With the heftiest of the heat index numbers finally receding, the greater Houston area gets much more welcoming in the autumn months.
Some of the most enjoyable get-togethers in the region will happen on the softball field at one of the iconic recruiting events on the calendar, Triple Crown’s Ronald McDonald tournament, with ages 14u, 16u and 18u in action Oct. 15-17, 2021. The younger age groups will run Oct. 22-24.
Ultimately, hundreds of strong club programs will unleash their fastpitch talent one more time before winter sets in, with college coaches ranging from the NAIA and JUCO ranks all the way through NCAA D-I. On Thursday, Oct. 14, a 14u-18u clinic will be held from 6-9 p.m. at Collins Park in Spring, TX, and there are two NCAA D-I exhibition games on the docket with LSU playing Houston (4:30 p.m.) and Oklahoma State (7 p.m.), on Oct. 16 at Collins Park.
The tempo of the event stands out the most, with teams playing either five or six games in a compressed, competitive environment. For Week 1, there are 186 teams booked for action on 34 fields and five complexes; Week 2 features 110 teams on 28 fields and four complexes.
Ultimately, the event expects to donate about $30,000 to the Ronald McDonald House charity.
“We take a lot of pride in providing a meaningful setting so colleges and clubs can accomplish their goals. There’s a lot of stress and pressure with recruiting, and it’s great to help student-athletes get real clarity on getting to the next level,” said Jonathan Lampl of TCS, longtime director of the Ronald McDonald event. “To have almost 300 teams put us on the calendar, especially after all the COVID-19 disruptions, is a sign that club teams are convinced of the value in getting involved.”
Maria Winn, head coach at Galveston College in Texas, will be attending Ronald McDonald for the fourth time this year, something she always wanted to do earlier in her coaching run but had to skip because of other regional events in her sights.
“The event is nationally known and brings in a variety of talent for all over the country.
This event has helped me recruit various student athletes that have choose to come and play at my institution,” Winn said. “Anytime you can be out recruiting, it gives you an opportunity to network. As a junior college coach, it gives me the ability not only to network with other coaches about the game but also about my student athletes as well.”
Click the link to see the other Triple Crown Fastpitch events slated for 2021 and 2022:
Texas - Triple Crown Fastpitch
Name: Jonathan Lampl
Job Title: Major Event Director
Family: I am married to Paula, my beautiful wife of 15 years, and we have three daughters, ages 19, 30 and 46. We have three grandchildren, ages 11, 15 and 19 years old. We live in Lago Vista, Texas in the Hill Country on Lake Travis, a little northwest of Austin.
Hometown: Houston, Texas
College: University of Texas, graduated 1978
Sports Background (proudest moment and most humbling defeat): Playing baseball all through my school years.
Hobbies/Outside Interests: Love to watch my children and grandchildren participate in sports.
Favorite trip taken as a child or adult: Visited Italy and China.
How did you find or first become associated with Triple Crown?: Started working at TCS in May of 2011.
What intrigues you the most about Triple Crown?: The challenge of providing great events that bring families together.
By Kyle Koso
Since the growing season in Alaska is a bit of a challenge, it’s smart to assemble every ingredient possible if you want something to spring to life.
Even though the seeds for youth softball were planted in the state a couple of decades ago, it’s another thing entirely for a sport to take root and mature in ways that lead to things like excellence in multiple age groups and college opportunities. But the softball scene in Alaska mimics the land itself – rugged and rich with resources.
Evidence of that was seen in August of 2021 at Triple Crown’s Great Alaska Showcase, held just northwest of Anchorage at Loretta French Fields, which drew 150 athletes for three days of skill building while putting them in front of college coaches from 15 programs looking to connect with Alaska’s talent base. Year 1 of the showcase was a quieter affair thanks to COVID restrictions in 2020, but the state’s club and high school programs were ready to dive into the opportunity this time around.
They had a lot of help from multiple supporters – everything from field improvements to fundraising to feeding and lodging college coaches had to be tackled by local softball fans. The hours of work piled up, but so did the sense of excitement that Alaska softball could create a moment that allowed each player’s talent to shine.
“This has been a dream of mine for 20 years; it is gratifying to see so many softball players able to experience a showcase,” said Carl Waters, one of the founders of the Arctic Heat club program, which is essentially Ground Zero for softball in the state. “By holding the showcase in Alaska, a lot of players who would never have the opportunity to participate in a Triple Crown event in the lower 48 were able to experience it here. It did take months of planning and coordination to figure out what could be provided, how it was going to be provided and to have someone plan and execute the lunches and the meals.
“A great deal of credit goes to our business partners: Tudor Bing, USA Softball, Unite Here Local #878 who provided affordable lodging, Midnight Sun Rentals who provided the vehicles, Eagle River Parks and Recreation, Coca Cola who provided the drinks, and the Elevation and Krush softball teams who provided pizza on the last day and countless hours of meal prep and cooking.”
Once the groundwork for the Great Alaska Showcase came together, it became essential to prepare the grounds, as well. The Loretta French complex had been around since the early 2010’s, and it had some amusing backstory (businesses could sponsor foul balls, where their names were announced whenever a ball was hit out of play), but it needed a fair bit of attention if it was going to keep up with the level of athletic improvement.
“By entering into a private/public partnership with Eagle River Parks and Rec, we started refurbishing the fields in 2020. This was a collaborative effort by the Eagle River Baseball, Eagle River Softball, Chugiak Softball and Arctic Heat club programs,” said Dan Traxinger, a coach and parent with the Arctic Heat. “Bill Lierman represented the baseball programs and myself from the softball programs to improve the fields for the youth programs and community. Four fields have been refurbished and over 500 hours of volunteer time was put into building, maintaining and hosting softball functions in 2021 alone.
“For the first time in our history, the two local high schools (Eagle River and Chugiak) were able to host their home softball high school games at Loretta French and it offers practice facilities as well. In addition, we hosted the 2nd annual Birchwood Jamboree of which 15 teams from around Alaska attended. The Jamboree was sponsored by local business to keep the cost down for all teams attending, which allowed teams to attend and our underrepresented programs to afford the event.”
College coaches are well-known for going through just about anything to get face-to-face with potential roster fits, and a solid group of recruiters took advantage of all this preliminary work to make the journey up north and attend the showcase. With the local community throwing its energy into making a showcase even possible, and the foundation of player talent continuing to grow, colleges are going to be warming up to the topic of a trip up North.
“Just because they are from Alaska, an area more known for dogsledding than softball, players need to understand that it is the heart and effort that they put in, is what will determine what they get out of it,” said Eric Buss, softball head coach at Olympic College in Bremerton, WA. “One of the best catchers I have had on my teams came from Alaska. So, the talent is there, they just need to let others see that and help nurture their skills into an opportunity.
“I can say hands down the folks that promoted, set up the facility, provided food and drinks, attended daily and ensured this was a success are some of the most passionate, dedicated, and awesome people I have met in a long time. Seeing the desire in them to do what it takes to put on such a great event there in Alaska was amazing. The fields were in great condition, and based on what we were told on what they have been doing for months to get them that way is nothing short of true love for the kids and wanting them to have the best that they can.”
“We were pleased that Triple Crown was asked to get involved in drawing more attention to the player base in Alaska. Of course, we ended up benefiting enormously, as working with the softball community has been so satisfying,” said Stephanie Klaviter, event coordinator at TCS. “There’s a lot more that can be accomplished, as the athletes, coaches and supporters within softball show no shortage of enthusiasm.”
The quest continues to make the Great Alaska Showcase even more valuable to players and colleges; reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By Jason Hanes
Making its debut at the Myrtle Beach Summer Nationals, Team Long Island 2024 shook off Wednesday’s rain cancelation to win its qualifying bracket pool with a 4-1 victory over NJ Cheetahs – Voluntad Thursday afternoon.
“We took the rain cancelation as an opportunity to come out quick,” said Team Long Island 2024 head coach Marie Racano. “I think in our second game, we were a little high off of our huge offensive run in the first game. I think we got a little comfortable, not realizing that we were going to have to do it again and not realizing that we were going to have to string our hits together.”
After a 14-0 win in game one of the day, runs would be at a premium in the matchup against NJ Cheetahs – Voluntad. The game would turn in the third inning, however, as three runs came home to give Team Long Island 2024 a lead that would last. With runners on the corners, Bella Cruz would beat out an infield hit to drive in a run, and after the throw to first got away, there were runners on second and third. After a foul out left two on with two out, Sophie Nesturrick stepped up with what would be the biggest hit of the game, pulling the ball into left field to bring home both runners, making it 3-0.
“I knew the pitchers weren’t pitching anything crazy, so I was just looking for a ball that I could hit,” Nesturrick said. “I just wanted to get a pitch that I could hit to bring the runners in and keep my eye on the ball and get it past the infield.”
Nesturrick would also drive in the final run of the game for Team Long Island. With a runner on third following a sacrifice bunt, Nesturrick would lift a sacrifice fly to bring home the fourth run of the game for her squad.
The offensive output also helped take pressure off the pitchers for Team Long Island 2024. “It gives them more confidence. If we’ve got a lead, we can just pay attention to the next hitter and get the next out,” Nesturrick, one of the Team Long Island catchers, said of her pitchers.
Debutants at the Myrtle Beach Summer Nationals, Team Long Island’s squad may not be the deepest, but it is one of the most eager to compete in the event. “All eleven of my girls are ready to go,” said coach Racano. “Whoever is called upon is ready to play a role. We’re looking to make a run here. We’ve never been here before, so we’re very excited to compete.”
By Jason Hanes
Playing most of the game in a driving rainstorm, Indy Dreams ’03 adapted to the conditions and pulled away for an 18-3 victory over Carolina Comets – Wilkes in 18U action at the Myrtle Beach Summer Nationals Wednesday.
“You just do the best you can,” said Indy Dreams head coach Holli Streeval. “Our pitchers dealt with the same conditions theirs did, but we just had a little bit more control over our pitches. There’s nothing you can really do in the rain except pray your hand dries out enough between pitches.”
“You just have to get used to it,” said Hailey Gotshall who allowed one unearned run in two innings of action with three walks and three strikeouts. “You’ve got to do your best to hit your spots as well as you can.”
Patience at the plate helped Indy Dreams get the offense going. Trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the second, Indy Dreams would score nine times to take control of the game by the scruff of the neck. “We did a great job of not chasing pitches,” coach Streeval said. “We always go with, ‘It’s your pitch until it’s not.’ Of course, we had some walks, but we took advantage when we had the bases loaded.”
Gotshall would have perhaps the biggest blow of the nine-run frame when she doubled to left-center on a 1-0 pitch with the bases loaded. The three-run double would give her side a 7-2 lead. “I was looking for my pitch and let it get in deep,” Gotshall said. “I didn’t chase and I just had good timing.”
The big inning and the rhythm of the offense allowed Gotshall to relax in the circle when she went out for her two innings of relief. “It [helped] tremendously,” she said. “I could just focus on getting the batters and not worry about a run scoring.”
Gotshall would finish with a team-best five RBI with Corin Dammeier adding three runs driven in and two each from Hailey Cripe (Univ. of Kansas commit) and Hailee Howe (Ave Maria).
With one game under their belts, Indy Dreams ’03 can now focus on getting a good seed heading towards bracket play. “It’s always good to start with a win,” said coach Streeval. “You always wish the conditions were better, but if we had started off with a loss knowing we were handcuffed by the rain would have been very tough. Hopefully, we can gain momentum from this and hopefully the conditions will get better.”
Indiana Shockwaves – Perry Uses Small Ball for Lead, Big Swings for 18U Bracket Win at Summer Nationals
By Jason Hanes
There are a variety of different, sometimes forgotten, ways to score in softball. Indiana Shockwaves – Perry seemed to remember them all, using bunts, ground outs, a wild pitch, and a pair of home runs to top Carolina Elite National – Maddaluna, 9-0 (5) to win Pool B in 18U play at the Myrtle Beach Summer Nationals.
While the scoring played a large role in the win, Shockwaves – Perry also got an outstanding performance in the circle from Josie Newman. Working five scoreless innings, Newman struck out 11 batters and walked one while only allowing one bunt single.
“Really everything was working for me; change, curve, and rise. Whenever they were catching on to me by looking more outside, I just came in on them,” Newman said.
Indiana Shockwaves – Perry used a pair of bunts to bring home the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the second. Megan Nichols slid in just under the tag on Charly Koehler’s fielder’s choice sacrifice bunt for the first run of the game. One batter later, a bunt single by Ainsley Phillips would make it 2-0.
“We do that quite a bit,” said Shockwaves head coach Walt Perry. “We’ve done that for the last few years. We’re comfortable doing it and it’s part of our game every day.
“I think when you can create a little havoc on the basepaths, it gets everybody into the game,” coach Perry continued. “The bench gets excited, and it just makes it easier from then on.”
Nichols and Koehler would drive in runs in the third, with a third run coming home on a wild pitch to make it 5-0 after three complete. Then in the fourth, Shockwaves – Perry put the game away. On a 2-1 pitch, Ella White drilled a two-run homer to left to put her side up 7-0. Following a double, Savannah Baker drilled the first pitch she saw over the fence in center for a 9-0 lead.
That would be more than enough scoring for Newman. The hurler would field her position to help record the final out of the game and give her side the bracket victory. “I was just trying to get [outs] however I could,” Newman said. “I’m confident in my defense behind me, so if I could get them to put it in play, great. But a strikeout is pretty nice too.”
The win gives Indiana Shockwaves – Perry a 9:45 a.m. first pitch Friday, with two wins in back-to-back games needed to stay in the championship bracket. “We’ve been here multiple years and know how important it is to get that good seed and not have to stay out here playing all day on those bracket days,” coach Perry said.
With quality softball teams springing to life in Texas in every corner of the state, it makes sense for Triple Crown Fastpitch to stay connected in the scene.
The Texas Boom Elite club program will work in association with Triple Crown to produce the Stars and Strikes Camp and Showcase Tournament, set for Aug. 6-8, 2021 in the Boom Elite’s hometown of El Paso, TX. This is a five-game guarantee for ages 18u, with a four-game guarantee for 14u teams.
Games will be played at the El Paso County Sportspark, which features 10 lighted fields on its 45-acre campus.
The Texas Boom was formed in May of 2018. The group currently has eight teams in ages 10u through 18u, and its 18u Sepi squad recently won the Silver Bracket at the TCS Southwest Summer Nationals.
There are multiple requests with the county and city in the system to add as many as four more events in 2021, and details on those showcases will be released accordingly. Texas Boom Elite will look to expand its tournament reach in 2022 as well with events planned for the Texas communities of Lubbock, Midland and San Angelo, along with Las Cruces, NM.
Chris Sepulveda, founder and president of Texas Boom Elite, said he’d like teams from around the nation to see these events as a meeting ground for great competition and an ideal spot for college coaches to track talent for their rosters.
“We are looking forward in associating ourselves with Triple Crown Sports for many reasons,” Sepulveda said. “One of the top reasons is they always host great tournaments, which we plan to emulate or hopefully take this to another level with them. We plan to primarily focus on camps, showcases and occasionally have regular tournaments.
“Our number one goal is to help all players get looked at so they can hopefully achieve a dream they set forth regardless of where they are from. We look forward to hosting and extending our hospitality to all teams that attend our events.”
Triple Crown Sports has been producing youth, high school and college events for nearly 40 years and has a coast-to-coast presence in youth softball. TCS runs the Colorado 4th of July event, which drew more than 900 teams in 2021, as well at the TC Nationals, a highly competitive national championship tournament slated for July 2022 in southern California.
“It’s important for Triple Crown to be closely involved with organizations who have a desire to grow the game of softball, and who have the talent and organization to make a difference,” said Sean Hardy, chief operating officer of Triple Crown Sports. “The Texas Boom Elite check all the boxes when it comes to providing a valuable experience in their events, and we are pleased to offer our insight and help to take it even further.”
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By Jason Hanes
After its first loss of the tournament, Birmingham Thunderbolts Premier – 2027 Alford took advantage of a second chance at a victory, scoring three first inning runs en route to a 7-0 championship victory over Team NC – Newell in 12U at the Myrtle Beach Summer Nationals Sunday afternoon.
“This team has a lot of grit,” said head coach Fredrick Alford. “They’re solid and have a lot of fight. The three early runs were big.”
Playing as the visiting team in the decisive game, Birmingham Thunderbolts got an early lift from starting pitcher Taegan Lermann. With a runner on second and two out, Lermann doubled down the line in left to plate the first run of the game for her side. One batter later, Kennedy Cuthbert doubled home Lermann to make it 2-0. Milleigh Kate Byrd would then single home Cuthbert for the 3-0 lead.
“We couldn’t be low energy,” said Lermann. “We had to be high and we couldn’t give up.”
The three first inning runs would prove to be all Lermann would need in the circle. While she would give up seven walks, she would give up just three hits while striking out two in five-plus innings of work.
“It was great how positive everybody was,” said Lermann. “We were very energetic. I was trying to change things up with my pitches also.”
“[Taegan] was huge,” said coach Alford. “She did a great job using her offspeed and pitching with a lot of spin and movement.”
Jayde Palmer’s RBI single would make it 4-0 in the second inning. In the third, a single by Bryalee Alford would tack on another insurance run. The score rolled at 5-0 until the sixth, when a throwing error brought in a run, then Asher Thompson’s RBI single tacked on the seventh tally of the game.
Team NC – Newell forced the decisive game by winning 4-0 over the Thunderbolts in the previous contest. Holland Weisner delivered the biggest blow of the game when she pulled a home run down the line in left for a two-run shot.
However, the fourth game in a day proved to be too much for Team NC – Newell. While it would load the bases in the sixth and final inning due to the time limit, Morgan Maxwell would come in and would officially retire the three batters she faced in a row to deliver a championship to the Thunderbolts.
The Myrtle Beach Summer Nationals marks the end of the season for Birmingham Thunderbolts Premier – 2027 Alford. “They’ve matured a lot in the box and on defense,” coach Alford said. “They’ve made a lot of adjustments and a lot of changes just in development as a whole.”
“This has been a good way to end the season,” said Lermann.
The desire for summertime escape and the drive to make the most of a championship setting has drawn more than 250 teams to Myrtle Beach, SC., for the 12th annual Triple Crown Summer Nationals fastpitch softball tournament.
The final total of 258 teams from 29 states marks the all-time high for the tournament as well as an impressive rebound after the COVID-restricted event in 2020. Teams representing age groups from 12u through 18u will get a five-game guarantee, with some of the region’s most organized and passionate programs taking part on more than 30 fields in the area.
The 12u portion of the tournament runs July 22-25, with the rest of the field suiting up from July 28-Aug. 1. The latter group also features the Grand Strand Elite Camp on July 27, with instruction provided by the softball coaching staff at Coastal Carolina University.
“We did our best to stay in regular contact with the fastpitch scene in the Southeast; although we couldn’t run the Summer Nationals we wanted to in 2020, we felt sure folks would want to come back in full force,” said TC event director Carrie Rivera. “Fortunately, our partners in and around Myrtle Beach had the same enthusiasm to bring the event back to capacity, and we’ve been thrilled to see a record number of teams eagerly get back in the mix.”
Here are the champions from last year:
12u -- Atlanta Vipers 07 Tamborra (Marietta, GA)
14u -- Atlanta Vipers 05 Tamborra (Marietta, GA)
16u -- Lady Dukes Lamar (Cary, NC)
18u -- Virginia Glory Mertz-Griffith (Lorton, VA)
Follow the 14u, 16u and 18u schedule with results here:
For the 12u division, follow here for results:
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing youth, high school and college events for 40 years. TCS runs both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and produces the men’s and women’s DI Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering “WNIT” concept events in D-I softball (NISC) and volleyball (NIVC), with those two events debuting in 2017. Triple Crown’s PV College Challenge features more than 10 of the top DI college softball teams in the country each year in Puerto Vallarta, MX. Anchored by the 1,000-team Colorado 4th of July event, TC fastpitch tournaments draw the nation’s finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes. TCS produces one of the largest youth baseball events in the world with the Omaha SlumpBuster during the College World Series. The Triple Crown Volleyball NIT has become the top-recruited club volleyball event in the country each February when 650 teams compete in Kansas City, MO.
Atlanta Vipers Gold 18U – Holbrook and Birmingham Thunderbolts 07 Win Championships at Southeast Nationals
2021 Southeast Nationals Championship Day Recaps | 14u & 18u Divisions
Two teams came through the loser’s bracket Sunday to claim Elite Championships as Birmingham Thunderbolts 07 won the 14U Championship and Atlanta Vipers Gold – Holbrook won the 18U Championship at the Triple Crown Southeast Nationals in the north Atlanta suburbs.
After an 11-5 win over Atlanta Vipers Sunday morning to earn a shot in the championship game, Birmingham Thunderbolts 07 took an early 5-0 lead over Tampa Mustangs Seymour after an inning and a half. Mustangs Seymour would score three runs in the second, and both teams traded runs in the third. While the middle innings didn’t feature any runs, Birmingham Thunderbolts 07 scored two huge insurance runs in the seventh, thanks in part to an Ava Hodo’s homer that gave her four RBI on the contest.
Tampa Mustangs Seymour would score three runs in the bottom of the last inning on homers by Grace Shaw and Reese Green; however, they would come up one run short as Madilyn Byrd finished off a complete game victory in the circle.
A solid pitching performance in the morning game by University of Georgia signee Jordyn Partain helped Atlanta Vipers Gold 18U – Holbrook to a 10-0 (4) win over Virginia Glory Christiansen-Mertz to set up a rematch in the championship game against a Tampa Mustangs – TJ squad which shut them out Saturday, 1-0.
Sunday’s championship contest would feature more scoring as the game would be tied, 3-3, heading to the sixth inning. With a runner on first, pinch hitter Lyndi Rae Davis (UGA) hit a drive off the fence in left for a double to put runners on second and third. Mackenzie White (Univ. of Louisiana) would then lift a sacrifice fly to bring home Megan Bloodworth with the go-ahead run.
Tampa Mustangs – TJ would load the bases in the sixth but Elena Escobar (North Alabama) would record her second strikeout of the game in relief to get out of the jam. Tampa Mustangs – TJ threatened again in the seventh by putting two runners in scoring position with two out; however, Escobar would induce a pop out and Atlanta Vipers Gold 18U – Holbrook came away with the championship.
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