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Local teams showcase 2016 talents
Bryan County's Shelby Barfield slides for a score before Bulloch Academy pitcher Baylee Howard, right, can get to home plate.

 Tuesday kicked off the start of the 5 th Annual Miriam Burnette Memorial “Strike Out” Alzheimer’s softball tournament – where 15 teams from around Bulloch County showcased their best stuff for a crowd of hundreds.
    All four Bulloch County Schools were in action on Tuesday to sharpen their skills for the regular season.
    Tournament co-chair and former Bulloch Academy softball coach Chandler Dennard says aside from the main benefit of raising money for Alzheimer’s research, that’s the whole point of having this preseason tournament.
    “It is a couple of good days of competition,” Dennard said. “We had a great turnout day one with about 450 people attending to watch some really good softball.”
    As for the actual softball played, host team Bulloch Academy started off the tournament by beating local rival Southeast Bulloch 7-6 – but would drop their next two contests 5-1 to Bryan County and 8-0 to John Milladge. Head coach Kyle Chambers says most of the teams problems came from a team defense perspective.
    “Our lack of a solid defense really hurt us in those last two games,” Chambers said. “That mainly comes from the fact that we’re very young and only have one senior. A lack of experience will hurt you there.”
    Coach Chambers did mention how proud of he was with the  pitching. While the defense let the Gators down as a whole, Chambers said they’ll be able to win games on their arms alone in 2016.
    “We’ve got three girls who can really hurl it this year,” Chambers said. “MiKay Sands will be our go-to arm for big situations, while Baylee Howard and JB Marsh will fill in on other starts.”
    A little over three miles east down West Main Street, Statesboro High School was competing on the same fields and producing similar results playing against out-of- county schools. The Blue Devils’ lost their first game in a 13-12 shootout against Thomas Jefferson Academy, tied Appling County 4-4 then dropped the final game 11-5 to Vidalia.
    “Overall I’m encouraged from what I’ve seen today,” said head coach Jim Simmons. “Our bats were really swinging well today considering the level of pitching we faced. We just need to work on our team defense.”
    Simmons is feeling better about this season now that he has 19 bodies to work with. As he puts it, finding success this season is going to be finding the right spot for all 19 girls to play.
    “These girls are all very coachable, they have a willingness to learn and work hard,” Simmons said. “I like what I’ve seen today.”
    Moving away from Statesboro, Southeast Bulloch also played Tuesday, but in just two games. However, it only took two games for head coach Aimee Civalier to realize what her team needed to work on.
    “The heat really got to us today,” Civalier said. “So conditioning is going to be a point of emphasis from here on out. We need to be able to finish games.”
    But there were plenty of things for Civalier to be happy about. Not only were her girls there for a good cause, it was a chance for Civalier to really see her team against good competition.
    “I was very happy with today’s run production,” Civalier said. “I was pleased with the pitching as well.”
    Finally, Portal also took home a 1-2 record on Tuesday. The Panthers dropped their first game to David Emmanuel 3-1, got back even against Edmund Burke with a 7-3 win and then lost their final game to Robert Toombs 10-7.
    “We are young and inexperienced, so that will affect our consistency,” said head coach Travis Moats.
    “But despite that we played fairly good defense and had some really nice moments hitting the ball.”
    The action continues tomorrow back at the Georgia Southern Fields. All four local teams will play tomorrow, including the showcase game between Statesboro and Bulloch Academy at 2:15. The ceremonial check for the total money raised will be presented tomorrow right before the showcase game.