ROCK HILL, S.C. — Overlooking the five-field softball complex at Cherry Park here, site of the 1991 National Softball Association's Girls World Series, stands a newly dedicated statue of the mighty Casey, subject of Ernest L. Thayer's epic, "Casey at the Bat."
At the base of the 14-foot bronze figure, the inscription reads, "There is no failure except in nolonger trying."
Those sentiments characterize the efforts of three Carroll Countyteams and a pair of umpires participating in this weekend's competition. The Westminster Rockets entered two teams, one in the 14-and-under division, the other in the 12-and-under category. Also playing in the 14-and-under division are the Hampstead Hammers.
Although the four-day tournament, which got under way Thursday, has brought together more than 200 of the finest girls softball teams from around the country, the three Carroll coaches view the competition as an opportunity for the players to learn how to work together as a team. At the same time, they get to see a part of the country many of them have never visited before.
"This is the biggest trip of the year for thesegirls," said Westminster's 14-and-under coach John McLain. "We got together in April and won the state tournament and qualified to go either here or to the American Softball Association tournament in Minnesota.
"We decided that we wanted to come here. The girls have responded real well to the challenge of playing here. They've worked hard and pulled together as a team," he said. "We didn't look at this tripas a reward, but to show people that we can play some ball. They were nervous in the first game, but they've done well."
Hampstead coach Keith Woodburn said all of his players are hanging around togetherboth at the ballpark and at the hotel, "really enjoying the tournament experience."
All of the coaches said that the players have had little time to do more than go to the games and relax at the hotels, although some swimming and a trip to a local amusement park were planned. Some even discussed going to a newly opened mall for shopping.
All three teams traveled with parents and coaches in an all-night convoy to South Carolina from Maryland. The Westminster 12-and-under team had the most unique vehicle, coach Jerry Georgiana said.
"One of my assistant coaches arranged for us to use a limousine on the trip down here that belongs to former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier,"Georgiana said. "It's a big kick for the girls to be driven to the ballpark in a limo. On the trip down, the roof came down and they stood up riding down the highway. It really was exciting for them."
Carroll County umpires Larry McElroy and Joe Perrin represent the firstMaryland umpires to work the World Series games.
Although there might be pressure on the pair to perform well, both appeared confidentof their abilities on the field.
"To be chosen for an event such as this, it just makes you more confident in your ability," McElroy said. "It makes you work that much harder."
Perrin said, "You're under too much pressure to start second-guessing yourself. And with thefact that most of these girls are all-stars, it means there aren't as many sloppy games, which actually makes this easier for us."
As of Friday night (at press time), both Westminster teams were undefeated and had advanced to the round of 16 in the double-elimination tournament.
The Westminster 14-and-under squad scored a 7-4 victory in11 innings Thursday and followed that win with a 9-8 triumph that night over Lake Lytal of Florida. The victory was a big boost for the Westminster team, as most coaches in the tourney agreed the Sunshine State teams were the toughest to beat.
The Westminster 12-and-underteam posted 21 runs in the first inning of its inaugural game en route to a 30-8 triumph Thursday night. The second game, Friday, was a tougher win, 7-3, a game that Georgiana characterized "a big boost forour girls."
The Hampstead team wasn't as fortunate. The Hammers were shut out in their first contest and faced elimination late Friday. The game was rained out and postponed to yesterday morning (after press time).
Still, all three coaches and both umpires said the experience of the tournament was the most important aspect, not the winsand losses.
Woodburn summed up the coaches' feelings about being involved in the tourney.
"It would be great to win," Woodburn said. "But the biggest thing for these girls is to try hard, play together and really enjoy themselves while they're here.
"You never know when they might get another opportunity like this. As long as they dotheir best, I can't ask any more of them."