The Aurburn Tigers have burst on the scene the past several years, making trip to the WCWS in 2015 and 2016, and in his fourth season at Auburn Mickey Dean has his tigers eyes set on returning back to Oklahoma City. They were on their way in the 2019-20 season as they started the season 16-11with wins over Notre Dame, #25 Northwestern and #18 Minnesota. That was until COVID-19 halted and ultimately ended the season. Dean recalls getting the call during the middle of a mid-week home game informing him the NCAA was shutting things down and ultimately sending all students home. Dean tried to use this a teaching moment to his student athletes, about life and that things are unexpected while encouraging them play every game as their last.
The organization has been competing at a national level for several years and finally broke through in the summer of 2019, as Nate Eaton’s 14u team won the Triple Crown/USA Nationals championship in Georgia.
Eaton’s team finished in third at nationals the year prior but triumphed by beating the Texas Bombers to cap off a 9-0 run through the tournament.
Eaton’s group, which now competes at the 16u level, is one of over 20 teams in the Team NC program, but its story is one that epitomizes what the fastpitch organization is all about.
When you finally get to southern California to play softball, you will quickly learn that he is also the head of the Explosion Softball organization that has some talented teams on the west coast in California, Arizona, and Utah.
“It always starts with the coaching. Look for coaches that are in this game for the right reasons,” says Denio. “I always do research and make sure these coaches are in it for the right reasons and are not there for financial gain.”
“She fit right into our group,” said Boteler, who has worked with Lorenz for a few years even before Lorenz joined her team. “She has a lot of potential and she doesn’t even know yet how good she is. She’s pretty humble.”
Not many young players are wise beyond their age to show a sense of loyalty in the modern era of sports. From the professional athlete to the youth player, migrating from team to team is not an uncommon occurrence. That was not the choice or case for McKaela Walker.
“One strength that she developed at a very young age was loyalty,” said Todd Mayfield, head coach of the East Cobb Bullets – Mayfield team. “She’s very loyal to her coaches, loyal to her teammates, and very loyal to the organization she plays for.”
When you grow up in the northeast, hockey is the sport of choice to maximize your time outside playing sports and hanging out with friends. For John Knopf, that was where he cut his teeth in sports and how he ended up getting drafted and spending time in the Vancouver Canucks organization.
“As a hockey player, it was great growing up in the northeast. I played hockey from October on outside,” said Knopf.
After his hockey days were over, friends convinced him to give fastpitch softball a try, given his athleticism and his need for a fun way to burn youthful energy. Those times were fast and furious but gave him an indoctrination into the game.
An up-and-coming recruit in the 2023 class is a pitcher that resides [in] Santa Fe Texas named Sidne Peters. Sidne owes a lot of the athlete that she has become to her parents and sisters. She says that they have taught her that work ethic is key, and it is alright to fail because [it helps to] make you better.
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Editor’s Note: Fastpitch Network welcomes Kristen Cuyos
She took over a Bulldogs program in its infancy in 2001, led the team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2002 and hasn’t looked back since.
Georgia hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament in 18 years and was well on its way to achieving more postseason success in the pandemic-shortened season. The Bulldogs were off to a great 23-5 start and had taken two of three in their first SEC series.
Some might wonder if you can start a softball team, much less a softball organization, with just ten players. Kevin O’Donnell, of the Intensity Softball organization, would have no doubts based on his experience.
When O’Donnell started his first New Jersey Intensity softball team in 2002, they only had ten girls on the team.
“We started with a group of ten committed girls,” said O’Donnell. “We came from a town team.”
From the time Jenissa Conway competed in the 2018 PGF National Championship game in 14U, the Sorcerer Softball organization knew they had a very talented and unique player. Whether she was winning games on the mound or at the plate, her talents were obvious to those on the Sorcerer staff.
While Sorcerer coaches are well aware of the special gifts she possesses, her ability to compete at a high level on both sides has started to become more evident to opposing teams and college coaches.