Lancaster's Dixie Darlings head to Alabama for Softball World Series

LANCASTER, S.C. — The Dixie Darlings All-Stars from Lancaster are more than ready for a long 420-mile journey away from home.

Nayeli Hydrick is 8 years old, but before she starts third grade, she wants to win a softball championship.

"Just getting out there, doing what I do with my friends and having a good time," she said.

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Nayeli’s father, Dillon Hydrick, is the first-year head coach of the Darlings. The team is part of Dixie Youth Sports, which is a league that Lancaster County has supported for decades.

More than 200 girls play in three age groups. The Darlings are 7- and 8-year-olds, the only group that won a state title last week.

"This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity," coach Hydrick said. "These girls are ready to play."

On Friday, they'll travel to Eufaula, Alabama, with likely more than 1,000 other people, including their families.

Emma Massey said she doesn't get nervous because her friends will be with her on the field.

“Most of us know each other a lot,” Emma said. “We've been playing together for a while."

Her mother, Anna, has watched her daughter become passionate about playing softball and watching her is intense for her, too.

"I broke a chair," the mother said laughing. "My arm on the chair broke because I was grabbing it so bad."

Ashley Johnson's daughter, Payton Faile, is also on the team.  Johnson said sports like this can take over your life, but it's fun too.

"When (Payton) was little, she wanted to dance, which kinda broke my heart because my passion was softball," Johnson said.

That changed and Payton now loves the game, the competition and the pressure of being up to bat.

"Everybody's cheering for you, and it's just all on you," Payton said.

The team will practice for about two hours each night this week as they get ready to leave for Alabama.

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