MODESTO — About 1,400 girls with steely eyes and a mean swing converged on the region this weekend, competing in the California State Fast Pitch Championships of the National Softball Association.
The 11- to 14-year-old groups will race the bases of Modesto Christian High School in north Modesto again today, Northern California Director Chris Myers said. Players ages 15 to 18 will compete again at Pedretti Park in Turlock.
And 29 teams of 8- through 10-year-olds will compete for top honors all day today at Rainbow Fields in northeast Modesto. "That's the biggest league," Myers said.
Modesto was chosen for the state championships because of its large facilities and central location, Myers said, with teams traveling from as far south as Santa Maria and as far north as Redding.
Parked at Rainbow under a pitched shade structure Saturday, the Sloss family cheered 10-year-old Jayline and the rest of the Bakersfield Bustos team.
Mom Francine Sloss said the family travels every other weekend to watch Jayline pitch. "She loves the sport. She enjoys the girls," she said.
Grandmother Gwen Goodwin said theirs is a softball family. "Hopefully (she'll get) a scholarship to college," she said.
At another field, perched in a canvas chair in a Westside Bullets team shirt, Chandra Jones of Newman watched her daughter strike out with a philosophical sigh.
"It is frustrating, but it is fun," she said. "It's their third game today and they're getting tired but at least it's not as hot."
The game was not going well for the Bullets after a rough inning, she said.
"They're 9 and 10. They still need their sleep. They need their water. They have their attitudes, and it changes sometimes inning to inning," she said with a stoic smile.
On the opposing team, the Stockton Mayhem Elites, 8-year-old Faith Shelton knocked dirt off her shoes in the dugout. The outfielder and third base outfield and third baseman said she likes the tournaments.
"You've gotten a lot better since you started, it's unbelievable how much better," said Mayhem assistant coach Scott Key.
Key said the team had won one and lost one so far in the tournament. "They love the game," he said of his players.
By the time these girls are in the under-14 group, there will be college recruiters coming to some of their games, he predicted.
"The scouts start watching them around that age," Key said.
Elimination games will decide the championships from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Rainbow Fields, 3800 Claribel Road; Modesto Christian High School, 5755 Sisk Road; and Pedretti Park, 2400 N. Tegner Road, Turlock. Cost is $3 to $5.