When you look at the top players in the Class of 2024, you don’t need to scroll far to find Jayden Heavener’s name. The 15-year-old hard throwing lefty is ranked as the #11 overall prospect on Fastpitch Network and #1 prospect on Xtra Innings.
The sophomore pitcher from Pensacola, who also plays first, joined Josh Johnson’s Virginia Unity 16U team in late summer and made an immediate impact. The Johnson/Ross team which combined players from two different teams, went 25-3-2 over the fall and Heavener was spectacular. She pitched 57 innings going 11-0, surrendering just 22 hits with 116 strike outs, a 0.73 ERA and opponents hit just .117 with her on the bump. Heavener struck out 11 batters in three different games this fall.
When you talk to Audrey Lowry, you quickly realize she doesn’t just love softball, but she is a student of the game. Incredibly focused, detail oriented, and the rare kind of player who doesn’t only rely on her physical gifts but thinks through what she wants to do on the mound. And in case you haven’t been paying attention – her focused dedication is paying off in a big way.
The Beverly Bandits Conroy 16U team is off to a sizzling start. After coming in 3rd in PGF Nationals this summer, the Bandits have won both fall tournaments (PGF King of the Hill and the PGF Labor Day Tournament) on their way to a 15-0 start. They have outscored their opponents by a whopping 102-11 in those games.
Jaysoni (Jay) Beachum comes through for her team in the biggest moments, whether a big hit is needed or a game changing play in the field.
The 16-year-old class of 2023 talent plays for the U18 Mojo Danley squad and is one of the best players in her class – ranking as the #6 corner infielder and 49th overall player on Fastpitch and 12th ranked player on Extra.
Beachum is a complete player – swinging a big bat, while being a smooth fielder and possessing an upbeat personality off-the-field that teammates gravitate towards. Her number 24 has a special meaning. It was her grandmother’s number when she played softball and as Beachum explains, “she sounds like she was the real deal from back in the day.”
Kylee Edwards is a perfectionist. She also works extremely hard at softball and everything she does, so it should come as no surprise that she is among the top ranked players in the 2023 class. As the #7 ranked middle infielder and 48th ranked player overall for Fastpitch Network, Edwards is one of the best shortstops/middle infielders in the country.
The Indiana Magic Gold 16U team are off to a strong start having beaten several of the top teams in the country this season. Head Coach Stephanie Kleiner, who has coached for 15 years, this year merged her team with 5-6 players from another Indiana Magic team and thanks to players like Edwards, the results have been encouraging.
“The team has come together really well,” said Kleiner. “Kylee is a special player and she’s had no problems continuing relationships with the players she came over with, while also making new ones. She’s a team player who leads by example and gets very excited when her teammates make good plays.”
Ava Conti dominates the pitcher’s circle with confidence and poise – she’s all business, according to her coach Mike Faulstich with Sorcerer Softball. A 5’8” 158lb right-handed pitcher and first baseman from Redwood City, California and Carlmont High School, Conti is known for her tenacity and competitive spirit.
“Ava brings a wealth of experience to Sorcerer,” states Faulstich and “we love her demeanor and controlled fire she plays with.” Conti is ranked as the No. 19 pitcher in the 2023 class, according to Fastpitch Network, and likely to push the rankings this season.
“She refuses to be outworked in anything she does,” states Faulstich, and always working daily on her physical and mental game. Her personal mantra is “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” and Conti displays a true grit mentality, competitive spirit, and a sense of determination that is one of a kind.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.