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Young Seminole Warriors show plenty of heart at NAYO

From left are Seminole Warriors’ Mandi Marbry, Jada Sanchez, Madison Martinez, coach Eric Grimaldo and Angelina Yzaguirre. The team finished with a 3-2 record at the 2021 NAYO softball tournament held in July in Mississippi. (Photo Deon Denson)

Just when it looked like the young Seminole Warriors were headed for a quick exit from the NAYO softball tournament, they surprised a lot of people by fighting back to make the most of their trip to Choctaw, Mississippi, from July 22-24.

Hosted by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the first NAYO tournament of any kind held since 2019 due to the pandemic featured far fewer teams than usual. The Warriors were the only Seminole squad.

Comprised of players mostly from Brighton and Immokalee with a couple Cherokee and one Choctaw, the Warriors fielded the youngest team in the 18U division. Their roster included some players from the 12 and 15 age groups. Coach Eric Grimaldo said the team worked well together.

Seminole Warriors’ Angelina Yzaguirre fires a throw back into the infield while backed up by Kenna Martinez during a NAYO game July 22, 2021, in Choctaw, Mississippi. (Photo Deon Denson)

“One of the biggest things I saw in this team was the chemistry on and off the field, never negativity. I really enjoyed seeing that as a coach; it shows me what the future holds,” he said.

After losing their first game and receiving a bye in their second game, the Warriors found themselves on the brink of elimination in game three as they trailed 10-1 before staging a stunning rally.

“We finally got hot and came back to win 11-10 in our final at-bat,” said Grimaldo, who described the comeback as a huge win.

Seminole Warriors’ first baseman Amara Martinez applies a tag during a NAYO U18 game July 22, 2021. (Photo Deon Denson)

Having generated plenty of momentum, the Warriors shined in their fourth game with a 2-0 win.

“We played great defense,” Grimaldo said.

In their fifth game, the Warriors were ousted with a loss.

“All weekend we struggled with being consistent at the plate. We left a lot of runs on bases in every game,” Grimaldo said.

The team finished with a 3-2 record, good enough for third place. Giselle Micco and Mandi Marbry were the primary pitchers and Sandi Marbry was behind the plate.

With plenty of positive experiences generated from this year’s tournament, Grimaldo said he’s already looking forward to next year’s NAYO.

“This was our third year and again I am very proud how we have worked hard to get better from the first year. I am very thankful to have the opportunity to coach this team and group of girls. Thanks to everyone who helped out with donations and fundraisers to make this possible and helping the girls,” he said.

Seminole Warriors
Eric Grimaldo
Asst. coach: Carlos Estrada
Teena Covarrubias
Harlie Holloway
Mandi Marbry
Sandi Marbry
Amara Martinez
Keena Martinez
Madison Martinez
Giselle Micco
Adrianna Ramirez
Jada Sanchez
Angelina Yzaguirre

Seminole Warriors’ Jada Sanchez makes contact during an at-bat in the 2021 NAYO softball tournament. (Photo Deon Denson)
Seminole Warriors’ Giselle Micco delivers a pitch in the 2021 NAYO softball tournament. (Photo Deon Denson)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at