CHINO HILLS, CA – Taylor Shumaker said she’s been pressing lately, making it tough to perform the way she wanted for the 18u Batbusters Stith team.
She spent her day impressing as the championship bracket was decided for the 2022 TC Nationals.
Shumaker was an all-category force for the Batbusters with three hits, three runs and two RBI out of the leadoff spot, coupled with two heart-stopping catches at the centerfield fence. The last one robbed the Athletic of a home run and preserved her team’s lead in the seventh inning, and the Batbusters held on for a 7-5 victory over Athletics Mercado/Smith at the Chino Hills Community Park complex.
Alexis Ramirez (a UCLA commit) had two two-run singles; Sydney Saldana (Utah State) pitched into the sixth inning and Ailana Agbayani (BYU) came on in relief to notch huge strikeouts in her 1 1/3 innings to secure the win.
Shumaker’s first at-bat was a clinical exercise in leadoff hitting, working the count and seeing an assortment of pitches before lashing a double to the fence. Her two-run homer in the second pushed the Batbusters ahead, 5-0.
“I’ve been struggling with being patient with myself; I’ve been pushing for hits and wanting to get them so bad, I’ve been struggling,” she said. “I figured, it’s important once I got my opportunities to capitalize on it and be there for my team. I like hitting leadoff, I like taking pitches and I actually like not knowing what’s going to come. Over time, I knew what to prepare myself for, and I think it’s important to do that.”
Her seventh-inning catch was a true sacrifice-the-body decision as she reached over the fence to grab the ball before tumbling into the outfield barrier. The Athletics kept fighting and got runners on first and second with one out, but Agbayani got a strikeout and, fittingly, a fly ball to center caught by Shumaker as she sped in from her position.
“We were playing back in the outfield, knowing (the Athletics) can really hit, and honestly in my head I’m saying, I have to catch this ball,” Shumaker said. “To get the opportunity and to put it to use is pretty exciting.”
Persy Llamas hit a two-run homer for the Athletics in the third inning, and Brooklyn Lee’s homer in the sixth drew the score tighter, 7-5. To get out of the sixth, coach Mike Stith turned to two relievers, ultimately leaning on Agbayani to end the frame with a big strikeout.
“In the moment I’m just focusing on the batter and not what is surrounding me, the noise, just on every single pitch and that I hit my spots,” said Agbayani, the reigning Gatorade player of the year from Hawaii. “Every pitch is a new pitch; I do have to say thanks to Taylor for saving my butt out there. We take pride in our defense, picking each other up if someone makes an error. The biggest thing is to pick each other up.”
“This is an ongoing grind, a development process for all these kids, and Taylor has had her shares of ups and downs. But in the pressure of this moment it was wonderful to see her step up,” Stith said. “I mean, 3-for-4 batting to go with that (outfield) play? And she threw out a runner at the plate earlier – that was a pretty good day.
“I felt that Ailana’s senior leadership would be more effective. She has the composure, and whether they hit it or not is one thing, but we couldn’t be all over the place and not throw strikes. I let her give it a rip, and she’s a competitor.”
CHINO HILLS, Calif. – There couldn’t have been a more fitting championship game on Sunday evening. What once looked like a relatively calm and straightforward game, quickly erupted into a roller coaster of emotions, with the backdrop of deafening roars from the stands, as Warrior Academy Jimenez and BSC Bengals Briggs traded haymakers over the final two innings of the 16u TC Nationals Championship that saw the Warrior Academy prevail, 5-4.
“This means everything,” Warrior Academy Head Coach James Jimenez said. “The outcome of this tournament and the girls playing this well, means everything to our program. This is our first year together. This tournament really set a spark for, not only winning this Nationals tournament, but our goals moving forward now.”
For a program that was established in 2021, when the West Bay Warriors and California Suncats merged, and for a team that was playing in its very first tournament with all these players together, things could have fallen apart for Warrior Academy in the sixth inning. The BSC Bengals jumped on Warrior Academy in the first inning with back-to-back doubles from Kate Verhoef and Natalia Hill, but Warrior Academy quickly settled down.
Warrior Academy responded in the top of the second inning with three straight singles, which allowed Amanda Beng to drive in a run with a sac-fly to right field. Then a double steal resulted in another run crossing the plate. In the top of the third inning, Warrior Academy added another run with an RBI single from Hannah Cushing. And there the game stood, with Warrior Academy holding a 3-1 advantage and consistently showcasing good pitching and even better defense to hold BSC Bengals at bay.
And then the sixth inning happened.
Hill got things started for the Bengals with a double. Then Ayla Tuua kept things going with a single. And then Madalyn Martin flipped the game on its head with a three-run home run to give the Bengals a 4-3 lead out of nowhere in the bottom of the sixth inning and put the Bengals three outs away from the championship.
Many teams would have folded. But not this Warrior Academy team.
“After that the run bomb by the Bengals, we just got back together and I told the girls ‘This is how champions are made,’” Jimenez said. “If you want to become a champion, you have to overcome moments like this. You have to forget what is happening and look forward and believe that we are champions, and we can do it.”
With their backs against the wall and momentum against them, Warrior Academy showed discipline and maturity at the plate well beyond their years. Tanaya Bryant gave the team some life with a single. Kaimi Tulua, named the 2022 TC Nationals Tournament MVP, then stepped up to the plate. BSC Bengals brought in a new pitcher to face Tulua, but Tulua would not be denied her MVP moment. Tulua saw the pitch she was looking for and launched a two-run home run over the left field wall to put Warrior Academy back in the lead and three outs away from the championship. There would be no come back in the bottom of the seventh inning for BSC Bengals as Paige Mcleod shut down the lineup to secure the 5-4 victory.
“She’s been hot all week,” Jimenez said of Tulua. “Ever since we went to Kansas City, she caught fire. She clutched up big back there, and we needed that moment. Big players rise to the occasion in big moments, and Kaimi Tulua did that. She’s a champ.”
AURORA, Colo. — For a while, the offenses for the teams in the 18u Power Pool finale were strangely confined Sunday at Aurora Sports Park. But the breakout moment felt inevitable.
Sure enough, with both the Athletics Mercado-Smith and Texas Bombers Gold rosters packed with powerful bats and a slew of Division-I commits, claiming the high ground at the Colorado 4th of July event would require rising to the occasion at the plate. In the eighth inning, the Athletics came up with the best, final answer, wrapping up an 11-10 victory when courtesy runner Baylee Howley scored on a flyout, in foul territory, off the bat of Kanisha Anderson.
The teams combined for one run through three innings before the dam burst, with five lead changes making it impossible to predict the result.
“This game, really, almost came down to the coin flip at the beginning to see who would be the home team, with the bats in their hands last,” said Athletics coach David Mercado. “The Bombers are a quality team, so are we, and at the end of the day it’s two great teams going at it. Normally by now, people are tired, it’s been a long week, but to see that fight and scrap by both teams, you can’t ask for anything else.”
The Bombers took their first lead, 3-1 after the top of the fourth, and the Athletics certainly seemed motivated in the moment, getting home runs from Kaila Pollard (heading to Florida this fall), Jordan Woolery (UCLA) and Jasmyn Burns (Ohio State) to move ahead, 6-3. The Bombers had another answer with four runs in the fifth, forcing a pitching change and getting well-timed hits from Destiny Rodriguez (Tennessee), Aiyana Coleman (Texas A&M) and Maci Bergeron (LSU) along the way. That inning might have swayed the game, but Kaylee Oh (San Diego) reeled in a difficult catch for the Athletics in left field with two outs and the bases loaded to keep things close.
In the bottom of the fifth, Kaylynn Jones homered, Woolery scored on a wild pitch, and the Athletics were up, 8-7. The first four batters for the Bombers reached in the top of the seventh, and the wind began howling out straight to left field — Abigail Savoy (LSU) tied the game with a single, and Avery Hodge (Oklahoma) put the Bombers up, 9-8, with a groundout.
Would there be drama in the bottom of the seventh as the Athletics hoped to rally? Uh, not really, as Mya Perez blasted a home run on the first pitch to knot it at 9-all.
“I’ve been in a lot of situations like that before, so honestly, my job there is to get on base anyway I can,” Perez said. “My previous at-bats, I didn’t get on, and my teammates were picking me up, saying “Mya, it’s your time.’ I felt confident, and any pitch I saw that was right there, I’d put all my power into it, hit it hard.”
“That’s a special bat and a special right there — Mya knows how to barrel balls, and she doesn’t miss them very often,” Mercado said. “Once that happened, I didn’t have any doubts about winning, although I didn’t think we’d have to go another inning.”
Indeed, a surprising line-drive double play doused hopes for another run, and the game moved to extra innings. The Bombers got one run on a groundout from Reagan Jones (Texas A&M); the Athletics countered in the bottom of the eighth as Burns singled in Alyssa Hovermale (Florida) to tie it, again.
“In the (eighth) there, I try to stay confident, and I’m thinking, hit the first, best pitch that comes to me,” said Burns, who had three hits and four RBI in the game. “I thought that pitch was pretty good, maybe I was bit early, but I got enough contact to get it through. Your goal is to win every national championship that you’re in, and we got it done.”
Anderson got down to her final strike in her at-bat; she lifted a ball to left field, and with it drifting toward the fence, Howley was able to score without a play at the plate when the ball was caught.
Mercado highlighted the play of his three seniors, Woolery, Pollard and Lauryn Borzilleri (Kentucky). Hodge reached base three times and drove in two runs for the Bombers. Keely Williams (Texas A&M) reached base three times and scored twice; Rodriguez doubled and drove in two runs.
AURORA, Colo. -- Hampered by injuries and with only two pitchers available, the Hotshots Jones team seemed ill-equipped to make the grueling journey to the championship game of the 16u Power Pool.
But coach Steve Jones’ team has the type of grit, heart and belief that is able to overcome all sorts of adversity, and it did so on many occasions throughout the week on its way to winning the championship of the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
The Hotshots dug out of an early five-run hole with back-to-back explosive rallies and went on to a 13-8 victory over the Tampa Bay Mustangs Rene on a blustery afternoon game Sunday at the Aurora Sports Park. It was the fourth game of the day for both squads and the Texas-based Hotshots simply found another way to win.
“We’re down some key players and we only have two pitchers, but the rest of the girls stepped up,” Jones said. “The thing about this team that's special is that I don’t know who is going to step up in a game. I’m proud of them being able to do what they did with the players that were out.”
To get to the championship game, the Hotshots won a one-run decision to open the day, followed with a 10-run decision and then needed a four-run rally in the final inning for an 11-8 walk-off win (courtesy of a three-run home run by Kennedy Marceaux) over Firecrackers Brashear.
One of the Hotshots’ three regular pitchers had shoulder soreness and Jones decided to hold her out of the tournament to heal, leaving all of the pitching duties to Mali West (Class of 2025) and Amy Abke (2023), who alternated on the mound all week and in the championship contest. It was West (a left-hander) who got the start against a Tampa Bay team that came in hot after pulling off a late rally of its own to defeat the Oklahoma Athletics National 13-8, which followed two close victories earlier in the day.
West fell behind by two runs just five batters into the game after Riley Onisawa drew a bases-loaded walk and Ella Dodge singled in another run. She later surrendered her first two home runs of the tournament — quite a feat given how much the ball seems to fly off the bats of visitors to Colorado — as Lauren Luciani (solo) and Tayten Moore (a three-run shot) put coach Rene Ciccarello Jr.’s Mustangs ahead 6-1 at that point.
Despite the deficit, West — who was replaced in the inning by Abke — knew the game was far from over with the way her team plays.
“I actually didn’t give up any bombs until this game, but spin was the key in Colorado,” West said. “The ball didn’t have as much spin, so you had to work harder in the air out here. I was a little bit nervous, but it was good. We always come around.”
And come around the Hotshots — who returned to the tournament after playing in a different one last summer — did.
After barely getting the ball out of the infield over the first three innings against Tampa Bay starting pitcher Isabella Vega — whose lone run given up in those early frames came when a wild pitch followed by an error allowed Hailey Golden to score — the Hotshots rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning that included home runs from second baseman Kristyn Whitlock and third baseman Bryanna Fuentes.
Fuentes would homer again in the next inning to plate three runs as the Hotshots surged to a 10-6 lead.
“It felt great in the moment,” said Fuentes, who drove in five runs on the day. “I knew my team had my back and when you know they have your back, you feel more free.
“I just tried to be a spark like Coach says.”
Roni Harrison followed Fuentes’ homer with a solo blast and then leadoff hitter Moriah Polar — who was cramping severely in the game — cranked our her fourth big fly of the tournament for the third homer in a four-batter span for the team.
“She was celebrating with the kids in the dugout and I told her ‘That was just a big pop up, you’re lucky you are in Colorado,’” Jones said with a smile.
The Hotshots’ fourth-inning rally (which began after catcher Bella Perez worked a walk as the payoff for a 10-pitch at-bat) saw 13 hitters come to the plate against four Tampa Bay pitchers, the last of which was DaNia Brooks, whose father Derrick (an NFL Hall of Fame linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) is an assistant coach with the Mustangs.
Brooks would hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, but that was all Tampa Bay registered in three innings against Abke, who had retired eight batters in a row before walking Moore ahead of Brooks’ home run, which capped a 3-for-3 day for her.
“Playing back-to-back-to-back-to-back games on the last day is hard,” said Jones, who got two hits apiece from Golden and Perez and two RBI from Whitlock in the clinching victory.
“It’s been a great tournament,” he added. “We lost our first game to Athletics Mercado — who we run-ruled last time we played — and we were down a couple of times, but these kids are just resilient. When we won that last game (vs. Firecrackers Brashear), I told them ‘You guys may not believe it, but I was standing in that coaches box with one out in the seventh inning and knew we were winning that game.’
“This team has character. They know they have time. As long as there is one more out left, they can come back.”
Added West: “We always somehow find a way to come through and win. That’s always our energy.”
Westminster, Colo. – It was a Texas duel for the 2022 Colorado 4th of July 14u Power Pool Championship, featuring two clubs who put together three wins apiece on Sunday to reach the final. Texas Riptide 14u, coming off a walk-off comeback victory in the semifinals just 20 minutes prior, carried that momentum to defeat a familiar foe, Texas Glory 2K26 7-1 in five innings.
“(Texas) Glory actually came down to our facility for a camp, so we are very familiar with their team,” said Texas Riptide head coach Sam Campbell. "They have an excellent young team."
Early on, both squads carried their impressive offensive performances from the Power Pool semifinals into the championship game. In the first inning, Texas Glory 2K26 opened the scoring with a monster shot to left center by second baseman Hope Gaudio, but the Riptide responded with two runs to take an early 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning.
In the bottom half of the second, the Riptide added to their lead thanks to a bases loaded RBI single off the bat of leadoff hitter Khamari Hall. The speedster would swipe second base on the play, and later come around to score on an errant throw to third, capping off a four run inning en route to a 6-1 Riptide lead.
That marked the end of the day for Glory starting pitcher Hayden Mowrey, who was replaced by Avery Howerton in the circle after giving up six runs on eight hits over one and two-thirds innings.
Riptide starting pitcher Hunter Quentel showed poise throughout the game while escaping the occasional jam, allowing just the lone run in the first. The righty went the distance, throwing five innings while giving up six hits and tallying one strikeout.
“She is a 2027 but she is familiar with (Texas Glory 2K26),” said Campbell of his ace pitcher. “Hunter has been big for us all summer long and she will continue to win big games for us”.
Quentel was backed by outstanding defensive efforts behind her, highlighted by a frozen rope throw from centerfielder Alisa Sneed, beating the runner at home attempting to tag up from third on a sac fly.
Sneed, ranked No. 1 in Extra Inning Softball’s 2025 Extra Elite 100, also contributed at the plate, driving in three runs on the day. Briana Collazo and Hall both chipped in with multi-hit games.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, it was Avery Evanspickens who clinched the 14u Power Pool crown with a no-doubter over the right field fence sending the club out of Asascocita, Texas home with more hardware for their trophy case.
“Girls fought hard all week long and I am just so extremely proud of them,” said Campbell. “We enjoy Colorado… we will be back to defend it next year.”
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Fireworks could be heard going off in the distance, but it was the late-game fireworks from Impact Gold 2k9 National, which knocked off Hotshots National ’09, 2-1, in the 12u championship game of the Colorado 4th of July event that stole the show.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning and having not threatened to score all game, Torie Turner stepped up to the plate with two outs and a runner on second base for Impact Gold. Turner found the pitch she was looking for and laced a line drive into center field to score a run and tie up the game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Impact Gold found itself with runners on second and third with one out, giving them the perfect opportunity for the suicide squeeze bunt to score the game-winning run.
Playing under the lights after dealing with multiple lightning delays that pushed the championship game back, both pitchers put on a championship-worthy performance in a back-and-forth duel. In the top of the first inning, Impact Gold’s pitcher, Macie Bryant, quickly delivered a one-two-three inning, only for Hotshots’ pitcher, Kadyen Patin, delivered a one-two-three inning of her own.
It was just a sign of what was to come for the rest of the night.
Bryant pitched a complete-game no-hitter, walking just three batters and striking out 11, while Patin was equally nearly flawless, pitching the entire game and allowing four hits and four walks.
After cruising through the first two innings with ease, Bryant finally allowed a runner with a walk to Callia Carreon. Utilizing the rare opportunity to have a runner on base, Hotshots put pressure on Impact by sending Carreon to try and steal second base. The pressure worked as the throw to second base ended up getting through the infield and all the way to the outfield wall, allowing Carreon to get up and score, giving Hotshots a 1-0 lead despite not having a hit.
That’s where the game stood for a long stretch, as Bryant produced five one-two-three innings in the game and Patin held Impact Gold at bay until the sixth inning when Turner finally got the team on the board.
In the top of the seventh inning, Hotshots once again looked threatening, drawing a leadoff walk, and immediately advancing the runner to second on a sacrifice bunt. The Hotshots then stole third base before drawing another walk, having runners on a first and second with just one out. Feeling the pressure, Bryant once again came through in the clutch, striking out the first batter to get two outs.
On the next batter, Bryant threw a pitch in the dirt and Hotshots tried to take advantage by sending the runner from third, but Impact Gold recovered quick enough and tagged the runner out at the plate to preserve the 1-1 tie and keep the momentum.
Bryant was dominant throughout the entire tournament, pitching 34.1 innings in the tournament and producing six wins and 60 strikeouts with a 0.82 ERA.
The pitch hit off the mitt of the catcher and rolled halfway to the backstop. Addison Gurley of the Marucci Patriots NTX , standing on third as the winning run, didn’t even hesitate for a moment.
Gurley sprinted home, slid under the tag and scored to cap off a 2-1 walk-off victory for her club in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Patriots had been blanked all game by the strong pitching of the Texas Glory until finally breaking through in the final frame Sunday.
The excitement on the part of the Patriots, which had been building all inning, was palpable. The entire dugout raced out to greet Gurley after she slid across with the winning run.
“It was really fun,” a thrilled Gurley said after the game. “It brought up a lot of the hype and excitement we had all game.”
The easiest way to start a final-inning rally is to get the first batter of the inning on base. Enter Madison Lumpkin, who crushed the first pitch she saw deep into left field. The sound of the ball off the bat was as loud as loud as any hit heard at Allen Station Park Sunday morning.
The ball sailed over the left fielder’s head and up against the fence, and Saluja raced into second with a leadoff double. From there, the Patriots showed off their strong fundamentals at the plate.
Addison Gurley and Kailee James drew walks to load the bases, setting up yet another walk and pushing the tying run across home plate. By this point, not a single Patriot was sitting in the dugout. The energy was as palpable as it had been all game.
“It was a real energy booster,” Gisela Boitmann said. “We’re definitely going to bring it to the next game.”
The Patriots have found themselves in tight games on two separate occasions this weekend, but none as close as Sunday morning against the Glory. After stumbling to defeat Friday against Sneaky Cleats DWF, the Patriots went three for three on Saturday, capped off by a 6-0 blanking of Impact Gold DFW.
Asked about how his team approaches pitchers in late-inning situations, Patriots coach Shane Gurley matter-of-factly stated that he’d like to keep that information to himself before cracking a smile. Whatever the approach and methods were, they were certainly effective.
The Glory struck back and recorded two outs on a strikeout and a pop out, leading to the bases being loaded with two outs and the winning run on third. Gurley’s Patriots had battled, but a bases-loaded, two out situation with the winning run at third would present the biggest challenge they had seen so far.
The Patriots wouldn’t even need to swing the bat. Gurley broke for home as soon as the ball darted away from the catcher’s mitt and slid home just ahead of the tag. The comeback was complete.
“They bring it,” coach Shane Gurley said. “ They have fun. They enjoy it. That’s why we’re here.”
The Patriots path to the championship will go through Bombers Gold National Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals. The Bombers have been defeated twice this weekend but have already won two games Sunday to earn a shot at the Patriots.
If the sixth inning was any indication, the Patriots plan to be as aggressive as they were in encouraging Gurley to break for home.
“She got a good read on the ball bouncing away, the call was on and she took off,” Shane Gurley said. “Why not?”
The Texas Glory and Texas Blaze United, competing in the 18u Division of the Triple Crown Super Cup, both hail from the Lone Star State. When they faced off Saturday morning at Allen Station Park, the gap on the field was wide.
The Texas Glory, leaning on a hot start that put the team up 4-0 in the first inning, outclassed the Blaze on the way to a 12-0 victory. The game was called early after four frames of softball.
The win itself certainly did not come as a surprise given how the weekend has gone for the team so far. The Glory racked up three victories on Friday over the Gametime Premier, Impact Gold and Texas Blaze Gold. One of those victories, against the Impact Gold, came by just one run, while the Glory knocked back the other two clubs by five runs each.
Four victories in four games this weekend have earned the Glory a spot in the championship game Saturday afternoon, where the Glory will have a rematch against Texas Blaze United.
Coach Kevin Shelton was all smiles after his club’s performance. He has seen many of his players develop with the club for years. According to Shelton, roughly half of his roster is made up of Seniors for this fall and the other half have graduated, ready to move forward with college and life in general.
Those ladies that will move on will do so come August, but right now, Shelton said, they are locked in on the here and now.
“We’re trying to teach them how to be the best humans they can be,” he said. “Part of that is not getting complacent, continuing to compete and understanding the competition. We’re looking for people who are looking to improve continuously.”
If one didn’t look at the scoreboard, they might have assumed the Glory and Blaze were locked in a battle. Players were locked in on every pitch, cheering every base hit and applauding each out recorded.
Even as the runs mounted and the Glory pushed the lead to double digits, there was no sign of a letdown.
It’s June, meaning that the seniors on the Glory from the 2021-22 school year have graduated. Their time in youth club sports is winding down. How, Shelton is often asked, do you keep the Seniors locked in?
“Juniors and sophomores,” he said with a chuckle. “They want to play,” he said of his Seniors, “and that if they don’t play well then there is someone there to take their spot. That’s college and that’s life.”
The coaching philosophy also appeared to be a club philosophy as a whole. The Glory rose to the occasion, but there was almost a business-like approach that was noticeable from players, coaches and parents alike. No demonstrative screaming, no trash talking and no excessive celebration.
A look at the Texas Glory’s website might explain why. The team’s roster is listed, and with each player is a list of their awards and accomplishments from playing at the high school and club level. The list is lengthy, to say the least.
Shelton says that his club is used to playing in high-pressure environments and that the talent speaks for itself. Several of his players, including Macie Graf and Tia Warsop, are headed to play Division I softball this fall. Graf will attend Mississippi State and Warsop will attend Oklahoma State. Both players bat at the top of the order and will play a big role in the Glory’s championship chances Saturday afternoon.
“They’re being consistent, and that’s what we need,” Shelton said. “That’s why they’re at the top of the order.”
FORT COLLINS, COLO. – Last week the NCAA passed legislation adding the National Invitational Softball Championship as a permanent season-ending event for softball. Since the return of the event in 2017, Triple Crown Sports has been operating the championship off a waiver from the NCAA. The move allows teams to plan and budget for a postseason tournament now before the season gets underway.
“The Postseason NISC really matters to coaches, players and the sport,” said NISC director David King. “We’ve produced the Postseason WNIT in basketball since 1998 and have witnessed firsthand the impact that event has made on women’s basketball. To be able to permanently bring the same concept to softball is huge and will benefit the sport for years to come.”
The 2022 NISC concluded on May 25 with 12 teams traveling to Triple Crown headquarters in Fort Collins, CO to compete for a championship. Baylor came out on top defeating UNLV 4-0 in the finals.
“We had a great experience at the NISC,” said Baylor head coach Glenn Moore. “Playing in this tournament accomplished all that we had hoped it would. We got in 11 additional high intense practices and ended it with a chance to win a championship. We saw the true competitive spirit of our athletes. The tournament is very well organized and communication with coaches is a priority. I believe the decision to play in this event was one of the best I could have made for the future of our program.”
With guidance from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), Triple Crown brought back the NISC in 2017 to highlight the explosive growth of women’s softball and the depth of talent on college rosters from coast to coast. Liberty would go on to host and win the 2017 NISC championship with a 3-1 over Lamar. In 2018, LMU would claim the championship with a 5-0 victory over UC Riverside. The 2019 championship featured the regional rounds being hosted on campuses before the final four teams traveled to Colorado to face off at TC Colorado Field in Fort Collins, Colo. UT Arlington would go on to knock off Iowa State 4-3 to claim the honors.
Triple Crown reignited the NISC in 2017 after a 16-year hiatus. Started by Western Illinois head softball coach Kathy Veroni, the National Invitational Championship (NIC) took shape in 1986 to give quality NCAA Division I teams that did not qualify for the 16-team NCAA nationals an opportunity for high-caliber postseason competition. Michigan would finish 5-0 and become the first NIC champion. The NIC would run for 13 years before the final championship in 2001. Other NIC champions include Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Northeast Louisiana, Sam Houston State and Illinois State.
For more information on the Postseason NISC please visit www.womensnisc.com or follow us on Twitter @WomensNISC.
First team from West Virginia making the trip for June 3-6 event
By Kyle Koso
As the 2022 fastpitch calendar starts to unfold, youth teams are emerging from the winter quiet and putting in early work to make the most of the road ahead.
And if they’re lucky, there’s a big road trip ready to tackle as well.
The Black Diamond Express 14u squad out of Morgantown, WV. is totally in step with that idea, with 12 players and their coaches dialing into the trek to Oklahoma City for the TC OKC event, set for June 3-6 and produced by Triple Crown Sports. Dozens of states will be sending teams to the tourney, with 167 total teams suiting up.
For the Black Diamond Express, crossing half the country to play softball required some foresight in the shape of multiple years of fundraising, but it didn’t take very much convincing. The chance to play a unique mix of competition certainly appealed, as did the chance to attend games at the Women’s College World Series, scheduled for the same stretch of June.
“The girls are very excited about watching the WCWS games and the possibility of meeting some of the players and coaches, but we are also coming out to compete against teams from all over the country,” said Express 14’s head coach Travis Masoner. “The team really wants to show everyone that we can play quality softball and compete against anyone, being we are the first team to participate from the state of West Virginia.”
Black Diamond Express was founded in 2011 by Eddie Campbell and currently fields 11 teams ranging from 8u-18u. Masoner joined the organization in 2018 as a 10u coach; his current 14u team mostly hails from Morgantown with a few players making the hour-drive for practices. He’s coached eight of the 12 players for more than six years and in that time has seen fastpitch begin to escalate as a sport of interest, with tournaments sprouting up from various providers in support of the tri-state region of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
“I started coaching youth softball at the 6u ranks and helped develop the program for the local recreation league. I first started coaching travel ball in 2015 as an 8U coach and have been doing it ever since,” Masoner said. “Eddie Campbell and I had been coaching for a different organization that was affiliated with the local rec league and decided to make the jump to Black Diamond Express organization. The jump allowed me to take a group of girls looking to take the next step in their softball lives and start to play more elite competition along with traveling to some great places and tournaments.”
A few years ago, Masoner was watching WCWS coverage and caught images of youngsters sitting in the stands and enjoying the action, then realizing those kids were in game uniforms of their own.
“I saw some young ladies in the stands with their uniforms and signs, and that made me think what an awesome thing it would be to watch the best of the best play while also playing in a tournament,” he said. “As anyone would do these days, I searched the internet for youth tournaments and the first name that came up was Triple Crown and the OKC event.”
“Sometimes we talk about the teams we might face in the tournament, and what teams we hope we will get to watch in the WCWS. For the most part we talk about how excited we are to be able to spend a week together while playing softball,” said Express player Maddie Wisman. “I like being able to play softball at a high level and getting better through playing high-level competition. While I am very excited about playing softball in the tournament, I am even more excited about being able to watch the college teams play. Since we are coming from a town that doesn't have a college softball team, this is a big deal for most of us.”
Black Diamond Express will face teams from Tennessee, Texas and Washington in pool play at the TC OKC tourney on June 4-5 as part of the 14u B division.
“I am very lucky to have a great coach in Nikki Nuzum, who brings numerous years of playing, instruction, and coaching skills to the team, which the girls thrive off of and really develop not only as softball players, but as young ladies,” Masoner added. “I am also fortunate to have such great families associated with our team who are supportive in every step we take as a team. A great example is the group fundraising effort it took for us to get to OKC that was done over three years.”