2024 Travel Team Preview: Top Gun 16 National Sets Sights for Strong 2024 Campaign

By Jeff Strange

“Dare to be exceptional.” It’s a phrase uttered often by Top Gun 16 National Coaches Joe Sciara, Dave Rocha and Randy Walters during their practices.

“We believe that we have to help these girls feel confident and comfortable failing,” said Coach Sciara. “Getting a player to trust their athleticism takes them accepting that they may not make every play. However, the only way to find out what they can do is to try to make those exceptional plays at practice. You have to trust your athleticism, trust that your teammates have your back, and trust that your coaches would rather see you go all out on a play rather than play it safe.”

An exceptional level of success was accomplished early on this past season for Sciara’s squad. In late October of 2022, Top Gun Sciara was fighting for a berth to the PGF National Championships in the PGF Fall Qualifier. After an early loss in brackets, it was a win or go home scenario. According to Sciara, his group really grew as a team and as competitors that weekend as they won six straight (five back-to-back) games on Sunday to earn their PGF Nationals berth.

Top Gun Sciara finished their fall of 2022 off at the Finesse Fastpitch Space Coast Invitational, once again winning their last five games after a loss in the first game of the event. 

Spring/Summer of 2023 found this talented group of athletes picking up where the fall of 2022 left off. Highlights for the season included:

  • Undefeated champions of the Top Gun Events Spring Invite
  • Champions in the 16u Gold Division at the USA Memorial Day Invitational
  • A strong run in bracket play in the Maverick Division of the Top Gun Invitational (including wins in their first two bracket games against PA Strikers National & a very good Texas Riptide team), before the event was ultimately cancelled due to weather.

Now looking ahead to the 2024 spring/summer campaign, Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach Sciara to get his feedback on several key elements for this season and beyond:

Can you give some background information on your coaching staff and coaching styles?

“This will be the 10th year of coaching together for Dave Rocha and myself. We coached our daughters’ team up through graduation, and then took this group over at 11u. This season, Randy Walters joins our dugout as an assistant coach as well. Randy has coached and umpired high-level softball for a number of years. All three of us are non-parent coaches. Dave & I have always had a philosophy of pushing the girls beyond where they think their ceilings are, and allowing them to push themselves past failures. “Dare to be exceptional” is a phrase that you will hear quite often at our practices.”

Drawing athletes from multiple states, how do you manage any challenges with schedules?

“We have players from all over the country. In the past two years, we have had players from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New York, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, & Tennessee. Many of those states play high school softball in the spring. Others like Missouri, Colorado & Oklahoma play fall high school softball. We stick to most of our tournaments being during the recruiting windows of June-August and November. We make sure to have practices at most of our tournaments before play starts. We also have off-season Zoom calls as a team where we will do some team bonding and mental training, as well as our National Weekend Practices where our players will fly/drive in for 10-12 hours of practice in a weekend. Our girls that live within several hours of KC will practice a couple times a week with other national program players, ran in camp style setting. We’ve got a great, welcoming core of players and each time we get together, it’s like the girls never missed a beat.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our ultimate goal is to help our players learn how to be leaders and be successful in a group or team setting. We are teaching those lessons through softball. In the end, wins take care of themselves. We are a very process driven team (and organization). We all love to win, but winning comes from controlling the controllable, putting in the right type of work when others aren’t and buying in/understanding your assignment and role in a way that makes others around you better.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“We have a saying at Top Gun Fastpitch – It’s just different here. So many clubs market their organization or team with the buzzword culture, but what are they doing to build the culture?  How are they living it with each decision that is made in the organization? We are intentional in building an organization over team, and team over player philosophy. 13u-18u players out of our national program can be found practicing side-by-side almost any day of the week. You can find girls off of our team instructing and/or coaching 8-12 year old players. Our older players have been taught to give back to the sport, give back to the youth and the community. Similarly, this selfless attitude can be found in our dugout at games. We carry a bigger roster, and each player has bought in and knows that every person on our roster can win us a game. I can vividly remember situations where one of our four very talented middle infielders was seen in the dugout jumping up and down excited when a teammate playing the same position makes a spectacular play. Same thing with our talented outfielders…at the end of the day, our girls compete with each other. They are not afraid to, and are learning how to compete against their close friends before they get to college. At the same time, they support each other and are fiercely loyal to the bonds they’ve built with each other. That’s not only a great lesson for college softball life, but for the workforce as well. Learn how to compete with your peers for a position, and then learn how to be a successful group no matter who wins the promotion.”

Can you give some analysis/perspective on your team for 2024?

“We are a team built on speed and pitching. We have six slappers and a seventh player with elite speed. We disrupt teams by creating chaos on the base paths and playing a very aggressive style of offense. We had 47 stolen bases in 19 games this fall. We look for one run an inning, but often our runs come in bunches because our team creates opportunities. Our pitching staff is elite. We have five players that could win a game any given day, but three pitchers that get the bulk of our innings. As a team this fall, we had an overall ERA of 1.71 and teams batted .184 against us. Collectively, our pitchers struck out 142 batters and only walked 53. 

Our 2024 Roster:

 #1 Macy Morrow, 2025 OF(South Dakota State University): Macy is an exceptional athlete who has traditionally been our leadoff hitter and center fielder. Macy is a lefty slapper with excellent barrel control and an understanding of where to place the ball.

 #3 Lexi Vernon, 2026, RHP: Lexi is new to our team this year. She had an exceptional fall for us. Lexi is a high-end pitcher that solidifies our rotation. Lexi is the #7 ranked pitcher by extra innings in the class of 2026. This fall Lexi threw 26 innings, had 30K, 19BB and a 1.62 ERA.

#5 Kaiya Delgado, 2025 OF: Kaiya is a true speed demon. Even with missing three tournaments last summer due to injury, Kaiya led our team in stolen bases.

 #7 Olivia Keiter, 2026 MI: Liv is a special athlete, and a big addition for the 2024 season. Liv had 3 doubles, a triple and 2 HR in 19 games to go along with her team leading 14 runs scored.  With Liv and Syd Boulaphinh (18 National, Stanford) we have the best two middle infielders, and arguably the best two softball players from the state of Colorado in our organization. Liv is a left-handed hitter that can slap, power slap, hit for power and bunt.

 #8 Kelsie Donaldson, 2026 LHP: One of the best pitchers in the country, KD also leads our team in most hitting categories. This homegrown talent had a .523 OBP, 11 RBI and only struck twice this fall. In the circle, Kelsie accounted for 7 wins and 38 innings pitched. She had 60 Ks and only 10 BB holding her competition to a 1.11 ERA.

 #9 Marleigh McDonald, 2027 OF: Marleigh is an athletic, fast and powerful lefty that plays all the outfield positions. Mar batted .462 in the fall with 7 stolen bases and only struck out twice.

 #10 Charlotte Garrison, 2026 Catcher: Charlotte controls the run game like no other. A quick release, strong arm, and a desire throw every runner out, Charlotte changes the momentum of a game within just a flick of her arm.

 #11 Reygan Ackley, 2026 C/IF: Reygan is a middle of the order hitter with elite exit velocity and barrel speed. Reygan had 2 home runs, 10 RBI and scored 6 runs this fall. Reygan gives 100% on 100% of plays.

 #12 Emi Jeras, 2025 Catcher, 3B: Emi has a sub 1.7 pop time and a big bat. This fall Emi had a .455 OBP with two game winning or go-ahead doubles.

 #17 Carmen Boxberger, 2026 MI: Carmen batted .400 with a .550 OBP this fall. She led the team with 10 stolen bases, and was second with 12 runs scored. Carmen is a smooth middle infielder with both quick hands and feet. Carmen had a perfect fielding percentage this fall.

 #19 Sydnee Wagner, 2026 MI: Wags had a .500 OBP this fall in 18 games. She had 3 triples and a home run. Wags is able to make throws from all the arm slots and is able to make the throw in the 5/6 hole due to her arm strength.

#25 Katie Courter, Catcher/MI: Katie is a true leader on the field and in the dugout. She’s a high energy player that commands the infield and manages our pitching staff from behind the plate.  Katie is a plus speed athlete from the right side. She led the team last summer with 30 runs scored.

 #34 Mikayla Deville, 2025 OF: Mik has been top 3 on our team in batting average and on base percentage each of the last 3 years. This fall Mik led our team in batting average (.514), on base percentage (.600) and played a flawless defense. Mik is an elite outfielder with a plus arm and an uncanny ability to read the peeling line drive.

 #38 Makenna Moore, 2025 RHP, OF: Kenna joined our team at the end of last summer and moved to us full time in the fall. Kenna threw 30.2 innings with 52 strikeouts and 19 walks. She had a 1.83 ERA and led the team with a .135 batting average against.

 #99 Avery Davis, 2025 3B: Avery is a new addition this fall. Avery is a strong player that will hit in the middle of the lineup for us. This fall Avery hit .355 with a .400 OBP, 4 doubles and 8 RBI. Avery has a plus arm and is an aggressive defender at 3B.     

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“Since we took over the core group of this team at 11u, the philosophy has always been the same…seek out the best competition we can to challenge our players, and give them the biggest opportunity for growth. As we’ve gotten older, it is now more important to make sure that we are giving every girl on our roster the opportunity to play softball after high school. This particular group is our main 16 National team in our organization. They have lofty goals for college. We play tournaments nationwide. We play the best competition that we can find because that is where college coaches typically are. Colleges know that our girls are battle tested. Once the recruiting window opens, if we are playing a tournament in KC it is because it is a nationally recognized tournament that happens to be in our back yard. This summer we will be playing the USA Memorial Day Invite again, PGF Show Me The Money (Newberry Florida), Top Gun Invitational (Shawnee, KS), The Patriot Games (Windsor, CO), Sparkler Power Pool (Aurora, CO), Atlanta Legacy (Atlanta, GA) and the PGF Premier National Championship (Huntington Beach, CA).”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“To prepare these girls to compete and create a positive environment on their college softball team.”

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