US Club Rankings, widely appreciated as the most valid and inclusive rankings platform in the sport, is assembled by using tournament finishes from all governing bodies, polls of coaches and college placement information. Here's a look at the 18u Top 10; you can see the entire breakdown HERE:
1) East Cobb Bullets – Schnute – Coach Greg Schnute
Congratulations to the EC Bullets and Greg Schnute for grabbing the US Club Rankings No. 1 spot for the 2018 FINAL National Rankings at 18 & Under! This legacy program has been a force for 22 years, steadily climbing the rankings and have reached the pinnacle from their efforts this season.
The EC Bullets have been making themselves known nationally since we began the US Club Rankings in 2012. They were often seen in the Top 10 during the Colorado 4th of July IDT event as well as PGF, the JO Cup and TC/USA Nationals. In 2016 they boasted their first “National Title” at the JO Cup in Southern California, then again hoisted a championship trophy at the 2018 TC/USA Nationals – that all led to a first place National Points System ranking, which is based upon on-field performance.
With a reputation for excellence on the field in the Southeast, the EC Bullets class of 2018 will be making an impact populating teams in the SEC and ACC conferences on rosters such as Florida, University of South Carolina and Duke. The 2019 class that will anchor the team will follow in the same fashion with commits to Mississippi State, Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and national champion Florida State. This team will be casting a shadow in championship brackets for years to come.
2) Orange County Batbusters – Coach Mike Stith
The Orange County Batbusters have been around for over 30 years and is a recognized name across the nation. Gary Haning, founder of the organization, made a great choice in asking Mike Stith to carry on the legacy of the organization’s flagship team.
The Batbusters are no strangers to the top of the podium and took home the IDT Championship in 2018 and 2nd place at the PGF National Tournament. Former OC Batbusters can be seen throughout the country on college rosters such as Oklahoma, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and all the way to the East Coast at Florida. There is no shortage in talent in years to come as the 2020 and 2021 class is just as strong as the seniors leading the team next season. With a tradition so rich the OC Batbusters name will stay recognizable and even feared in 2019 and beyond.
3) So Cal Athletics – Coach Bruce Richardson
The So Cal Athletics – Richardson is rarely found outside the Top 5 in any national tournament; that has been reflected in the US Club Rankings as they were the No. 1 team in 2017 before dropping slightly in 2018. Since 2010 the So Cal Athletics have taken home the national title for PGF a record five times and continue to be a force when it counts.
You can see 2018 grads on rosters nationwide (Florida Gulf Coast, North Dakota State, Bryant University, Bucknell, West Point and UCLA), proving that teams can assemble great talent with chemistry and still get it done on the field even though they are not all power conference players. The class on deck in 2019 will lead their last summer before heading to Cal, LSU, Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford and Notre Dame to continue their careers. There is no doubt the legacy as a formidable opponent will continue wherever they go.
4) Corona Angels – Coach Marty Tyson
Ever present in the Top 10 are the Corona Angels – Tyson. Being considered the youngster organization compared to other So Cal staples, they have stayed in the hunt after being named the Top Team in 2015 and are still a force nationally. A 9th place finish at the IDT and 3rd at the PGF National tournament keeps them towards the top of the competitive field of teams.
Check out the big conferences all over the country to see Angels on the field, particularly at Louisville, Nebraska, Duke, Ohio State, Stanford, Wisconsin, Washington and UCLA. With the feeder teams, Marty Tyson will continue to see success on the field and compete for national titles every year.
5) Texas Bombers Gold – Coach Scott Smith
You can always find the Texas Bombers at the ballpark, usually toward the conclusion in the Top 25, and also from their unmistakable uniforms honoring the United States military. The Bombers try to embody a militaristic precision on the field and play the game with talent and respect. Their finishes at the Fireworks Power Pools (fifth) and TC/USA Nationals (second) took them from No. 8 last year to No. 5 in the blink of an eye.
The Bombers players have populated college rosters in and outside of Texas including Texas A&M, LSU, University of Houston, Auburn, Harvard, Northwestern and national champion Florida State. The 2019 and beyond grads are hoping to continue the tradition and the pursuit for the top spot in the nation before embarking on a college career.
6) Texas Glory – Coach Kevin Shelton
Another organization from the Lone Star State, the Texas Glory has been a fixture in the Top 10 and has for the second year in a row landed at No. 6. Each year, dominant finishes in the Fireworks Power Pool and a 2018 USA Elite Select title have led to their continued success.
Texas Glory players are landing on college rosters wherever you look. From Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana Lafayette, LSU, Texas A&M to North Texas, Northwestern State and Harding, Glory players are impacting the rosters while bringing their winning tradition and hard work with them. They will continue to be a contender at a national level down the road.
7) Aces Express – Coach Dave McCorkle
With an organizational motto of “Attitude and Effort” it’s no wonder the Aces Express teams have been on the rise. With a club best 3rd place finish in the Fireworks Power Pools and another 3rd place finish in the TC/USA Nationals, Dave McCorkle has a Texas program worth watching. Making the jump from No. 9 to No. 7 embodies the word effort, and the respect for the game shows attitude is in fact controllable.
The 2019 roster is hungry to keep improving their standing, and most of them are finding homes in Texas for their college career. Texas A&M, Corpus Christi, Stephen F Austin and UT San Antonio to name a few will be gaining players who know what it is to work hard to help programs grow. “Attitude and Effort” remains not only a team motto but a statement worthy of future champions.
8) Georgia Impact Premier – Coach Patrick Lewis
New to the Top 10, the Georgia Impact Premier entered with a BANG, taking 2nd place at the IDT then following it up with a PGF Premier National title after taking 5th in the TC/USA Nationals in 2018. This team has put in the work in the past few years to get where they are today. With a great system of teams in the Georgia Impact organization, they have been able to put their stamp with a national powerhouse.
A few of the Patrick Lewis’ players will be gracing the ranks of the SEC including Alabama and LSU; most will stay in the Southeast to contribute to other college’s success like Georgia State, Kennesaw State, East Tennessee and Florida Gulf Coast. The 2019 class will be branching out even further with players headed to Michigan, Utah, Colorado State and some again staying closer to home to play at Georgia, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern. This may be the first time they broke into the Top 10, but with their winning tradition rolling, it will not be the last.
9) Firecrackers Brashear – Coach Sean Brashear
The Firecrackers name is no stranger to the Top 10, but Sean Brashear has blazed a trail to the No. 9 spot in spectacular fashion. Blowing through the competition at the Fireworks Power Pool (walking away with a championship) and making a run finishing 5th at PGF this team was just plain fun to watch. With what seems like a never-ending bench, the pitching staff was able to stay fresh and crisp during long events, and the hitters are relentless from top to bottom giving opponents no time to breathe. That is why the team made a huge jump from No. 23, leaving a lot of teams in the wake of their success.
Watch for the 2018 grads from Firecrackers Brashear at Fullerton and Stanford and the 2019 class close behind at Fullerton, Loyola Marymount, Illinois, Tennessee, CSUSN and Purdue. This up-and-coming team will be putting out more talent to college rosters in the future since Sean is grooming 16U, 14U and 12U teams with the same winning attitude.
10) Scrap Yard Internationals – Coaches Todd Leach and Connie May
It is not often teams combine to become stronger, but that is exactly what happened when Sudden Impact Gold and the Scrap Yard Dawgs merged to form the Scrap Yard Internationals for the 2018 season. Each team on its own was Top-20 level, but when they combined the talent of the players and coaching, it rattled the rankings. The team made a run at the Fireworks in the Power Pools for a 9th place finish then took home 3rd at the TC/USA Nationals to help grab a spot in our Top 10.
Their future is looking just as bright with players in the 2019, 2020 classes heading to Texas A&M, UT – Arlington, Seton Hall, Wisconsin, Texas, Nebraska, Louisiana Lafayette, LSU and Baylor. This Houston-based united front has a lot to look forward to with two organizations to feed the Scrap Yard Internationals team for a great run toward the top in the coming years.
In the heart of the nation, all the ingredients are available to grow remarkable, durable products. You just have to know the environment that provides so much also throws up challenges.
Turns out the proper care and feeding of softball players also produces spectacular results in the Midwest, and there’s no better example than the one found with the Iowa Premier program, based in Des Moines but capable of providing bracket-busting ripple effects from coast to coast. Founded by Greg Dickel in early 2014, Iowa Premier now consists of nine teams (12u-18u) and is a flat-out talent pipeline to college fastpitch programs.
Dickel’s daytime task for 27 years has been as a full-time police officer in Des Moines; he played baseball in high school and junior college and took interest in fastpitch when his daughter Paige took up the sport as a 7-year-old. Eventually, Dickel became co-director of another Iowa academy and after a few years decided to put his own vision on the field. Presented with that opportunity, he’s been determined to give Iowa’s best their own chances to break new ground.
“It’s been a definite mission to build an organization that gave best players in Iowa a national stage, together on the same teams, which would create opportunities to be seen by college coaches for potential scholarships,” said Dickel, whose teams have a long list of victories in ASA, PGF and Triple Crown championship events. “Our mission has always been to take the very talented Iowa-based player and help showcase their skills and play with the other top players. We now have 20 kids from Illinois who play with this club, five from South Dakota who have traveled in, two from Minnesota and Missouri, and all four corners of Iowa.
“That part of the mission is geared around the high-level player, building and continuing to stress it, and get them on great teams with great coaches on a national stage. Midwestern values – those things that everyone talks about – well, more than 50 percent of the players at Iowa Premier are from rural Iowa and farm towns. It gives us a good base of high-character athletes with high work ethic upbringing, and that can many times translate to the softball field. We know the high level of athletes from this area, and we can give them the mechanism and machine to showcase their skills like other teams get to from other places like California and Texas and Florida.”
With that underlying priority, it’s clear Iowa Premier wants to groom standout student-athletes, but it’s another thing to actually do it. The proof resides in the laundry list of college signings and the presence of terrific talents, including pitcher Kaitlyn Menz (a sophomore in Wisconsin who was an all-Big Ten second team selection) and Kendyl Lindaman, who you can expect to see on Team USA rosters one day after her freshman season at Minnesota – she was the Big Ten freshman and player of the year and named a first-team choice for the NFCA All-American team.
“Greg was tough on me as a coach, especially as an 11-year-old, but that’s what needed. I needed someone to push me to be the best player I could be,” Lindaman said. “He saw a lot in me that other people didn’t, and I respect him so much for doing that for me. It was getting that push; that’s what he gave me.
“For us, it was fun. Teams would overlook us, and we could even hear teams saying, ‘Why is there an Iowa team here? They’re not good. They should just go home.’ It was fun going out there and playing our game. We were showing that good players come out of Iowa. We had nothing to lose, they had everything to lose, and that was a great rush to go out and even win a tournament.”
The Iowa Premier has had to tackle stellar competition while facing one very unique uphill obstacle, with the state’s high school season running from early May through July and thus playing out in direct conflict with the typical club softball slate of events. It’s a monster topic on its own, but coping with the scheduling challenges just makes success on a national stage all the sweeter for the Premier.
“It’s very rewarding; the biggest reward for the organization and the people involved is we had to go out and earn our stake. Not a whole lot of people gave us respect early on,” Dickel said. “My reputation as a coach allowed us to get some invitations to see what this Iowa Premier thing was all about, as the IClub teams (Dickel’s previous organization) had some success. I had developed some relationships; you need to know some people to get started, and we did well. Things started to build ... the PGF was a big hurdle, and our 2015 18 platinum team lost in the final.
“In 2016, the big goal was to get out there and make something happen. We felt we belonged there, gave up just one run entire tournament, and won the 18’s title game – there were 17 D-I commits in that game. Our other age divisions were doing well – in 2016 we took third in the PGF 16u Platinum Nationals. In 2017, we earned bids in 14, 16 and 18 PGF Premier Nationals -- that’s a mark of where we are at as a program.”
Mark Mulvaney, owner at president of Scout Softball (a scouting agency that collects film and data, and is designed to easily connect college coaches and athletes) has long been impressed with the brand of athlete Dickel uncovers in the nation’s breadbasket.
“We ran a showcase in St. Louis that drew six or seven kids from IClub, who turned out to be a bunch of future college players. Greg saw the need for an established organization dedicated to travel ball, and might have gone against the grain with how summer ball works in Iowa,” Mulvaney said. “He saw the need for it full time. Got his team with Iowa Premier, and soon he had all D-I kids, not just four or five. We made effort to go to the Midwest, and we saw great kids who knew they were being ignored. These are 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-11 girls hitting it out of the park. The opportunity began to present itself, and they took advantage.
“Every year we went, the kids got better thanks to the full-time approach of guys like Greg and Bill Conroy (of the Beverly Bandits). They also had indoor facilities and could play more than they used to. One thing that jumped out was, it seemed like kids would develop new pitches in a year’s time, and you can only do that when you are working on your craft. These were all people invested in softball.”
There’s a dollar investment in that conversation, but it’s probably more relevant how Iowa Premier coaches apply the resources of time and attention. Coach Kevin Stephens joined the staff after long conversations with Dickel about how a program can best serve the player and creates a roster of competitive but conscientious teammates.
“You can talk about talent and drive, but you got to have someone who is accountable … you start with that and the rest comes more easily,” said Stephens, the 16u Gold coach for Iowa Premier. “And it goes both ways – if a kid makes a great effort and still makes a mistake, don’t be afraid as a coach to take a little of that blame. You won’t be able to teach (real) accountability if it’s always their fault and never yours. I am not afraid to walk over to that huddle and say, ‘I blew that one. Pick me up here.’
“You take a kid who’s been maybe pushed away, and you give them an opportunity, you create something golden. There’s a bond, and a relationship and you open that door – here’s your shot, and what will you do with it? I’ve worked with a lot of people whose softball personality is one way and their (other) personality are like two different people. Greg is the same guy; like me he can be brutally honest, but that also eliminates all the speculation about things … I know he’s put his whole heart and mindset into this, and how he balances that (with being a policeman), I have no idea. He’s created an environment where kids not only get better at athletics, but get a better life.”
Dickel certainly wishes the whole high-school/club season conflict could be worked out, but after multiple petitions and conversations, he’s not getting his hopes up. It’s not unusual for Iowa Premier players to be facing off against each other in a state final, only to be shoulder to shoulder in California for a big club tournament.
“All summer, I was never with anyone from my travel team, and I’m normally playing against them in high school,” Lindaman said. “So that’s tough, never practicing together. Teams across the country have that advantage over us. We’d go to the PGF event in Huntington Beach and sometimes never have a practice, because we were all at different points during the high school season. Somehow it worked out.”
“Iowa kids are playing in a different competitive arena, because it’s the only state playing high school softball in the summer. My 18u team, I have kids playing a high school championship game on a Friday, then get on a plane at 6-7 the following morning to Huntington Beach, and then play at 7 p.m.,” Dickel added. “They will not have practiced together since early spring – it’s a testament to the talent level of the kids, that they can come together like that without much practice and perform on a national stage.”
We are one week away from the highly competitive TC/USA Nationals. Triple Crown Fastpitch has taken this tournament all over the United States from New York City to Reno to Austin and back again. 2018 is the seventh year of the event and Alpharetta, Cumming and surrounding towns in suburban Atlanta will play host on July 9-12.
The TC/USA Nationals is a six-game guarantee that is well known for featuring the nation’s top 14u, 16u and 18u fastpitch teams, based on U.S. Club Rankings. All box brackets will be pre-seeded based on ranking, geography and strength of roster. Box bracket outcomes will determine team seeding into double elimination brackets. The top two teams from each double elimination bracket will feed into a single elimination bracket for the championship. Triple Crown is excited for another year of partnering with ESPN3 to produce a live broadcast of the top championship games in the 18u and 16u divisions.
Nobody will want to miss watching the best competition in the country go head to head; especially college coaches! TC/USA Nationals has quickly become a hotspot for college coaches to scout the current and upcoming talent. This year more than 40 colleges have pre-registered to make an appearance at the tournament.
There are 64 teams set to play in the 18u Gold division including the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and 2017 TCS National Champions, the So Cal Athletics – Richardson. The East Cobb Bullets – Schnute, Birmingham Thunderbolts, Texas Bombers Gold – Smith and Aces Express – McCorkle are all ranked within the nation’s top 10 and will take the diamond in Georgia to rival the Athletics.
The 16u Open division will showcase 48 elite teams with No. 6 ranked Vision Gold – Poole and No. 9 ranked Texas Glory Adkins Gold in attendance. Glory Adkins was the runner-up of this event last year and will be fighting to end up on top next week. In 2017, Firecrackers TJ was our TCS National Champion in 14u and have since moved up to play in the 16u division. The 14u Open lineup welcomes 32 teams, many of which are also nationally ranked powerhouses.
The entertainment is not limited to the ballfield; Triple Crown has partnered with some of Atlanta’s finest restaurants, theme parks and shopping destinations to provide players, coaches and families with special discount codes and great group deals. Visit www.tcusanationals.com to check out the event partners, schedule/results, U.S. club rankings, college coach list and more. TC Fastpitch is fired up and ready to rock the Georgia heat – see you all next week!
It’s our favorite time of the fastpitch season here at TC headquarters in Fort Collins, CO. We are just days away from 900-plus teams and 16,000 players invading Colorado for the 49th annual Fireworks and the 16th annual Triple Crown Sparkler and Sparkler Juniors tournaments. Our Colorado 4th of July premier events offer a platform for the best athletes around the country to go head to head with other elite clubs and showcase their skills in the presence of more than 600 college coaches.
Before the competition begins, there are numerous opportunities for players to display their talents in front of college coaches, starting with the highly anticipated TC College Camp Sunday on June 24th. This year’s slate features 15 separate camps, including 38 different schools from top-level Division I programs through multiple Division III institutions. A day later, event directors have provided a separate workout tailored to unsigned seniors and players interested in the Junior College level. For the younger athletes, the 14u Elite Camp will take place on Monday, July 25th at The Ballpark at Erie. This sold-out event features eight highly notable Division I universities.
The early part of the week will also include Organization Workouts, On Deck Camp, All-Star Games, All-Academic Games, Unsigned Senior Combine and the National Speed Combine. The goal is for players is to refine skills and develop a deeper understanding of the game, while having the opportunity to work with coaches from a particular school or group of schools.
The All-Star Games are invite-only and feature some of the best athletes in the country. They begin on Monday, June 25th and run through Wednesday at Christopher Sports Complex. The All-Academic games feature girls who meet an incredible standard in the classroom and are equally impressive on the diamond. Schools looking to fill roster spots with those who check both boxes will keep a keen eye on these games.
What’s 4th of July week without a big celebration? The Sparkler Juniors opening ceremony will take place on Monday in Loveland and Sparkler/Fireworks will each host a Festival Night (the first on June 27th at Christopher Complex in Westminster, the next June 28th at Aurora Sports Park). One can expect a slew of vendors, pin trading, Pro/Olympic player signings, 4 the Heroes Flag Ceremony and the highly anticipated TC Idol Singing Competition where we’ll witness the intriguing entertainment talents of several softball players.
Teams will hit the diamond on Monday for two match-up games that are essentially warm-up games and don’t count toward bracket record. Later, teams will face off in two box bracket games that will seed them into elimination brackets. These four total games will be played throughout Monday-Thursday with one of those days as an "off" day so that travel teams can rest and explore Colorado. Double elimination starts Friday, and teams will battle it out over the weekend determined to reach Championship Sunday.
Throughout the week, Triple Crown Sports and ESPN3 have partnered to broadcast four games during the exciting week of fastpitch. Wednesday, June 27 at Christopher Fields during the Sparkler Festival Night, ESPN3 will bring audiences across the nation a showdown between two powerhouse 18u programs. Directly after, the “Best of the Best” game featuring the tournament All-Americans also receives ESPN3 treatment at 9:30 p.m. ET.
When the Fireworks Festival Night kicks off on Thursday, June 28th at the Aurora Sports Park, both the 14u and 16u Power Pool championship games will go live on ESPN3. The 14u Championship is slated for 7 p.m. ET, while the 16u Championship is set to go at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Below is the official TV schedule of the ESPN3 games:
Power Pool Championship (18u)
Westminster, CO | June 27 | 6:30 p.m. ET
Best of the Best All-American Game
Westminster, CO | June 27 | 9:30 p.m. ET
Futures Championship (14u)
Aurora, CO | June 28 | 7:00 p.m. ET
Power Pool Championship (16u)
Aurora, CO | June 28 | 9:30 p.m. ET
The countdown is on and the TCS fastpitch staff cannot wait to see you all in Colorado for the most spectacular week of the summer!
Support Your Officials Campaign
Starting Memorial weekend, Triple Crown Sports® (TCS) will have stricter enforcement towards respecting officials and allowing players a better event experience.
Officials and TCS staff will have an expanded commitment to enforce good behavior through:
Why is TCS doing this? Two main reasons:
Can I still debate a call with the official?
Are you a head coach? Then yes, go for it. Do it in a positive manner and not to ridicule or belittle the official. If you’re a parent then please enjoy the game and don’t confront the official.
What is considered bad behavior?
We know that you don’t always agree with the official and we acknowledge that they make mistakes. That said, sports officials rarely, if ever, determine the outcome of a game. Players and coaches cause the true outcome of a game.
Triple Crown’s purpose is to “bring athletes and families together in competition and create experiences that embed lasting lifetime valued memories”. Our “Respect of All” value says that there’s “no grunts, no servants and we’re all equal, real people”. These two guiding principles lead us to the decision to crack down on poor treatment of officials and we’re excited to improve the youth experience.
Thank you and enjoy the game,
Keri King- CEO
Triple Crown Sports, Inc.
Triple Crown Fastpitch is less than one month away from the annual Valley Invite in the beautiful state of Oregon. The excitement begins on Friday, June 15 with College Camp Friday and continues on to a Saturday and Sunday double elimination tournament.
College Camp Friday will take place at Hillsboro Stadium and it presents a “can’t miss” opportunity for athletes to learn from numerous Division I, Division II and community college schools such as Washington, Portland State and Blue Mountain CC. There are 12 3-hour camps, in addition to a High Academic Camp and an Unsigned Senior Camp.
The camps provide an invaluable experience and recruiting opportunity for 14u, 16u and 18u athletes. There are already more than 40 college coaches pre-registered to attend the event.
“Year after year the Valley Invite keeps drawing the top regional teams to compete against each other. Oregon is the perfect location for athletes interested in visiting Northwest colleges or teams just wanting to play some quality ball and get college camp exposure,” said event director Rachel Cavallaro.
In 2018, 192 teams will travel from to Oregon for the five-game guarantee tournament. The event will feature a 14u Open and 14u Division I, II and III so there is an opportunity for any skill level in the 14u age group to play. There is also 16u and 18u Open divisions.
The Maui Titans DeMarini fastpitch organization has found that the Valley Invite is well worth the 5 ½ hour flight from Hawaii to Oregon every summer. 2018 marks the third year in a row that they will attend.
“The kids really like the region, and the tournament is a great venue for them to see a lot of coaches in a short amount of time. It’s away from home, but not too far I guess,” said Titans 16u head coach Dennis Harmon. “It’s more of a business trip. We do a lot of camps and visits; there’s a lot of schools in that region right there close by. So we’ll go visit NW Christian, University of Oregon, Pacific University and just make the rounds all week long.”
The Valley Invite as a whole has a lot to offer; Cavallaro and the rest of the Triple Crown Fastpitch staff is happy to see it blossom.
“We’ve known Rachel for a long time from doing Colorado events and we’re happy she’s involved with this event because she’s someone we know and trust,” added Harmon.
By Bradey King
These are the facts – Triple Crown’s 2018 City of Lights events will sell out early.
Our two sessions in Las Vegas are Oct. 26-28 and Nov. 9-11; each weekend features a Team Showcase and an Individual Showcase, where we bring an array of coaches from NCAA D-II, D-III, NAIA and JUCO to watch players showcase their skills at the beautiful 12-field Majestic Park. Our model puts players and coaches shoulder-to-shoulder, whether in games or workouts, and coaches are rotated to make sure they have access to all attendees.
The Team Showcase features a five-game guarantee and is scheduled to make sure players can attend the Individual Showcase without fear of timing conflicts. Parents and players will get multiple chances to talk to coaches and learn some essential, fundamental information about finding a fit in college softball.
HEADS UP! The Team Showcase for Oct. 26-28 will likely sell out by Aug. 1 at the latest; while the second Team Showcase on Nov. 9-11 will be full by Aug. 15.
Don’t lose your chance to flex your skills in front of college coaches determined to find solutions for their rosters!
Visit the website: CLICK HERE
By Bradey King
It’s that time of year again – the top NCAA Division I softball programs are making their final push to end up in Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series while our Triple Crown Sports staff is gearing up for the 12th annual TC OKC fastpitch event.
TC OKC offers great competition and the opportunity to experience the WCWS in person, so it’s no surprise that the 2018 event is already sold out. It will be an exciting schedule featuring teams from across the country that have never crossed paths before. Nearly 160 teams from 20 different states near and far will be represented.
Among the lineup of programs, there are several Oklahoma City locals and teams from Oklahoma and surrounding states.
“TC OKC brings out all the local Midwest talent. There’s good competition and good umpiring. I don’t bring my team here looking to win, but to have fun and get better,” said Randy Williams, head coach of Team Synergy 16u out of Wichita, KS. “And I love taking them to the WCWS as an end-goal opportunity, watching the elite players and realizing that could be them one day.”
While most teams are in driving distance, others are traveling from as far as Washington and Florida to play in OKC. Cindy Corrado is the head coach of the Central Florida Eagles Select “Rip-It” 12u and 14u teams, and her teams were first to pay in each age group, showcasing how eager they were to be a part of this event.
“When coach Lori Castellano and I took a 16u team a few years ago, I came back to Florida determined to give younger student athletes an opportunity to experience this (TC OKC) event. I felt by exposing them to the WS at a younger age would help them envision themselves playing at that level and encourage them to establish goals for their own personal success,” Corrado said. “The opportunity and experience for them is priceless. The kids I train in Florida all have a dream to play college softball one day and taking them to OKC to experience the WCWS, to play in the Triple Crown tourney, to tour Oklahoma University and the ASA Hall of Fame is an opportunity of a lifetime for these young student athletes.”
The five-game guarantee begins with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, June 1st at 2:00 p.m. All players, coaches, parents and family members are welcome. Coaches are required to be present to check in their teams and pick up any purchased WCWS tickets.
Tournament Director Sarah Pow is currently working hard on the brackets. She’s excited about the turnout and is ready to get the ball rolling.
“It’s a special event. Opening ceremonies will be really cool; we’ll have a photo booth, airbrush tattoos, pin-trading and tons of vendors. Our allotment of WCWS tickets is sold out so we’re excited that teams will get to enjoy the games,” added Pow.
Tournament play begins Saturday, June 2nd and will continue through Monday, June 4th. Full schedules will be released on Friday, May 4th. Visit www.triplecrownokc.com for more event details and to pre-order the official Triple Crown OKC tournament T-shirt.
The National Invitation Softball Championships (NISC) returns for its second year, offering a fresh postseason opportunity for dozens of talented D-I softball programs. This event gives teams a chance to enjoy the experience of a postseason run, while building momentum and player development that is key for next year.
Important 2018 NISC Dates
Sunday, May 13 (shortly after NCAA Selections)
Wednesday, May 16-Friday, May 18
(Saturday, May 19 is weather day)
Wednesday, May 23-Saturday, May 26
(Sunday, May 27 is weather day)
Schools in consideration will begin receiving participation agreements and invitations starting the week of April 16.
We will be announcing our automatic qualifiers as the conference tournaments unfold – check back often at www.womensnisc.com.
Dave King - Executive Chairman & NISC Director
Kelly Berry - Assistant NISC Director
With two daughters who not only loved softball, but also had the tenacity to truly develop their talent, Darrell Landry ended up doing what a lot of fathers do in that situation — start coaching.
Landry, 54, is the general manager of the Marucci Patriots, based in and around Baton Rouge, LA. The Louisiana Patriots date back to the 1970s; Landry’s daughter Courtney jumped in with the Patriots in 2004, and Bailey also came through the system and graduated from LSU in 2017.
As coach, Landry started in an era where local tournaments drew the interest of teams and parents, but as that changed with the maturation of club softball, so did Landry. He had coached Ascension Catholic High School to a state championship game in 2009; soon he saddled up with the Patriots and brought back the defunct 18u program in 2012.
The Patriots have been a factor ever since, not playing very much in Louisiana any more but looking to get players and teams on the road, in elite competitions, in front of college coaches. Landry visited the Triple Crown Sports offices a few weeks ago and sat down to share a little history and perspective on the game he loves.
Q: As you took over the 18u piece of the Patriots, what were your priorities?
A: I saw it as an opportunity to get kids seen at the collegiate level, and to get them prepared. That was my whole focus; local tournaments didn’t mean a whole lot. I can have all the T-shirts and trophies I want with the kids I could develop, but the idea was to get these kids a college scholarship. I wanted them to be serious; this wasn’t a hang-out situation. In 2012, all five seniors all signed, and nine signed next year. We started off in big tournaments and didn’t know what we were doing, to be honest.
My team has always been based on Louisiana kids; I won’t go out and recruit from six different states, eight states away, pay someone’s way or buy kids. Our players are developed through our program. Just running the 18s, I didn’t have control of the organization, and I found I was rebuilding that 18u team every year. With the 14s and 16s – I couldn’t (control development). I might take two or three, or I might not. I had to go looking for kids around the state and area.
Q: How did Marucci get involved with the Patriots?
A: Marucci had approached me before. They came back when they wanted to get into softball (the company is based in Baton Rouge), and they saw us as the premier club in the state. They wanted to learn from us, see what elite players are looking for, and I thought it would be good for kids to see that part of the company grow from scratch. Marucci had no knowledge of softball. Those first bats weren’t very good, and we gave them feedback. They’d lay out a bunch of unmarked bats and ask, how’s it feel? When it came to gloves, the girls want it up their wrist tight, with Velcro … and they kept adjusting things through our feedback. We were part of that first group that helped design their products, and there was value for our kids to see how a company grows.
Q: What’s something about upper-level softball that troubles you?
A: This early recruiting thing – it gets on my nerves. I don’t have 7th or 8th graders committed, and I would advise any of my kids not to. I don’t feel it’s fair to a kid or a coach. It’s almost like exploitation; there’s no way you can know where a kid is going to be (developmentally) in four or five years. Life changes so much and you don’t know where the kids’ dreams or work ethic might be at; it can change dramatically either way. We have these young kids coming to us, and their No. 1 question is, how do I get recruited? When my daughters came through, it was about learning the fundamentals of the game and getting better every day.
I had a freshman get a huge offer from a huge school; I didn’t think she was ready, and I advised her not to commit. And I told the coach the same thing.
I’m not going to lie to a college coach. I tell them about strengths and weaknesses. I never oversell a kid; never have and never will. The kid needs to know, too – their life is going to change.
Q: What keeps you coming back to the diamond year after year?
A: I’ve always been competitive as a person, player and coach. It’s always about getting to the next level and winning that big crown, but also seeing the kids have success. I’m at the point where kids I coached have graduated from college; last year, I had two kids (Louisiana State’s Bailey Landry and Arizona transfer Aleah Craighton) make first-team NFCA All-American who played for my first team, two of the three outfield spots, and they only lived a mile apart. And you’re talking about thousands of kids playing softball … I’m not saying I had a lot to do with it, but there it is.
Those are fulfilling moments. Also, my niece (Megan Landry) at Nicholls State, she’s been pitching since she was a freshman. What she does is amazing; she’s a Godly kid, and I can see her Godliness spreading to other kids on that team. That program has been winning, and I think it has something to do with us because we’ve sent two or three there every year the last four or five years. There was a game where seven of the starting nine was from my program! I was proud of that.
We had 71 seniors from 2012 to now, and all have signed college scholarships and played. To me, it could change their lives. You send kids off, and there’s a good chance it creates a direction in their life, hopefully for the good, where maybe they meet the person of their dreams and a partner for life. And you had a part of that.