The 16U Atlanta Vipers 05 boast a talented roster built on speed, power and discipline. These girls have sky-high expectations for the upcoming travel ball season even as a first-year 16U team. Whether they’re winning tournaments, facing 18U teams in scrimmages, or grinding through practice together, the Atlanta Vipers know how to be great, in large part because they’ve been taught from the beginning what it takes to be champions.
Coach Stacy Tamborra leads the Vipers. After Tamborra finished her decorated pitching career at Florida State, she said she would never coach or teach. However, she began giving a few lessons and helped coach a local travel team. As she worked with the girls, she began to change her mind. “I just realized that God just had a bigger plan for me. You’re able to impact kids at a whole other level when you’re instructing them,” Tamborra says.
Coach Kevin Hinde of the 16U Team NC has many words to describe Teagan Ritchie. Competitor and leader top the list, but gritty might be the most fitting.
“With her athleticism, Teagan can literally play anywhere on the field. She just makes plays,” he says. “She has that presence about her on the field. She’s going to scrap and do whatever it takes, whether it’s to get an out, score a run or help her teammates get going.”
Ritchie is Fastpitch Network’s 13th ranked utility player and 34th ranked player overall. She plays primarily middle infield with some occasional time in centerfield. However, Ritchie particularly relishes the challenge of playing shortstop.
It takes an athlete with true grit to show up on the softball diamond in 40-degree April weather to get her reps in at the plate. Teams in the northeast often face a different kind of rival – the weather. And cold weather becomes just another opponent to be trampled and stormed.
Training is seasonal in the northeast, and teams often find themselves spending more time indoors than their southern counterparts. But learning to navigate the seasons builds character and initiates a sense of determination in these athletes.
Meet the Rhode Island Thunder. Founded in 1997 by David Lotti, the Rhode Island Thunder has grown to become one of New England’s premier softball organizations. Featuring eleven teams ages 12U to 18U, the Rhode Island Thunder can be found annually at top events such as Boulder IDT, TC Nationals, and PGF Nationals to name a few.
Most softball travel organizations do not see success on a national level, and an even greater majority of them will never win a national championship within their first three years of competing. For the Virginia Unity organization those two goals of going national and winning a national championship, became reality when they won the 2017 ASA/USA Softball 18U Gold National Championship.
To genuinely appreciate the accomplishment of the Virginia Unity, you must understand just how it all started the small town of Fredericksburg in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the fall of 2014 with just one 18U level team. Josh Johnson, with the assistance of Mark Ratcliff and Ritchie Jacobs, had the vision to create a better opportunity for the talented softball players in the local area.
“I was a local high school coach getting out of education and several of the girls and parents from the high school team wanted me to continue to coach them,” stated Johnson. “I got wife’s approval and we sought out and got the best players in the area using the local paper’s All-Area team.”
Most elite athletes get into sports at an early age, and Malayna Tamborra is no exception. The Atlanta Vipers 05 pitcher and first baseman grew up with softball, even more so than most.
Malayna plays for her mom, Stacy Tamborra. Tamborra played college ball at Florida State, and after giving some lessons and working with a local team, she decided to dive into coaching. She bought the building for her business, Champions Fastpitch Academy, just months before Malayna was born.
While Tamborra encouraged her kids to play other sports, Malayna grew up watching the players her mom coached become great. Soon, she decided she wanted to be a great softball player, too. But greatness doesn’t come without dedication and hard work. Especially early on, Malayna learned to use what she had to be successful.
ONE OF THE PREMIER FAST-PITCH ORGANIZATIONS IN THE U.S.
PHILADELPHIA–April 12, 2021–Stars National, one of the premier fast-pitch organizations in the U.S., announced today that Rachel Coleman will serve as the new leader of the acclaimed softball organization effective August 1.
Rachel currently leads several nationally ranked teams under the EC Bullets organization, who will also transition to the Stars National organization this summer. As a former Division I player and coach, Rachel also manages a multi-platform softball business (Rachel Coleman Sports) that includes East Coast Softball, one of the top competitive tournaments on the east coast and SoftballRecruiting.com, a softball recruiting company that has led to more than $10 million in softball scholarships for young female athletes across the country.
“I’m thrilled to join the Stars National family and look forward to making this successful organization the best in the country. Above all, I’m honored to mentor and coach these talented young athletes as they pursue their dream of playing college softball,” said Rachel Coleman. “I’d like to thank Philip Belfield of Stars National for this amazing opportunity along with Greg Schnute of EC Bullets for his support and mentorship over the years.”
Stars National, which is currently ranked 29th in the country by Extra Inning Softball, has made a name for itself in the softball industry with both local and national success including berths to IDT, TCS USA & PGF National tournaments.
Stars National President Philip Belfield, who selected Rachel for the opportunity, said “Rachel’s accomplishments, recognition in the softball community, and pursuit of excellence have opened doors for many young women. As a coach and a leader, she’s a perfect example of respect, integrity and hard work – all of the qualities that are centric to the Stars National mission.” Belfield will maintain a key role in the organization and will work with Rachel to coach the Stars National 18U team.
“Rachel will be a tremendous asset to Stars National as a coach, leader and mentor to these young female athletes – on and off the field,” said Bryan Garrett, head coach of the EC Bullets – Coleman 16U National team. “She has the determination, grit, and talent to further the organization’s success in this highly-competitive industry.”
“Rachel’s education, experience and acumen are unmatched in this industry,” said Greg Schnute, founder of EC Bullets. “She’s truly one-of-a-kind and I look forward to seeing what she does next in the competitive softball community.”
About Stars National
The Stars National softball program is a premier fast-pitch organization with a strong history of local and national success. It consists of a group of dedicated female athletes who train year-round with the goal of becoming the best they can as players on the field, students in the classroom and citizens within the community. The organization is committed to advancing the skills and playing opportunities for players who want to achieve and maintain the highest level of play available in girl’s fastpitch softball.
Sophia Stein likes to be in control of the game…literally. As a five-year-old, she would stand on the pitching mound and chase balls when they were hit, grab them from the outfield, and run to first base to tag players out.
At sixteen, Stein plays shortstop for the So Cal Athletics Wellbaum/Briggs 16U , is a leader who still wants the ball in her hands, and she relishes the pressure of making the big play.
“I would say my effort on the field is one of the most evident things, because it’s the one thing I control,” said Stein. “I’ve been told effort is how people will remember you or don’t remember you, so I always try to give 100 percent. If there was a game on the line, I’d want to be at bat or making a play in the field.”
Five years ago, James Lamar was watching his 10U daughter from the sidelines and decided it was time to make a change. Feeling that some girls were being treated unfairly in the economically driven system, he decided to start a new club team that would create an opportunity for athletes to play, regardless of economic status.
Lamar partnered with his wife, Marissa Young, who had just been hired as Head Coach at Duke University, so it seemed fitting to name the team the Lady Dukes. “This became a full-time way of giving back to life – softball is not my full-time job,” states Lamar. “I was in a position to help kids by providing an opportunity – to help those that couldn’t help themselves. Everyone deserves a fair chance.”
This summer the Lady Dukes will be celebrating its fifth year as an organization and the first cohort of girls graduating into the college ranks. “Everything we have done so far is for this moment,” Lamar reflects. He states, “two years ago people would have said some of our girls would never have made it, given their background of single-parent homes or lower economic status – but they did.”
Emily Digby is not big on stats. In fact, when asked about her numbers from last season she couldn’t recall any specifics. If you find it surprising that a 16-year old athlete doesn’t recall their own stats, then you probably don’t know Digby very well.
Digby is the consummate team player for the Georgia Impact 18U, a squad with a track record of success and an expectation that drives student athletes to become better in all aspects of softball while also competing in the classroom.
The Dacula, Georgia resident made a big jump from 14U to 18U in the fall of 2020 and this will be her first season of playing at this level. A right-handed .400 hitter with plus power, Digby is now competing in a league where pitchers put a lot spin and speed on their pitches, the game is faster and the competition will be ratcheted up. Despite these challenges, she has already impressed her coaches and teammates despite a small sample size.