The high school class of 2024 is on the clock. Sept. 1 is only a few months, the day that upcoming juniors will be able to first hear from NCAA college coaches.
The Hotshots Esparza 16u team has several players likely to be hearing from colleges, having established itself as one of the top teams in its age bracket and willing to compete against the best of the best near and far.
Part of the reason head coach Charlie Esparza takes his team all over the country is because of the recruiting rules. He will take his team to the likes of California, Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kansas, outside of his team’s home in Texas.
NCAA teams all across America began playing this weekend. It wont be too hard to find a Division-1 Game as teams head toward warm weather states to play ball. Fastpitch Network followed Alcorn State University Braves led by Head Coach Josef Rankin to Vicksburg, Mississippi where they hosted teams such as The Kentucky State Thouroghbreds, Southeastern Baptist College (MS), Grambling State University (LA), Rust College (MS), Jackson State University (MS) and Tennessee State University. Alcorn State finished runner up to Alabama State University in the SWAC conference championship in 2021 and are looking to win the championship this year.
Like many other teams across the nation Alcorn avoids conference games. Teams will travel to play teams in other conferences. Georgia for example is in Orlando for the weekend playing schools such as Longwood (VA) to get their team ready for conference play. Braves Coach Rankin is evaluating players for future SWAC conference games as he rotates them in and out of the lineup to test them against different type of pitchers. He also has to consider defensive capabilities and his pitchers abilities vs various hitters on opposing teams. As of this report Alcorn is starting strong with 2 shutouts and a deceptive 8-3 loss in what was an 8 inning 1-1 pitching dual. The Braves do not appear to be hurting for pitching at all.
Not only do the players get their chance to audition before their coach and in front of their teammates, this opening weekend the coaches are also auditioning assistants. After the Brave’s loss we were curious who was calling pitches for the Alcorn Braves and discovered Coach Rankin had a new assistant calling pitches (not officially listed as of this report). While that game did not end the way they wanted it to, 8 innings of good work were put forward by the new assistant along with those 2 shutout games. She is off to a good start in her career at Alcorn.
Alcorn State University is located in Loriman MS and is an HBCU on a beautiful wide open campus. If you would like to follow the Braves on their quest to win their SWAC conference this year you can follow them at:
The Williamsburg Starz Gold officially launched as an organization in 2012, by Tom Bunn, who has been coaching at the 18U level since 2007. Bunn built the organization on a budget with a focus on regional development within Virginia and the Carolinas, and strong growth over the recent years has propelled the organization into a nationally competitive team.
Committed to college recruiting, Bunn’s main goal is to help every student-athlete reach her potential at the next level. He prioritizes college recruiting over wins and losses, helping athletes realize that a lot more than softball enters the decision regarding which college or university might best suit them. “Over the years we have built our reputation and our relationships with college coaches providing our athletes with many opportunities at the college level,” states Bunn.
The NC Challengers strive toward many goals as an organization—develop players on and off the field, win softball games, send alumni on to the college level. Central to all of this is consistency. First and foremost, Coach Adam Renzi believes players can be most successful when they start with the organization’s 10U or 12U teams and stick with the Challengers as they get older.
“Keeping players in our program where they have a consistent training regimen and pushing them to the right tournaments leads to better-developed players,” Renzi said.
Part of this consistency is retaining players so the same girls are playing together, but another part is the relationships players develop with coaches. The Challengers try to hire non-parent coaches, which often results in coaches staying with the organization longer than the four to five years parents often stay when they’re coaching their daughters’ teams.