World Series in Alabama beginning the middle of July.