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.”