The high school class of 2024 is on the clock. Sept. 1 is only a few months, the day that upcoming juniors will be able to first hear from NCAA college coaches.
The Hotshots Esparza 16u team has several players likely to be hearing from colleges, having established itself as one of the top teams in its age bracket and willing to compete against the best of the best near and far.
Part of the reason head coach Charlie Esparza takes his team all over the country is because of the recruiting rules. He will take his team to the likes of California, Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kansas, outside of his team’s home in Texas.
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.
Sorcerer Bigley-Everett played well in many top tournaments this year, but coach Ryan Bigley says that without a doubt the highlight of the summer was the team’s third-place finish in PGF‘s 14U Premier Bracket A.
“It was just good ball. All the girls were in a good space mentally. I think we did a decent job of getting the girls not only physically prepared but mentally prepared as well, believing in themselves and keeping it even keel,” Bigley says. “Keeping them in the moment was key for us and special stuff happening in special moments.”
The deep run at PGF was the culmination of a season where the team had to learn to overcome adversity. The team suffered a blow when Emma Misasi suffered an injury at Triple Crown Nationals.
Beverly Bandits-Chow, one of the organization’s four 16U teams, boasts a talented roster with players from multiple states. However, playing top competition from around the country reminds them that nothing comes easy. In the PGF Show Me the Money tournament this past summer, the team dropped a couple of games in pool play. Coach Tony Michalski explains that some of the adversity the Bandits faced early on meant the team had to remember to trust each other and their coaches.
“Once they trusted and believed in the process and what we had to do, we figured it out,” he says. The Bandits battled back from their early losses to make it all the way to the championship game, which ended up being rained out. Regardless, Michalski recognizes that he has the opportunity to coach a unique team.
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.”
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.
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.
Getting back onto the ball diamond and competing is what Explosion Sanchez-Berouty 2023 is looking forward to most this season. First stop Zoom into June, followed by Boulder IDT, the Champions Cup, and PGF Premier.
Explosion Sanchez-Berouty is based in Cerritos, California and features a core group of ladies that have competed together since they were under ten years old. Rey Sanchez is head coach of the Explosion and has coached this group of athletes since 2015.
Sanchez looks forward to getting back on the softball diamond and playing in normal conditions after losing a competitive season to the pandemic. “These girls have paid enough of a price, they deserve it,” he states.