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Softball tries to 'strike out' Alzheimer's Disease
Bulloch Academy picther Maddie Mobley faces down a batter in a 6-2 victory over David Emanuel Academy during the 2015 Miriam Burnette Memorial Striking Out Alzheimer's Softball Tournament. The 15-team tournament featuring both public and private schools starts today at Georgia Southern University and Memorial Park on Fair Road.

More often than not, sports are used as an escape from reality – and should be taken with a grain of salt
in the grand scheme of life.
    However, there are times where sports can be used to promote change or help a good cause. Today,
many local and area softball teams will be doing just that in the Miriam Burnette Memorial Softball
    Now in its 5th year of operation, the Burnette Tournament has attracted teams from Bulloch County and beyond to showcase their best softball for a cause that’s very near and dear to tournament chairman Darron Burnette.
    “Four years ago, my mother died of Alzheimer’s disease after fighting it for six years,” Burnette said.
    “My good friend Chandler Dennard already had a softball tournament organized and decided this would be a good cause he could promote with it.”
    Before Dennard took his job as athletic director at Bulloch Academy and as a co-chair at the Burnette Tournament, he was a softball coach who wanted to help his friend. Knowing how prevalent the disease
has become, he knew this would be a great chance to raise awareness.
    “Alzheimers touches so many people,” Dennard said. “We used to call the tournament the Bulloch Bash, but since (Marion) died we decided to the memorialize the tournament in her honor.”
    What was once a six-team event has now expanded out over two days and hosts 14 teams.
    That growth has attracted a number of sponsors, who have helped the tournament raise even more money for the
    “Admission tickets merely pay for the cost to rent out the facilities to play in,” Burnette said. “The sponsors, particularly our principal sponsors Southeast Roofing Solutions and Southern Manner, allow us to reach our goal of $20,000.”
    Between the Burnette Tournament and four other benefit concerts that happen over the year, Burnette and his committee raise $250,000 a year for Alzheimer’s research. The softball tournament is where it
starts, and it couldn’t happen without all the schools coming to participate.
    “These coaches have all been very supportive, because they all either have been touched or know someone who has been touched by this disease,” Dennard said. “Not to mention this is a chance forthem to all open their seasons with some real competition.”
    First-year head coach Kyle Chambers has taken over the job at Bulloch Academy, the host school for the tournament, and has been prepping his girls for this event all summer long.
    “After nothing but weights and practice all summer, it’s going to be nice to finally see some real competiton,” Chambers said. “We’re a young team with only one senior, so it’ll be good to see wherewe can improve these next two days.”
    All four local high schools will be competing in the two day tournament along with a host of surrounding schools from neighboring counties. The complete list of teams competing is as follows: Statesboro, Southeast Bulloch, Portal, Bulloch Academy, Appling County, Pinewood, Thomas Jefferson, David Emmanuel, Bryan County, Edmund Burke, Vidalia, Heritage, Robert Toombs and Gatewood High School.
    The actual gameplay will begin today at 10:00 a.m. between four different fields. Today, games will be held at 10, 11:45, 1:30, 3:15 and 6:00 – while Wednesday’s games will start at 9:00, 10:45, 12:30 and 2:15. All games will be held between Lady Eagle Field, Rotary Field, Kiwanis Field and Memorial Field at Georgia Southern University.
    Tickets to the event will be sold for $10 at the gate, with students getting a $5 discount and all kids under 6 years old are allowed in free.