If you see DaNia Brooks, she likes to keep it simple. She likes to smile and puts a premium on having fun, which drives her and her team on the softball field.
The 15-year-old, rising Junior for the Tampa Mustangs 16U squad primarily plays the hot corner and pitches for her coach Rene Ciccarello Jr., whom she’s played for since 2014.
“She is a remarkable player, and probably the toughest out to get on the field,” said Ciccarello. “You throw her a change up and you wish you didn’t. You throw her a rise pitch and she gets her barrel on it. DaNia has always been a tremendous athlete with incredible strength and hand-eye coordination.”
When you see Emmorie Burke on the field, chances are you’ll see her smiling. The Hotshots’ second baseman loves nothing more than manning the middle infield. Her dad and coach Marty Burke says he’s always glad to see a ball hit her way.
“When I’m in a situation and calling pitches, I’m hoping I’ll get a ground ball to her because I know it’s going to be an out,” he says. “She’s good at turning double plays. That’s her specialty. She has really quick hands.”
“I really like the ball being hit to me so I can make those big plays. I put in a lot of time and effort trying to make my game better so when the time comes, then I can be the one to make that play,” Emmorie says. “Turning double plays is my favorite thing to do because you have to be so quick at it. It’s a challenge, and I love challenges that push me to the next level.”
Roger Schliewe just figured he’d be a baseball coach. He played baseball in college and began his coaching career on the baseball diamond.
But in 1990, his path diverted and he became the softball coach at Horicon High School in Wisconsin. Schliewe took over a program that had won just one game in the previous two years. In his first season at the helm, his team posted a 13-7 record and defeated the top-ranked team in the state.
The next year, he took Horicon to the state tournament, and the rest is history. He’s won four state titles and many other conference, region and section championships.
From the batter’s box to behind the plate, Hotshot’s catcher Megan Davidson impresses. She joined Coach Marty Burke’s Hotshots team in the fall, and he already recognizes that she’s a player he can rely on regardless of the situation.
“Megan is a big moment kid. You want her in that moment when it’s on the line. She does her work during the week so she can be productive on the weekend,” he says.
Productive is one word for Davidson’s play last fall where she posted a .543 batting average and .943 slugging percentage.
Power and speed define Sorcerer Faulstich, a 16U team based out of Fairfield, CA. Formerly known as Universal Fastpitch, Mike Faulstich joins Sorcerer Softball with his talented group of athletes from all around northern California.
Faulstich has coached travel ball for the past 20 years and will be in his fifth year coaching alongside Brian Sullivan and Dave Garcia this season. “We’ve all had our daughters play the game and now we’re on a mission for this group of talented athletes,” states Faulstich.
Sorcerer Faulstich “has an incredibly balanced attack with power and speed,” with a strong line-up of 7 lefties in the roster of 15 players. “We have to have one of the best outfields in the country,” states Faulstich, and “our five pitchers complement each other extremely well as they bring different components to the circle
Karolyn Glover has grown up with softball and the Sorcerers. From watching games on TV to attending her sister’s games, Glover can’t remember a time when the game wasn’t a part of her life. All this exposure and hard work at a young age have enabled Glover to take advantage of opportunities when they come her way.
When her sister’s 18U Sorcerer team was short a catcher, they brought Glover aboard for PGF even though she wasn’t even in high school yet. Now, Glover once again wears the 18U Sorcerer uniform, but this time she’s doing more than catching bullpens. Coach Paulie Gabales says Glover’s knowledge of the game and poise impress regardless of the stage.
“Her softball IQ distinguishes her,” he says. “She’s been in these big situations from a very young age, so she’s not overwhelmed by any team we play, whether we’re in Colorado or at PGF.”
That first year as a Bandits team, Yates took them to the PGF Nationals. So, he’s known for a while he’s got a group of girls with plenty of potential. Not only are they talented and becoming better by the day, but Yates has long been impressed with their love for one another.
Paige Vickery grew up around dugouts and diamonds. As a baby, she was on the ground rolling balls all over the dugout. All her siblings played sports – including softball, baseball and football – so the diamond was like a second home. As a result, her impressive softball talent showed much earlier than expected. How early? Just ask her current Mojo [Vickery] 16U coach (who was also her first coach a decade ago).
“I had just finished coaching an 18U game and she walks out with a little pink helmet,” Mike Vickery proudly recalls. “Daddy, throw me the ball, and she hit it so far (around 120 feet) I had to tell everyone to clear the field so I could walk around and make sure that really happened. She was probably around six at the time.”
The Commerce, GA native has not stopped hitting and making plays since. The rising Junior is a middle infielder and hits third in the Mojo’s impressive line-up. Vickery is hitting close-to .500 average (.493 to be exact) with 27 RBIs and a .964 fielding percentage for Mike Vickery’s 16U squad.
Strike up a conversation with coaches José Tuñón and Eric Forbes with the Georgia Academy Power Softball Club, and it doesn’t take long to find out what drives their passion – it’s family. José Tuñón, President of the Georgia Academy Power Softball/Baseball Club, and Eric Forbes, Chairman of Softball for Georgia Power, started coaching together when their daughters competed in 8U.
Tuñón and Forbes have impressive resumes in the sport of baseball, with Tuñón a former athlete for the Panamanian National Baseball Team, and Forbes a former NCAA Division I athlete sidelined early with injury. They transferred their love of baseball to the sport of softball when they were both blessed with daughters.
The Georgia Academy Power Softball Club (aka Georgia Power) is based in Woodstock, GA with 18 girls fastpitch teams, with local talent ranging from 10U to 18U. The club is a non-profit 501(c)(3) and focuses on key metrics such as a commitment to service, integrity of athletes and coaches, and teaching the values of sportsmanship.
The Midwest powerhouse Nebraska Gold has won its share of titles and tournaments since the organization first formed when two local organizations combined into one. Since then, many players have gone on to play college ball from Power Five to NAIA.
Program directors Larry Swift and Chad Perkins explain the wins and college offers come because of how Nebraska Gold prepares its teams and players to succeed. Young players are drilled in the fundamentals, and unity among the coaching staff helps ensure they continue to improve as they grow older.
“Everybody’s on the same page, telling all the girls the same terminology,” Perkins says.