Chipola College assistant softball coach Jimmy Hendrix

Aaron McCreight, left, of Visit Dothan talks to Chipola College assistant softball coach Jimmy Hendrix during a press conference on Tuesday.

The defending NJCAA national champion Chipola College softball team is teaming up once again with the city of Dothan, Alabama, to host the Visit Dothan Invitational for the third straight year beginning on Thursday at James Oates Park.

With 26 teams spanning nine states coming into town for the four-day event, it gives the area economy a boost in the arm and also a chance to further showcase the softball facility.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent here by the teams, their fans and their families over the entire weekend,” said Aaron McCreight, the president and CEO of Visit Dothan.

“It’s another way for us to showcase our facility, first, but also us as a destination as we continue to grow with the NJCAA to showcase our facilities as they host tournaments across the country and ultimately their national championship.

“This is an opportunity for us to show them, ‘Look, we have a championship facility here.’ We can certainly show them we can host a caliber event like that.”

Chipola, of nearby Marianna, won the national title last May in St. George, Utah, to complete a 52-5-1 season. The Indians are 6-0 to begin this season and were the top-ranked team in the preseason poll.

“We don’t really focus on the polls,” Chipola assistant softball coach Jimmy Hendrix said. “It’s great to be recognized as No. 1, but we’re starting from zero.

“This is a completely different team. We’ve got a completely different identity with this team. So really, it (ranking) doesn’t matter other than some of the recognition.”

Without a doubt, Hendrix and the other teams competing in Dothan this week will get an early gauge on how they stack up against some of the best competition in the country.

“It’s getting to the point to where this is one of the premier tournaments of the year,” Hendrix said. “We’ve got the best teams; we’ve got a great facility and great location here. Teams are calling to play.

“We picked up a team from Idaho this time. So it’s getting bigger as some of the northern schools have started to come down and recognizing the talent of teams here. The teams want to play the best.”

The schedule begins with just four games on Thursday – Chipola taking on Salt Lake (Utah) Community College on Field 6 and Northwest Florida State College taking on College of Southern Idaho on Field 5. At 5 p.m., Chipola will play Southern Idaho on Field 6 and Northwest Florida State will take on Salt Lake on Field 5.

The tournament hits high gear on Friday with 27 games scheduled to be spread out over six fields. The first games begin at 9 a.m. and the final games of the day are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, 26 games are slated with the openers beginning at 9 a.m. and the final games scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. On Sunday, five games are scheduled to conclude the tournament. The first three games begin at 9 a.m. and the final two are scheduled for 11 a.m.

Tickets are $10 each day. Children 12-under will be admitted free.

“It’s going to be excellent softball,” Hendrix said. “This is going to be some of the best teams in junior college softball playing against each other.”

There will also be a free skills camp hosted by Chipola on Saturday from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. for players ages 8-12. The camp is limited to the first 150 campers that register prior to the event at tripleplaysportsunlimited@gmail.com.

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