By: Jeff Strange
For the BC Peppers 18u Wallace squad, the escape of the frigid temperatures of the Midwest for warmer weather lies on the horizon; they are headed to Phoenix, AZ this weekend for the PGF Arizona Last Blast event. An exclusive invite tournament that includes some of the best teams in the country, the Peppers will start out with pool play games against the Arizona Storm, California Explosion, and Pacific Fury in the 18u division.
As they gear up for the start of their 2024 campaign, Top Gun Events caught up with BC Peppers Head Softball Coach Jeff Wallace for a look into his organization and several key elements for 2024:
Can you give some background information on your coaching staff and coaching styles?
“This is my 17th year coaching. I started like most – my daughter wanted to play, so a good friend with a daughter the same age started a team. Eric Flores (associated head coach, Director of Offense – or my Underboss) is involved with all teams. Kristen Kelly (former Peppers player) is an instructor and coaches defense for the 16s and 18s. Brynn Minor, former University of Kansas pitcher is the BC Director of Pitching and Assistant Director of Fastpitch. She is the Head Coach of the 14s. Courtney Nemechek is a former player and assists with all teams. Ryan McCall assists with pitching as well as other elements of practice; his daughter is a 2023 graduate and freshman at U of Central Mo. I would say we are player friendly coaches and believe this is a “game” and supposed to be fun. We have an extremely strong alumni base that includes both players and parents.”
Can you hit on some key points/highlights from this past season?
“Going back to the summer of 2023, both the 16s and 18s had a solid year with both finishing well at PGF Nationals. We have a strong class of 2024’s that signed their NLI/Grant In-Aid agreement as scholarship athletes – a total of six in all. All received all-state accolades based on their spring 2023 high school seasons. In addition, four of our seven 2025’s have committed to D1 programs to continue their college careers with the other three committing soon.
For the fall season, we combined the 16s and 18s due to fall high school and for exposure purposes. Unfortunately, we lost two tourneys due to weather. I would say a highlight would be the Easton/Rawlings Fall Invitational where we played four nationally ranked teams, and included a win against PGF Nationals runner-up the Beverly Bandits coached by Bill Conroy. Nebraska-Omaha commitment Brylee Brewster pitched extremely well, and offensively Missouri State signee Riley Baber had a nice game.”
Drawing athletes from multiple states, how do you manage any challenges with schedules?
“Our 16u and 18u teams have players from Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, which includes multi-sport athletes. We are flexible with practice, as long as the players are getting their work done. However, during the winter months we get strong attendance due to specific training and development.”
What are your primary goals and objectives for your teams?
“At 14u we are focused on player development, which starts with the Homefield SSA training staff. Our program is athlete centric-based on DARIMotion kinetic player evaluation. Each athlete is trained to increase performance as well as enhancing joint quality. We believe you must be a great athlete before you can be a great player.
At 16u and 18u, the playing schedules become more competitive focused on national level competition. An emphasis is placed on playing the best teams possible. In addition, we focus on our philosophy and process of college exposure and recruiting.
By the end of the summer, we hope to look back on the season and feel we competed at a high level, are identified as one of the top 100 teams in the country, and have a strong finish at a National event.”
In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique? 2023 saw a partnership with Building Champions, Homefield (the corporate entity that owns the facilities and provides sports opportunities for athletes) and the Peppers organization; can you give some insight on the purpose of the partnership , the desired outcome, the benefits offered, and the facility that you now utilize?
“Once the offer was extended by Homefield/Building Champions it was a no brainer and essentially just details. Simply put, we have possibly the best facility in the United States, unmatched technology, equipment partnerships, 501c funding resource, and corporate staff support led by BC Fastpitch Director Travis Huenfeld.
The desired outcome was to have a unique program that was not based on an individual or individuals, but rather a true player development program that works in partnership with college programs. We have four kinetic trainers that work with our athletes to improved athletic ability, strength, power, explosiveness and joint quality. This staff regularly is in communication with the college coaches and the training staffs of programs where our athletes have signed, committed, or are being recruited.
The HomeField facilities are multiple and I believe unmatched in the United States. There are four training facilities in the Kansas City metro area as well as our own fields located in Kansas City, Kansas. The primary diamond sports training facility is 255,000 square foot and located in Olathe, KS. This facility was highlighted as part of the NetFlix series Quarterback. It includes 33,000 square footage of athletic performance training, a full-sized softball infield and partial outfield, 16 hitting cages (with a six cage hitting lab), a pitching lab wired with technology, a catching lab, and a soon to be actual full sized softball field (with a 30 foot ceiling).
Technology starts with DARIMotion, which is a kinetic athlete performance and joint quality measurement resource that analyzes gains in an athlete’s performance. Proteus rotational training technology is another highlight; this is a $35,000 piece of training equipment that focuses on rotational explosiveness and power. Rapsodo is a staple of our pitching evaluation and training. Building Champions is Top 5 nationally with Blast Motion swings and evaluation. The facility has multiple Hack Attack pitching machines used by our athletes. Training areas have monitors where training can be recorded during training exercises.
We are blessed! Not only is this great for training and practice, our athletes have seven days a week access to train, hit and field with their teammates in a controlled environment. College coaches and programs visit our facilities to understand the SSA training program and learn about technologies.”
Can you give some analysis/perspective on your teams for 2024?
“Our 18u team is a core group of athletes that finished 12th at PGF Platinum in the 16u division last Summer. The team is made up of six 2024’s, seven 2025’s, and one 2026. We feel there can be a strong two-year run with this group of athletes.
We have five quality arms in the circle that all bring something different to the opponent.
- South Alabama signee Kooper Barnes hails from Lincoln, NE and is a 6’ left hander that burst on the scene the last three tourneys of the Summer, and a dominant run at PGF Nationals. She was highly sought after by many schools in August. She sits in the 63/64 range with 1,300rpm “up spin” and very good change of speeds. Kooper is an on-base machine from the left side of the plate, and an elite defender.
- Washburn signee Avery Wende from Silver Lake, KS is a strong down pitcher with a strong change-up that generates ground ball outs. Her drop ball approach will bring a strong look against opponents.
- Crowder College signee Shelby Underwood from Arma, KS is one of the top two-way players in the state. She will be a key run producer for us as well as bring velocity in the circle.
- Brylee Brewster from Warsaw, MO is a Nebraska-Omaha commit and one of the top LHPs in the country that was highly sought after by many colleges. She works in the 63/64 range with 1,400rpm Rapsodo spin and a change-up that has 10”-12” down life.
- Anniston Reith hails from Rogers, AR and is a strong two-way player for the team. Currently, she is on a college visit tour and will be making her college commitment soon. Another 6’ athlete and daughter of a U of Arkansas offensive lineman, she brings parking lot power as well as plus velocity and spin.
The catcher position is held down by Steph Crittenden and Utility Karter Skillman.
- Steph Crittenden from Bentonville, AR is committed to Central Arkansas. She is simply one of the best hitters in the class hitting over .400 in her career, against top pitching talent nationally. A rotational acceleration score reaching 20g is tremendous for a 2025. Behind the dish, she receives well and is blessed with a strong arm.
- Karter Sillman is a Lindenwood commit, and resides in Olathe, KS. She is a “true utility” that could play as many as seven positions in one game. Karter is a strong athlete that lives in the weight room. She will be one of our top hitters and an on-base machine. Her 70+ swing speed and rotational acceleration scores stand out and make her a strong hitter.
On the Infield we are strong, led by one of the top SS in the country Mya January.
- Mya January resides in Spring Hill and is a Central Arkansas signee. Mya is intense on the field and one of the most talented athletes on the field at any time. She is a gifted SS that takes the ball “on the rise,” blessed with a 68mph arm when she needs it. A middle of the order run producer that hits for high average as well as thump.
- Riley Baber is a Missouri State signee that resides in Olathe, KS. The daughter of a former Kansas City Chief is one of the strongest athletes you will find. She is a middle of the order run producer that has a great approach and strike zone awareness. She will play primarily infield corners as well as some outfield.
- Jerzey Hanna is a 2025 that resides in Kansas City, KS. A power hitter with plenty of thump, her elite bat speed and peak hand speed makes her a problem for any pitcher. At the hot corner, she is a plus defender. She is entertaining D1 programs with a recruitment timeline that will continue into the summer.
- 2026 Tanna Howe is the youngster on the team. She is a slick fielding middle that is already generating D1 interest. We believe she has a big upside that will show this summer.
Our Outfield will utilize utility players as well to make up a strong offensive and defensive unit.
- Jayden Hanna (she and Jerzey are sisters, their older sister played for us as well) is a St. Mary’s commit that resides in Kansas City, KS. Jay is a strong hitter that shows power as well as .400+ on-base percentage.
- Demi Donahoe is a Bentonville, AR resident and YALE commit. She is extremely talented in the classroom as well as on the field. A strong outfielder, she will bring speed to the offense from the left side as a slapper.
- 2025 Utility Allie Brown hails from Fort Scott, KS (my hometown) and joined the program in September. She brings speed and multi-dimensional offensive ability to the team as well as being a strong defender at any position. We were pleased to add this talented player to the program.
We are extremely excited about the talent on our 16u team. They are training hard and making tremendous strides athletically. All spent some time at the 18u level this fall and made a strong impression. 2025’s that will lead this team going into the summer;
- Kendra Clark from Silver Lake, KS has a strong rise ball and change-up that creates problems for hitters.
- Stella True from Olathe, KS turned heads this fall and into the camp season with her aggressive and fast left-handed swing.
- Ava Harris from Shawnee, KS is a Winter addition that brings a power bat and run production to the line-up
The 14u team is loaded with talent and continues to improve daily. The SSA training program is developing faster, stronger, explosive athletes that generates improvement on the field. We are blessed with three power arms in the 2027, 2028, 2029 classes.”
What are your short-term goals for your team?
“To continue to develop bigger, stronger, explosive, fast athletes! We look for a strong showing in AZ, then head into the High School season. Our 2024 schedule is annually one of the best in the country highlighted by the Top Gun Invitational, Louisville Slugger IDT at Boulder and PGF Nationals.”
What are your long-term goals for your team?
“To continue to foster growth of our female leaders of tomorrow, and tremendous young women.”