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A tribute to the PEFYA Debs

Something unexpected happened Tuesday night in Concord.

The Prince Edward-Farmville Youth Association (PEFYA) Debs all-star team lost for the second time in the 2019 Dixie Softball Debs State Tournament, eliminating the squad from the tourney and ending its quest for a fourth straight state championship.

The bats simply wouldn’t come to life in the right way, with hit after hit flying into the air and right to a defender. It’s a big part of the game that can be unpredictable. The rest of the ingredients for another win were there, including excellent pitching and defense that held the opponent to only two runs.

A fourth straight state championship — it’s an astonishing endeavor when you think about it, but the PEFYA girls have made it seem possible, even likely.

From 2016-18, the state tournaments may have taken twists and turns, but they always ended with the PEFYA Debs All-Stars as the last team standing, earning them the right to represent Virginia in the Debs World Series.

Let’s take a moment and flash back to 2016 when the girls completed their undefeated state run with a 14-0 defeat of the Blackstone all-star team to clinch their first state title.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” PEFYA Manager Michael Roach said after the game. “It’s something they’ve worked hard for, not just this year but every year up to this point. All of them have played ball for a long time, and it’s wonderful to see that work pay off with the World Series.”

PEFYA President Ralph Dews was on hand for the game and said that this was the first Debs team in the association to reach the World Series during the time he has been involved, which spans around three decades.

Remarkably, six girls on the roster back then — half the team — fell below the standard age range for Debs, which was 16-18 and is now 16-19. The PEFYA team’s age range then was 13-16.

Accounting for why she and her PEFYA Debs teammates were able to get the job done, then-13-year-old third baseman Jaden Capati said, “A lot of us have been playing with each other since we were Darlings age,” adding that “Hannah-Gray (Schmidt) and I, we’ve been playing since we could walk.”

Through many of the girls having years of mutual experience, “we’ve bonded, and we’re family,” Capati said.

I often hear from coaches that their goal is to build up their players as people of character, and if they are successful in doing that, then things on the field or court will take care of itself.

David Schmidt, who went on to serve as manager of the PEFYA Debs from 2017-19, described Tuesday night the quality of character that this group of girls has consistently exhibited.

Of the squads he has coached, “this is the only team that when they come off the field, between every inning, they don’t argue,” he said. “None of the parents argue. And they help each other pick each other up. … I’ve never heard an argument between these girls. That’s the dynamic that I love about this team.”

In 2016, the PEFYA Debs All-Stars won their first state title, and in 2017, they won their first World Series game with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings against the Alabama all-star team.

The cast of players and coaches has changed some over the past four years on the PEFYA Debs all-star team, but each combination was a winning one in more ways than one.

The PEFYA Debs All-Stars from 2016-19 have included Mary Grace Amos, Shauneice Beasley, T’Asia Beasley, Madelyn Bickford, Jaden Capati, Alexis Gayles, Jordyn Harris, Gracie Hodges, Brooke Landis, Alexa Marzloff, Maddie Moreland, Abby Roach, Abbie Schmidt, Hannah-Gray Schmidt, Caroline Seal, Taylor Thomas, SaRoya Walton, Sierra Wharam and Melissa Wright.

The coaches have included Johnny Hodges, Michael Roach, Terry Seal and David Schmidt.

The fact that anything unexpected happened Tuesday is a testament to this group’s collective greatness.

As some of the leaders in this group have now aged out of Debs and as others move on to different pursuits, I’d like to take a moment to say thank you for the stories, and congratulations on an unprecedented run that was exciting, as an experience, and uplifting, as a hint of the potential for success that awaits you all in life.

Titus Mohler is the sports editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Titus.Mohler@FarmvilleHerald.com.