Chelsea 8U softball wins state

A group of 15 girls became the focal point of Chelsea softball’s future Saturday night after beating Millbrook, 8-7, to win the city’s first state championship.

“It says a lot for our schools and what’s coming up to our high schools. It all comes with starting with our youth level,” said Johnny Rich, president of Chelsea’s youth softball league.

The Chelsea 8-under All-Stars entered the championship with only two losses on record this season, both coming against Millbrook, who served as their championship opponent. Having already beat Millbrook, 13-10, earlier in the day, Chelsea fell, 16-6, in the title game to force a second game in the double-elimination tournament.

Chelsea never led until the final run of the game, an RBI single by Allie Miller that drove in Chloe Eidson for the win. Eidson was the courtesy runner for catcher Bragen Hughes, who led off the inning with a single.

Millbrook took an early 3-0 lead before Chelsea tied it and later went up, 7-3, before the game was tied again in the fifth inning.

“It was amazing to take this group of girls and do what we did,” Chelsea head coach Vince Golden said. “The girls never quit. They believed in us and they believed in them. In the end, that’s what made the difference. After losing 16-6, it took a lot of believing in each other.”

Chelsea swept through the first four games of the tournament to reach the championship, beating Mountain Brook, 16-4, Monrovia, 11-0, Hoover, 19-18, and Millbrook, 13-10.

The win comes one year after Chelsea finished second in the 8-under tournament with some of the same players.

“(Winning state) helped us all forget about last year. It weighed heavily on our mind leading into this season,” said Golden.

He admits that at the beginning of the season, he and others did not feel this year’s team was as strong as last year’s.

Rich said the win shows how far Chelsea has come in its 30-year history of youth sports and more than 20 years of youth softball. He said over the past five years, Chelsea’s softball program has doubled in size, fielding 16 teams this year — the most in Shelby County.

“That says a lot,” Rich said. “A lot of people are moving into the community and wanting to know about our sports.”

Chelsea finished fourth in the 12-under tournament, while Columbiana was behind them in fifth. In the 6-under tournament. Oak Mountain was fourth in the 8-under tournament.