MARION, S.C. — The three longtime youth softball teammates have been selected to represent the state and play in a national tournament this summer.
Ava Gainey, Maliyah Williams and Ja’Shaya Page tried out and were selected to play in the 12-year old and under USA Softball All-American games hosted at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City in August.
All three girls are members of the 12U Carolina Elite SC Waugh travel softball team organized by coach Darryl Waugh out of Marion. Gainey and Paige recently played on the Lady Swamp Foxes varsity softball team and will return as rising eighth graders. Williams will join the Lady Swamp Foxes as seventh grader in the upcoming 2021 season.
Waugh is also the Lady Swamp Foxes softball program’s assistant coach. He was asked by the state commissioner of USA softball of South Carolina to join him and Steve Duzan to coach the USA All American Team Region 3 Red.
“We’re really excited for these three girls,” Waugh said. “The future is very bright for the softball program here.”
Waugh said making an USA Softball All-American team is the highest honor a player can receive and instantly brands the player as one of the top athletes in the United States. Only 360 girls will have the opportunity to play in the nationwide event. Each Region selects teams to represent their geographical area.
“It’s just an honor for them to make this team because so many girls try-out,” Waugh said. “I’ve coached these girls since they were eight years old. They just practice and work hard and we’re just trying to build this program back up. What’s great is they get to work-out with the official Team USA Olympic team and represent their state.”
Jakara Hyman has been coaching her daughter Williams along the way. The former Lady Swamp Foxes softball player is now a little league softball and all-star team coach for the Marion Recreation Department and serves as assistant coach for the travel ball team.
“It’s a dream come true to see my 11 year old daughter playing at the Hall of Fame Stadium amongst the best of the best representing South Carolina,” Hyman said. “Softball has been in my family for generations. She has been playing with a bat and a ball since she was able to walk, so the softball field is her happy place.”
Shakera Davis is also proud of her daughter Paige’s work ethic as all three players are honor students with years of playing experience already.
“This is a big opportunity and I’m very excited and happy for her,” Davis said. “She has worked so hard and deserves it all. She’s very dedicated and determined.”
Darryl Waugh’s wife Wendy Waugh said she was proud of Ava Gainey and work to improve her game.
“She take lessons every week and is always wanting to play ball,” Wendy Waugh said. “She has three dreams, one to play in the all American games, to make it to the Olympics and to play at LSU. One of which is coming true. I make it my life’s mission to give Ava every opportunity available as long has she continues to work hard.”
She is also proud of her husband as a coach and his dedication to the girls.
“He loves softball and studies the game all the time,” she said. “When he started these girls, most didn’t know what hand to put the glove on.”
After several years, the Waugh family is experiencing more wins on the field.
“His dedication to his teams is amazing,” Wendy Waugh said. “He never takes credit and he doesn’t get all the praise he should, but being asked to coach in the USA All American games shows me that they see what I do and that’s his passion.”
Darryl Waugh said the group is currently working to raise money for the trip set for August 13-17.
Those looking to help support the trio can make a check out to Carolina Elite SC Waugh at P.O. Box 202 or donate directly to the players.
USA All American Team Region 3 Red Roster: