WEWAHITCHKA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Wewahitchka is continuing its season as defending 1A state softball champion doing what it does most often: winning.
The Lady Gators beat Franklin in the district 4 championship game 2-0 last week, securing home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs on Thursday.
Younger players made their mark on the box score, as they have in every single game so far by necessity. Junior Cyrina Madrid had a double and a triple, brought home to score each time. Freshman pitcher Haley Guffey hurled an eight strikeout shutout.
No seniors, no problem.
Juniors Aleah Wooten and Gracie Price played substantial roles on last year's team. Four of their thirteen players are middle schoolers, but all of them played in Wewa's Dixie Youth Softball program.
Under second year high school head coach and veteran youth coach Tony Price, they're doing what they've been doing for decades--making the most out of whoever they have.
"We're from a small town. We get nobody to move in," Price admitted. "We have to take what we've got. We just work with them. A bucnh of them come out to the ball field and we put the time in with them."
That work is paying off.
"They impressed me a lot. We [were] wanting to go for a .700, .750 yearly winning percentage. We accomplished that. We wanted to compete in the district and we wound up winning the district. Everything went good. I'm very proud of this young bunch of girls."
The experience of playing together as kids works in their favor as well. Even though they haven't all played together, they all knew each other prior to donning the red and white Lady Gators uniform.
"In a community like ours, it's very important," Price said. "That's where we get our feeder girls that fall in love with the game and come on through the ranks. When we get them there, we can fine tune them."
It's easier said than done, but the key to success in high school is quite simple.
"We've just been playing real well together, making good defensive plays, hitting good," Guffey said after her shutout win. "If we just continue to do that, we'll be good."
Wewa hosts Jay in the region semifinals Thursday at 7.