Morgan Reimer loves to play softball, and she’s not going to let a little distance keep her from pursuing her dreams.
A proud resident of Langley, Canada Reimer joined forces with Bret Sampson’s Georgia Impact Team last year and immediately made her presence felt. “The girls loved Morgan and the team bonded pretty immediately with her,” explained Sampson. “Team chemistry is super important because it can’t be coached. We set the expectations and they buy in. Anytime I recruit someone I make them come out to a practice, and for Morgan it was crazy because she flies in from Canada and doesn’t know anyone. There was a lot going on, but my girls were great about incorporating her.”
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.”
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.”
Madison Edwards loves a good challenge. She also hates to lose …at anything.
Although she comes from a family of athletes, Edwards gets her competitive streak from her father, who wouldn’t take it easy on her growing up. She fondly recalls that moment when she broke through and beat him at ping pong when she was 12. “I’ll never forget that,” Edwards proudly states.
Her disdain for losing has driven Madison in everything she’s done. Edwards’ drive has also helped position her Team North Carolina 16U squad as a team to watch in 2021, and made her one of the best 2023 ballplayers.
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.
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.”
“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.
Sophia Stein likes to be in control of the game…literally. As a five-year-old, she would stand on the pitching mound and chase balls when they were hit, grab them from the outfield, and run to first base to tag players out.
At sixteen, Stein plays shortstop for the So Cal Athletics Wellbaum/Briggs 16U , is a leader who still wants the ball in her hands, and she relishes the pressure of making the big play.
“I would say my effort on the field is one of the most evident things, because it’s the one thing I control,” said Stein. “I’ve been told effort is how people will remember you or don’t remember you, so I always try to give 100 percent. If there was a game on the line, I’d want to be at bat or making a play in the field.”