SPORTS: Grueling schedule and Florida heat awaits Port Angeles 12U World Series team

ALACHUA, Fla. — The Port Angeles 12U state and Pacific Northwest regional champion is being sent to a tough-love, drill-sergeant-like camp compared to what Wilder Baseball is being put through this week in World-Series competition.

The 2012 Babe Ruth Softball 12U World Series, set for Alachua and High Springs, Fla., starts Saturday with 20 teams from around the country.

Port Angeles leaves for the World Series this morning at 7:30 at the Swain’s General Store parking lot, 602 E. First St.

Each squad of 12-year-old girls in the tournament will play four pool games in two days before the top 12 teams advance to a double-elimination bracket beginning the third day of the event.

Teams that drop into the losers’ bracket in the first round would have to win five straight games, sometimes two a day, just to get to the championship game on Aug. 8.

Whew!

And that’s all in the middle of the stifling Florida summer and smack in the middle of the state, two hours drive each from the east and west coasts.

Compared to the girls, Wilder Baseball is on vacation in the Riviera during its 16-18 Babe Ruth Baseball World Series this week in Weimar, Texas.

Wilder has played four pool games in five days, enjoyed a bye day Wednesday to relax before championship single-elimination bracket action starts today.

The 12U girls would probably kill for that schedule.

Granted, Wilder has been playing in 100-plus degree heat most of that time but the 12U girls might not get it much better temperature-wise.

There are reasons why Florida isn’t exactly the tourist capital of the world in the middle of summer.

The girls have been hydrating by drinking lots of bottles of water each day all week, and they plan to continue that during World Series play.

Wilder players did the same thing but they still got hit hard by the heat during the first few days.

“We were dying out there,” Wilder manager Rob Merritt said about the team’s first-day 7-6 win against Lansing, Ill., on Saturday when it was about 100 degrees on the field.

“The kids were throwing up and cramping from the fifth inning on.”

“It takes a couple of days to acclimate to the weather,” Port Angeles 12U softball manager Randy Steinman said.

The 12U tournament organizers aren’t heartless, though. They have a wet and fun day set for the girls and their coaches and families to start things off.

Friendship Fun Day is set for Camp Kulaqua Water Park from 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, and then the tourney’s opening ceremonies are set for 7:30 p.m. (EDT) the same day at Hal Brady Recreation Complex.

Some of the girls may not want to come out of the water during the fun day, but if they do, then tourney action starts in earnest Saturday with pool play.

Pool play

The 20 teams will be in four divisions of five squads each.

Port Angeles, representing Pacific Northwest, is set to play against Hazlet, N.J., Gainesville, Fla., Prairie Village, Ky., and Pitt County (Winterville), N.C., in National Division 2.

The North Olympic Peninsula team will play Kentucky at 10:30 a.m. PDT, and New Jersey at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Port Angeles concludes pool play against neighboring Florida city Gainesville at 10:30 a.m., and North Carolina at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Teams making up National Division 1 are Lodi, Calif., St. Charles Parish, La., East Louisville, Ky., Stamford, Conn., and Washington, N.C.

American Division 1 teams are Audubon, Pa., Marshall County, Tenn., host Santa Fe (Alachua), Fla., Angola, Ind., and Mineral Area, Mo.

And the teams comprising American Division 2 are Litchfield, N.H., Winter Park, Fla., Egg Harbor Township, N.J., Independence, Kan., and Oviedo, Fla.

The top three teams in each division move on to the double-elimination championship bracket, which starts Monday.

Hopefully, during this action-packed, grueling tournament, the teams won’t be force-marched between fields.

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