The USSSA New York Pride is a collegiate prep organization that prides itself on helping players prepare for the next level – both in college athletics and in life skills. Founded in 2014 by Scott Zak, the USSSA New York Pride represents athletes from western New York, Canada, and Pennsylvania with fourteen teams ranging from the 8U to 18U age groups.
“We have a good history of placing all of our athletes in colleges that fit their athletic ability and educational interests,” states Zak. Athletes are expected to work hard on the field and in the classroom and must be willing to put in the time that is necessary to achieve next level performance in both the athletic and academic arena. “We value preparing our players for life,” states Zak.
The Williamsburg Starz Gold officially launched as an organization in 2012, by Tom Bunn, who has been coaching at the 18U level since 2007. Bunn built the organization on a budget with a focus on regional development within Virginia and the Carolinas, and strong growth over the recent years has propelled the organization into a nationally competitive team.
Committed to college recruiting, Bunn’s main goal is to help every student-athlete reach her potential at the next level. He prioritizes college recruiting over wins and losses, helping athletes realize that a lot more than softball enters the decision regarding which college or university might best suit them. “Over the years we have built our reputation and our relationships with college coaches providing our athletes with many opportunities at the college level,” states Bunn.
Launched in 2019, Vexus Softball is a product of three well-established respected softball organizations merging together to grow the level of the sport in the tri-state area of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. Tom McCluskey, founder of Kraze Softball (AL), Tonia Martin, founder of TN Illusions (TN), and Phillip Rogers, Director of American Freedom (MS) realized they had the same vision and sought to provide an affordable program geared at recruiting the top talent in the area.
With over 40 years of combined experience in leading programs and successfully placing student-athletes in college programs, these three Vexus directors now form one strong softball organization geared at developing each player to compete at the highest level of competition. The Vexus Eagles feature approximately 28 teams in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee ranging from 8U-18U and growing.
Twenty years ago, softball teams in the northeast struggled to keep up with the competition in the softball mecca of the southern United States. Teams in the colder-weather climates were limited with training facilities and shorter softball seasons which hindered their ability to compete at a world class level.
In 1999, when Roy Godard launched TNT (Tuff ‘n’ Tuffer) Softball in Pennsylvania, he saw an opportunity to grow the level of competition in the northeast and change the training landscape for the sport. Godard challenged his teams to commit to a travel schedule that would take them to the top-level competition in the nation and worked to create new opportunities in the northeast such as indoor training facilities and local tournaments. Godard launched tournaments on the east coast, to showcase the athlete skills and increase the level of competition in the area.
Ruthless knows how to rise above any challenges that are thrown their way. While adversity occurs both on and off the field, Ruthless athletes learn to meet the challenge head on.
The Ruthless logo, a Phoenix, demonstrates the organization’s strength and resilience to overcome. The logo predominantly displayed within the Ruthless organization, was created and designed by Crystl Bustos herself, a three-time Olympian, two-time Gold medalist, and Olympic home run record leader.
Ruthless Softball launched in 2013 as a local training facility and a 10U team. Now with nearly 35 teams spanning the nation from California to the Midwest and all the way to the east coast, Ruthless fields teams from 8U to 18U with national teams competing at the 14U, 16U, and 18U levels.
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Editors Note: *National Pro Fastpitch announced the suspension of league operations Aug 1, 2021.
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.
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
Strike up a conversation with coaches José Tuñón and Eric Forbes with the Georgia Academy Power Softball Club, and it doesn’t take long to find out what drives their passion – it’s family. José Tuñón, President of the Georgia Academy Power Softball/Baseball Club, and Eric Forbes, Chairman of Softball for Georgia Power, started coaching together when their daughters competed in 8U.
Tuñón and Forbes have impressive resumes in the sport of baseball, with Tuñón a former athlete for the Panamanian National Baseball Team, and Forbes a former NCAA Division I athlete sidelined early with injury. They transferred their love of baseball to the sport of softball when they were both blessed with daughters.
The Georgia Academy Power Softball Club (aka Georgia Power) is based in Woodstock, GA with 18 girls fastpitch teams, with local talent ranging from 10U to 18U. The club is a non-profit 501(c)(3) and focuses on key metrics such as a commitment to service, integrity of athletes and coaches, and teaching the values of sportsmanship.
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.
It takes an athlete with true grit to show up on the softball diamond in 40-degree April weather to get her reps in at the plate. Teams in the northeast often face a different kind of rival – the weather. And cold weather becomes just another opponent to be trampled and stormed.
Training is seasonal in the northeast, and teams often find themselves spending more time indoors than their southern counterparts. But learning to navigate the seasons builds character and initiates a sense of determination in these athletes.
Meet the Rhode Island Thunder. Founded in 1997 by David Lotti, the Rhode Island Thunder has grown to become one of New England’s premier softball organizations. Featuring eleven teams ages 12U to 18U, the Rhode Island Thunder can be found annually at top events such as Boulder IDT, TC Nationals, and PGF Nationals to name a few.