2020 NFA National Championships at the Gulfport Sportsplex

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As one of the spring sports lost to coronavirus, the return of high school softball is a welcome sight on the Gulf Coast.

This week, the National Fastpitch Alliance is hosting more than 100 teams from 15 different states at the Gulfport Sportsplex for the second annual national championships.

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Not only a recruiting hotbed for collegiate talent, but also a great place to work in some tik-toks during a two-hour rain delay.

“(Does that horn mean there’s more of a delay?) Yes. (Talk about the rain here in Mississippi.) Not good.”

Tik-Toks aplenty during Wednesday night’s washout, but not enough water to rain on the parade of softball’s comeback story.  Harrison Central Senior Jayden Burney said, “For some of us, this is our last opportunity to get seen by anybody because a lot of that was taken away by us for school ball. So this last travel ball season is the only way we can get looked at by a lot of coaches.”

Especially for a state like New Mexico, the first one to move high school football to the spring semester, pushing the start of softball all the way back to April. Atomic Blast RHP Haiven Schoolcraft said, “It’s a lot better that we’re able to do it now cause our high school season got canceled.”

Atomic Blast LHP Faith Aragon said, “And we just had a tournament in Denver that got canceled before this.”

This year’s event lost about 50 teams due to COVID-19, but NFA Executive Director Dale Palmer says the show must go on for the other 1,200 plus players in uniform. “Their world – a lot of people think this is their world. As they get older like I am you realize softball is just a game and it’s fun. But to young kids they play this year-round – to have not done anything for three months of four, it’s been tough. So it was very welcoming for those folks.”

Not to mention the competition level speaks for itself. “DI bound!”

“(Where are y’all going to school?) University of Memphis. Woo woo!”

“So where we’re from, it’s a small town so we don’t have that many big of hitters so here it teaches us better for strike zone area and which hitters, what they like and what they don’t like.”

Also the Tik-Toks, even an extra special birthday shout out from the Louisiana Voodoo, last year’s 16-U runners-up. “This is Madison Harris reporting from Gulfport, Mississippi. This is Coach Jesse Barksdale. Today is his birthday. He is a two-time Hall of Famer, and he is 70? (Almost 70.) Almost 70 years old. So we’re going to sing him happy birthday. Ready? Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! And many more!”

By Palmer’s estimation, the tournament creates a seven figure economic impact for the Gulf Coast region. Games wrap up on Sunday.