Auburn Babe Ruth 12U Little League team’s Tiana Avila gobbles up a grounder during a drill at Ingersoll Turf Facility in Auburn Wednesday afternoon as they prepare to go to the Little League World Series in Florida. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Qualifying for the Babe Ruth League 12U Softball World Series might have been the easy part for the girls from Auburn Suburban Little League.

The Maine state champions punched their ticket to the World Series with a dominant state tournament performance that was completed Sunday, but now they must come up with the money to buy plane tickets, pay for hotel rooms and more in Treasure Coast, Florida.

And the clock is ticking.

The team leaves for Florida next Thursday, July 25, and has to raise “close to $30,000” in that time, according to manager David Simpson.

“Tonight (at practice), I said, ‘I believe in this community,'” Simpson said. “The girls and the parents really have been aggressive, just knocking on doors.”

The team has also started a GoFundMe page, which had reached nearly $2,400 of the $28,000 goal as of Wednesday night.

One of the first people to donate was Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, who put $50 toward the cause.

“What a great accomplishment,” Levesque said of the team’s invitation to the World Series. “I hope everyone in Auburn can find a few extra dollars so that these girls can represent us in Florida.”

Auburn Babe Ruth 12U Little League’s Emily Giguere bobbles the ball as required during a drill after scooping up a grounder before then firing a strike to first during at Ingersoll Turf Facility in Auburn Wednesday afternoon as she and her team prepare to go to the Little League World Series in Florida. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Levesque also had the team come to Monday’s city council meeting, where he read a proclamation that said, among other things: “This team truly represents the culture of sport that the City of Auburn has enjoyed and fostered for these past 150 years. Now therefore, I, Jason Levesque, Mayor of the City of Auburn, on behalf of the entire City of Auburn, commend the team and all those involved in their hard work and wish them the best of luck in their future games, knowing that in our eyes they’re already world champions.”

After reading the proclamation, Levesque asked the team “How can we help?” The response back was to spread the word.

The team going to the World Series is an accomplishment in itself, but assistant coach Jess Morin was curious about when the last time a Maine softball team qualified for the Babe Ruth World Series. The answer raised some eyebrows.

“I’m not going to say she’s a historian of the game, but she actually did some research about the last Maine softball team to have qualified and go to the World Series. And we’re the first ones,” Simpson said.

Simpson said it’s “pretty phenomenal” that his team will be the first.

The route to get there was somewhat unusual. The team finished third in the New England regional tournament, but that came before the Maine state tournament, and Simpson said that because this year’s New England regional was an “open tournament” due to a low number of interested teams, that state tournament winners could also qualify for the World Series this year.

“The girls came (into the state tournament), they were focused, they held each other accountable, they had a goal in mind,” Simpson said.

“When the final out was made, the girls, they acknowledged that their goal was to get to Florida, which we were excited to do,” Simpson added. “And the next huge challenge of course is raising the money that we need to to be able to bring the team and the families down. And we’re doing OK with that. I think we’ll do all right.”

Players on the team are: Tiana Avila, Kaelyn Langlois, Leah Thibodeau, Emily Horton, Isabelle Jalbert, Paige Coleman, Emily Giguere, Kassidy Lobb, Alexis Kelsea, Abbie Simpson and Violet Vincent.

Simpson and Morin are joined on the coaching staff by Jamie Lobb and Kimberly Jalbert.

The GoFundMe page can be found at https://tinyurl.com/AuburnSuburban.