Hilton 40 Plus received on-the-job-training in their first year of senior softball and it paid off in winning the 2017 SPA 35+ Division Women’ s Worlds September 23-24 at Heritage Point Park in Dalton, Georgia.
Hilton even did it the hard way losing their first bracket game and having to play nine games (3 pool, 6 bracket) to wrap up their first SPA Worlds Title.
“It was a long second day,” Hilton 40 Plus and SPA 2017 35 Manager-of-the-year Ann Humble said. "This was our first Worlds and when we went 3-0 in pool, we thought we may have an easy time. Then Wham! We lose our first bracket game and have to fight our way out of the loser’s bracket."
After losing 11-17 to Outer Limits in the opener, Hilton beat Arkansas Synergy 15-9, Save Second Base 21-6, Outer Limits 28-11, Pitches Be Crazy 18-10 to force the “IF” game.
In the title game they led a 13-11 lead going into the seventh. PBC had two runners on and two out and their top hitter to hit a shot to LCF when LF Gretchen Gruber raced over to make the game saving last out catch.
The way the season ended for Hilton 40 Plus was not the way it started.
“We knew absolutely nothing about the rules or even the bats and we learned on the fly,” Humble said.
Hilton went into the Pensacola Tournament with regular bats, it was the first they ever saw a Miken, but the next tournament they bought a pair.
They didn’t know your age division is based on the youngest player on the roster. Loaded with 50’s and 60’s players they were expecting to play at least 55’s...until they were told one of their players was 38 years young and they would have to play 35.
Other surprises were the double home plate, courtesy runners and 5-run rule.
“We learned pretty quick and won our next two tournaments (Rocky Top and Twitty),’ Humble said. “It was a shock at Pensacola but we learned quickly.”
At Dalton the ladies had their “big girl pants” on having team batting average of .546 but more importantly an On Base percentage of .680.
Gruber was the tournaments MVP while Karen Laymon, Kendra McDaniel, Mindy Rankin, Jackie Speacer and Bear Brooks were selected to the All-American All-Tournament team. Speacer was Hilton’s pitcher for all nine games.
On the roster were: Cristina Flogerzi, Humble, Bonnie Curry, Laymon, McDaniel, Rankin, Jena Rhea, Teresa Robertson, Triska Scott, Speacer, Brooks, Daphne Beagles, Karrie Warren, Gruber, Ryann Ellingsworth and Kelly Allen.
Humble also received some other good news. Apparently SPA will be holding a November 2018 tournament in Panama City, Hilton’s home area.
“This was such a great year, I am really happy we joined the SPA organization.” the manager said. “The tournaments were very well runs, the other teams were really friendly and the umpires and directors were just great. We had a great experience and are looking forward to 2018.”
Final Standings in the 35 Division was Hilton 40 Plus, 2. Pitches Be Crazy, 3. Outer Limits, 4. Save 2nd Base and 5. Arkansas Synergy.