If your strategy is to try and intimidate Team North Carolina’s 16U – Hinde squad, you may want to come up with a better plan. Despite their relative youth, they are not a team that backs down and they are used to playing older competition.
As a 14U team, head coach Kevin Hinde’s team routinely played the highest level in showcases and tournaments, and often played 16U and some 18U teams. During a challenging 2020, and in their first season at 16U, playing the toughest competition including 18U teams, they finished was 66-27.
Sporting 12 nationally ranked players – including five in the Top 100 – and 73 percent of the player in the 2023, Team North Carolina is primed for a bright future.
Like many travel organizations, Power Surge started small. A single rec team who wanted to play better competition led to the founding of the Power Surge organization in 1992, and the rest is history. Now boasting around 25 teams, Scott Berndess credits the organization’s success to the talented girls and coaches who have represented Power Surge the past thirty years.
“We’re all here to have fun but winning was very important. It put us on the map,” he says.
Power Surge has won many tournaments and titles, including two national championships. Winning is not only important for the success of the organization, but also the players themselves.
Competing with the Arizona Storm since 10U, Dellamonica represents a 5 Tool Player who excels in speed, power, hitting, fielding, and arm strength. Not only does Dellamonica possess the essential skills for on-field success, she offers so much versatility to her team.
Dellamonica is currently ranked as the No. 16 utility player and No. 39 overall in the 2023 class, according to Fastpitch Network. While she is a stand-out 3rd baseman, Dellamonica is extremely versatile in the field with the ability to play middle infield or could be a dynamite center fielder, according to Appel.
All travel teams strive to play with skill, intensity and power, but Virginia Glory teams also play with a deeper purpose.
Founder Suzy Willemssen started the organization with just a single team. As time went on, others asked if she’d consider taking on additional teams. Over 20 teams now represent Virginia Glory, including a couple of teams in the Midwest. Former Glory players compete for Power Five schools and take home both individual and team trophies, a testament to the excellent instruction they received.
In building this organization, Willemssen was, and still is, interested in finding coaches and players dedicated to the organization’s vision of purpose-driven softball.
“We started the team in 2014, and many of these players have been with us a long time. It’s organically evolved, but every player that has joined us understands our team culture and shares our values,” he says. “We have a lot of selfless players, so when you come on this team, I think that it’s refreshing for a lot of players. We’re competitive, but there’s a chemistry we offer that I think a lot of people gravitate to.”
This chemistry helps the team believe they are in any game, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
Head Coach Mike Lunsford and Assistant Coach Jason Wade know a thing or two about building winning teams. They won a national championship in Roanoke in 2020 and another in 2018. In 2019, they finished 3rd in PGF platinum. This year they brought their 16U squad to the MOJO organization due to their winning ways and player first approach.
“They have a great group of teams over there,” said Lunsford. “With seven national championships, plus the two we bring with us, this organization has nine championships over the last five years. It’s about the girls – not the organization. It’s hard to grow a team culture, but here in MOJO it’s a winning a culture that is all about the girls. That was well established before we got here and we want to continue to grow that culture and get better as a team.”
The 16U Explosion (Hilliard) is the rare local, homegrown team that finds national success. The team started in a rec league, then moved to travel ball. Eventually, they joined the Explosion organization and haven’t looked back. Coach Chuck Hilliard explains how the team has been able to win games at the national level.
“We really hang our hat on our pitching. We’ve got a dominant number one pitcher who happens to be my daughter, Lauren. She’s going to be in the circle for us in any high-level game,” Hilliard says. “Offensively we just have a bunch of big bats. Our one through seven can consistently put it out of the park.”
Hilliard believes another important component of the team’s success has been remaining true to their original vision for what kind of team he wanted to build.
“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.