Students around the state are ready to get back to school, but 16 teams from around south Georgia are already on the softball diamond as Bulloch Academy hosted the first day of the third annual Miriam Burnette Memorial "Striking out Alzheimer’s" tournament Wednesday on the grounds of Georgia Southern University.
The event began in 2012 when tournament co-founder and Sea Island Bank President Darron Burnette and Bulloch coach Chandler Dennard came together on a plan to honor Burnette’s late mother while raising money for Alzheimer’s research.
The Lady Gators were already accustomed to hosting their preseason Bulloch Bash tournament, but swapped out the name while keeping the early season softball action and picking up a great cause.
The inaugural tournament lasted just one day and featured a handful of teams. This year, 16 teams will fill up fields for two days of action with many schools playing up to six games.
“We’re really excited with how this tournament has grown,” Burnette said. “This year, we added six teams to what we had last year. I know the girls love to be able to play at these facilities at Georgia Southern and it’s great to see so many teams come out and support what we’re trying to do.”
So many schools expressed interest in participating that this year’s tournament is beating the opening bell for classes.
Both GHSA and GISA teams flooded the tournament field, and while new rules have allowed the two associations to play games against one another, August 1 marks the final day that they can do so.
“We definitely want to welcome any team that wants to play,” Burnette said. “We’ve already booked July 28-29 for next year to make sure that we can allow everyone in.”
As the number of participants in the tournament has grown, so have the sponsors and community support.
By the opening pitch of Wednesday’s games, sponsorship donations already sat at $16,000. With gate fees and concessions Burnette hopes that the event — with all proceeds benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association of Coastal Georgia — will bring in over $25,000.
The great cause of the tournament was matched with the great play of Bulloch Academy in its 2-0 season-opening victory over John Milledge Academy.
Dennard’s Gators always have high hopes and aim for deep playoff runs, but one concern in 2014 is pitching experience — or lack thereof.
Veteran hurler Madelyn Vickery graduated this spring after a stellar Bulloch career, leaving the pitching duties to untested girls in 2014. Ansley Daughtry eased any fears for the time being, tossing a six-inning shutout to earn the win in the opener.
“Ansley did great,” Dennard said. “All I ask of our pitchers is to throw strikes and she did. Our defense looked about 10 times better than it had earlier in the summer. We still have a lot of pieces of the puzzle to figure out, but there was a lot to like in this first game.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.