Eleven advance to state tourney

COLUMBIANA &8212; Last weekend&8217;s National Softball Association (NSA) Alabama South Central Area All-Star Softball Tournament turned into a Saturday marathon.

After rain canceled second round games Friday, Saturday turned into a long day beginning at 7 a.m. for some teams and not ending until close to 1 a.m. for others.

At the end of the long day, eight Shelby County youth teams advanced from the area to this weekend&8217;s state tournament in Athens, as the top four teams from each age division earned a bid.

Chelsea led the county teams in the area, qualifying three of their four teams in the tournament, while Pelham added two teams. Columbiana, Helena and Alabaster each had one. Oak Mountain added three teams from the North Central area.

Columbiana&8217;s 6-under team was said to be a favorite entering the weekend, and did not let a first round loss to Chelsea keep them down, as they battled back to win their way through the losers&8217; bracket and sweep Chelsea for the title Saturday night.

&8220;It was a long day for 6-year-old little girls,&8221; head coach Nick Wells said.

The Columbiana girls beat Helena in the first losers&8217; bracket game before taking on Pelham, followed by a 45-minute break. Coming out of the break Columbiana battled Alabaster to a 25-23 win and then beat Prattville and Millbrook to advance to the championship.

&8220;I told them all day we were coming up the rough side of the mountain and that if we come back to win the tournament we can go to Chuckie Cheese,&8221; Wells said.

Columbiana battled out of the losers&8217; bracket in consecutive tournaments to pull out a tournament victory, a feat that has motivated Wells and his assistants.

&8220;This is a special group of girls. The Lord has blessed us, and, as coaches and parents, we are just happy to be along for the ride that they&8217;re taking us on,&8221; Wells said.

Also in 6-and-under, Chelsea battled Alabaster Saturday to avenge a loss from the pre-area tournament with a 20-8 win to clinch its spot in the state tournament.

Alabaster&8217;s 8-and-under team won the area to advance, while Chelsea and Helena both qualified in the age level. Chelsea also added a 12-under team, while Pelham sends its 10-under and 12-under girls to state.

Chelsea 8-and-under clinched its spot with a 12-9 victory over previously undefeated Clanton with the help of a two-run home run by Valerie Cramer, who also homered, in the 8-7 win over Millbrook. Team MVP McKenzie Bryant also homered against Millbrook, on top of a double, triple and five RBIs.

Oak Mountain&8217;s 12-and-under girls captured first place at the North Central area in Vestavia Saturday to advance, while the Oak Mountain-Blue 10-and-under and 8-and-under teams advanced as area runners up.

State games will be played Friday-Sunday at Cowart Park in Athens and Tanner Park in Tanner. For more tournament information, visit www.alabamansa.com