PITTSFIELD - The teams that are competing in the Babe Ruth Softball 16-U World Series have come to Berkshire County from as near as Southeastern Massachusetts and from as far away as southwestern Texas and northwest Washington state.
But the last team to get here had the longest day arriving in town. The team from Lodi, Calif., had to get through two flight delays and a long bus ride from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., before pulling into Berkshire County about 1:15 a.m. Wednesday.
"It was crazy tiring," said Lodi's Veronica Smith, 16. "We were up for over 24 hours trying to get here and trying to get everything done that we needed to."
The Lodi coaches and players drove to San Francisco, flew to Dallas and then went to Connecticut. That sounds fairly straightforward. It turned out to be anything but.
The car pools left for San Francisco International Airport around 3:30 a.m. Once there, they discovered their flight was delayed for an hour. After taking off at 9 a.m., getting to Dallas wasn't a problem. They left Texas around 6 p.m. and landed in Connecticut at 10:30.
"The kids were hungry. They were tired and it was a chore getting checked in," head coach Harvey Casillas said. "By the time we hit the sack, it was probably 2 a.m."
There was an 8 a.m. mandatory coaches' meeting, and then it was back to work.
"We're running on fumes right now," Casillas said before his team's first game, but he quickly said that once they hit the field, things would be different.
"What happened last year with us is we started playing on adrenaline. The girls start playing ball and everything takes care of itself," he said.
For Smith, and some of the Lodi players, there was plenty to do on the airplanes and in the airports. For some of them, school has already started.
"I was just trying to finish my homework and read books and try to take my mind off [the trip]," said Smith, who is starting her junior year. "We started school on Friday. We're missing a week of school to be here."
Fern Creek scouts Force
Madison Williams expects another meeting of top pitchers when her Fern Creek, Ky., squad meets the Berkshire Force on Friday at the Doyle Complex.
"I think it should be a good game, maybe a 1-0 game," the Fern Creek pitcher said Wednesday. "It'll be a close one."
Williams, a 16-year-old junior-to-be at Dupont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky., already has one gem to her credit. She no-hit Hoquiam, Wash., in Wednesday's pool-play opener, striking out 13 batters in a 14-0 win.
She didn't expect Fern Creek's first game of the 2014 Series to be that easy -- especially not against a fellow World Series returner.
"I thought it was going to be closer than it was, but once we got our bats going and got the seven runs in the first inning, I knew we had it," she said.
After that win on Field 2, Williams and her teammates hung around to watch the host Force beat West Volusia, Fla., 9-1. They saw another stellar pitching performance, as Berkshire's Julia Murphy one-hit West Volusia in a 74-pitch complete game.
"The pitching is good, and both teams are hitting really well," Williams said during the game.
2013 Force players watching
Wednesday's Force-West Volusia game marked the first time recent Pittsfield High School graduate Aoife Nester had seen her former team play in a game this summer.
Nester, who was a catcher for the 2013 Force team that reached the World Series in Wilson County, N.C., was on hand for Berkshire's tournament-opening win. She, like a number of other former Force players, wore her old World Series jersey.
"The order's pretty good," Nester said of the current squad. "They've got Allie [Hunt]. They've got Mir [Voller]. Defensively, they have the key components you need in a team."
If Nester could tell the 2014 Force players anything, it would be to avoid getting caught up in the hype surrounding the Series. She knows this year's team is younger than the 2013 squad, but she said the current team has played competitively for longer than last year's team.
"We were an old team by comparison," Nester said. "We had seven or eight seniors last year. They have one. That's a major difference." Nester will attend Texas A&M in the fall, planning to major in forensics. She also hasn't ruled out trying to walk on and make the Aggies' roster.
"I've talked to the coach," she said. "It's going to be more of me trying to improve my game for at least a year, and see where I am then."
Pittsfield is no stranger to late World Series games due to weather delays. Jim Stimpson, Babe Ruth Softball Western State commissioner, said the latest 2008 World Series game at the Doyle Complex started between 12:30 and 1 a.m.
No one wants to see that kind of a weather delay for the 2014 Series, but if possible rain storms today delay games, later starts are a possibility.
Weather forecasts Wednesday night called for scattered thunderstorms today, with a 40 percent chance of rain.
National Commissioner Rob Connor said that if rain postpones games today, the schedule will simply be pushed back. He also said Field 4 at the Complex, which doesn't have lights, could be used for pool-play games if the schedule is too backed up.