“If we had all 25 kids (in the 2023 class) verbally committed, that’s a successful season,” said Blades-Rogers. “Wins and losses are great – and I want to win – but the reality is that it is all about their future.”
Blades-Rogers understands softball success quite well. Her accomplishments as a player are extensive. She was the 2000 Honda Sports Award Softball Player of the year as an All-American pitcher for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. She’s left her mark on the sport with the second most wins in college softball history while ranking fifth all-time in strikeouts. In 2012, she became a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
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.”
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.
Some leaders use their voice. Some lead by example. And, some lead using their actions. Very rarely do you find a leader who does all three, but Alyssa Hastings isn’t just any type of ballplayer.
Hastings, a sophomore sensation who plays shortstop for the Tennessee Fury [Premier 2022] U18 squad, is hard to miss. She’s typically the first player out on the infield grass, the first player at practice, and one of the last players to go home. Her work ethic and softball IQ, at just 16 years of age, is off-the-charts.
For all of her special softball gifts – the quick hands, smooth glove, the patient approach at the plate, incredible bat control – it is her team first approach that stands out above all else.