The Surfside Bruins softball team has been around for the past seven years, but it has never had such a high concentration of players from Del Norte.
The Bruins' 14-and-under team has 11 girls from the county on its 12-girl roster.
"We have gathered kids from Gold Beach, Brookings and Crescent City and put them on one ASA team and taken them around to tournaments," said head coach Tony Baron, who has been with the program since its inception. "It just so happens that this year all the girls are from Crescent City with the exception of my daughter Tyrah."
Although the Bruins are open to players from three different counties, the girls from Del Norte seem to have taken a strong interest in the sport.
"I think that this group of girls has had some significant success in little league," Baron said. "They have won districts and they went to state. A few of the girls on the team I have had for a few years. I think they and their parents have kind of spread the word around Crescent City about what we have going on."
Although Baron said they didn't cut any players who tried out for the team this year, he feels that this group is "the cream of the crop."
That is kind of girls the Bruins try to get on their team.
"The girls that really want to (play softball) and want to take their game to the next level play ASA," Baron said. "That is always where it has been out. If you look at all the college players, they are getting recruited more out of ASA summer ball team than with their high school team."
So far this year, Surfside has played 38 games, and Baron estimated that they have won about 60 percent of them this year. The team's best finish came last weekend at the Black Tornado Tournament in Medford, where they took second place.
"They have gotten better every tournament," Baron said. "There is something new that they pick up every tournament. When they start to put it all together in one tournament, they are going to be unstoppable."
Although the Bruins haven't won a tournament yet this year, Baron has been impressed with how well his young squad has been competing. The Bruins are registered in the 14-and-under B division in Oregon, but almost all the players are fairly young for that age group, with an 11-year-old, 10 girlswho are 12andndash;13 years old and one girl that was 14 at the cutoff date.
"If these girls stick with (the Bruins) for the next four years, by the time they are juniors and seniors in high school these girls will be kicking some butt," Baron said. "They are already playing at a level right now that they could compete with anybody that they play."
While the Seaside Bruins focus on attracting the most talented and serious softball players in the area, Baron believes that this year's group is exceptional.
"It starts with how they feel about each other and interact with one another on and off the field. This group of girls gets along together really well. There are no attitudes," Baron said. "They actually want to play softball. They want to actually be together in the dugout and on trips. The traveling really helps because they have a lot of opportunities to bond with each other."
The girls have already been developing that bond for several years. Because almost all of the players are from Del Norte, the girls are all familiar with each other from school and other related activities.
"Most of us have been playing little league for a while and every year we just grow closer together," said pitcher Allison Douglas. "We keep each other up, and we never put each other down. We play as a team."
Baron's daughter Tyrah is the only girl from Oregon on the team. Although she doesn't have any classmates on the team like the other girls, she still feels right at home with the Bruins.
"Most of the girls on the team I just met this year, but we have gotten very close," Tyrah said. "It is like we have known each other for a long time."
Still going strong
In the seven years that Baron has been with the Bruins, he has noticed a trend with many of his Surfside teams: With a season that begins in February, most of the players are burnt out by summer.
"Usually our teams fall apart in early June because school gets out and they want to go to the river or do whatever, but this group of girls is committed to playing softball," Baron said.
With three tournaments and a softball camp left to attend this summer, the Bruins haven't lost any steam this summer.
"We are still excited," Tyrah said. "We have the state tournament coming up, and we have been working hard for it because we know that there are going to be really challenging teams there."
While Baron is pleased to have sustained enthusiasm for playing, the extra games cost the program extra money. That is where the Del Norte community has stepped up.
"I was blown away by the support down there," Baron said. "I really want to thank everyone in Crescent City that has supported us. We have actually been able to extend our season this year because of all the support that we got."
Due to the ages of the vast majority of the team, Baron is planning on keeping the Del Norte girls together to play 14-and-under again next year. He would also like to register for the A division, ASA's highest classification, rather than the B division that they are currently in.
As a 15-year-old, Tyrah is the only player from this year that the Bruins would lose if they remained a 14-and-under team in 2015. But Baron has enjoyed coaching this group of girls so much that he said he would like to stick with the 14-and-under group.
"They are committed to it," Baron said. "I am a softball coach, and it is hard to coach my own daughter. I will find a team for her to play on - we may even have enough girls next year to have an older team. In years past we have had three teams."
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.