It's one of the most exciting times of the year for those involved in the United States Speciality Sports Association Slo-Pitch Softball World Series, which begins today and runs through Saturday at Sweetwater Park near Thomson.
"We're down from the number of teams we thought we'd draw for this week's world series," said Bob Howard, director of the Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation/Leisure Services. "With Arkansas having decided not to participate, we lost 14 teams right there. And we didn't find out until Monday that New Mexico has decided not to come either. They have another five teams."
As of Monday night's cutoff, 40 teams had indicated they would play in the world series.
Two years ago - the last time Thomson-McDuffie County hosted such a world series event - a total of 76 teams, representing teams as young as 6 and under to 19 and under participated, Mr. Howard said.
Opening ceremonies are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. today with McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton serving as master of ceremony. Following welcoming remarks, he was expected to announce the players and coaches for each team. A special ceremony also will honor a number of umpires who have been selected to work the games.
The 12 and under division will have the largest number of teams participating, Mr. Howard said. As of Monday, there were 10 teams set to play, including a host team from Thomson-McDuffie County.
Dewayne Poss is head coach of the local 12 and under girls' softball team. Ty Poss and Kelly Guy will serve as assistant coaches. The team's roster consists of the following players: Ke'Onda Bradshaw, Kiera Fountain, Rhadeja Fanning, Morgan Bentley, Porche Grant, Jada Lawson, Harley Shelton, Kylie Guy, Kayla Garrison, Morgan Messenger, Brianna Poss, Alison Collier, Haley Poss and Jill Howard.
Aside from the home state of Georgia participating in that particular age division, several other states also will be vying for national recognition. The Peach State will have three teams; Oklahoma, 4; Mississippi, 3; and Ohio, 1.
"Every one of the teams in this year's world series are girls," Mr. Howard said. "We don't have any boys' teams."
The only other local team involved in this week's world series will be the 8 and under division.
The team, known as the Georgia Knockouts, is coached by Mattie Cheatham, who serves as administrative assistant of the Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation and Leisure Services. Her assistant coach will be Sharolyn Steed. The team's players include: Hannah Allen, DaMaiyah Cheatham, Kayla James, Alexis Pinkston, Jaleesa Jones, Jalyric Rhodes, JerDasia Bradshaw, Diamond McGahee, Gaerisha Reynolds, Kiarra Gant, Chique Cummings and Caleah Neal.
"I think it's going to be another fine world series," Mr. Howard said. "We're grateful that we were selected as the host site again. Even though there's a lot of work involved in hosting a world series, it's always an honor to play the host."
The 6 and under division, meanwhile, has drawn five teams. The teams represent Georgia and Oklahoma.
The 10 and under division has a total of six teams participating. The teams represent the following states: Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
The 14 and under division will feature six teams from Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee.
The 16 and under division, meanwhile, will consist of four teams from Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio and Oklahoma.
The 19 and under division will have five teams competing from Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Each of the teams will begin action with pool play. The double-elimination tourney was slated afterwards.
"We hope this week's world series will be fun and exciting for all of the teams, their coaches and fans," Mr. Howard said.