By: Jeff Strange

As we approach the kickoff of our 2024 season, I’ve taken some time to reflect upon some memories on what has stood out and helped define us…

I’ve been fortunate enough to watch many of these young ladies develop over the years; some have been with me only a short time, while others have been playing with me since they were six and seven years old. It has been a great honor and delight to be a part of their development.

We’ve enjoyed many high points over the years, along with enduring some lessons learned. Last summer, we hit a tough stretch that tested us mentally. However, we rebounded well to cap off our season with a very strong showing at Nationals that showed the grit and demeanor of our core nucleus.

Looking ahead to 2024, I have many reasons to be excited about our squad and what lies ahead. So here it goes…my thoughts on our 2024 Top Gun 2010 STL team….

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

“Dennis Swinford and I have been coaching this team together for the past four years. Prior to that, I ran a team with some of the athletes from this team. Scott Dixon has joined this season to help out as well; he previously coached with another organization and has stepped in seamlessly with our squad.

Our coaching approach is to maximize each athlete’s development and prepare them for the impending high school levels and beyond – while making their experience as enjoyable as possible. We put a strong emphasis on fundamentals for each position on the field, working in proper footwork and glovework elements that translate to the diamond. We also highlight understanding situational awareness on the field so that our athletes comprehend what’s at stake at any given moment during competition. Allowing the girls to challenge themselves with high risk, high reward plays is additionally an aspect that punctuates our approach to defense.

From an offensive standpoint, we stress “hunting our pitch” and looking to do damage. We are blessed with lots of firepower on our roster – both power and speed – and we seek to overwhelm the opposition with our approach at the plate and on the bases.

In the circle, understanding that we control the tempo and the pace is a big focus for us. We are blessed with four exceptional arms in the circle and we try to instill in our pitchers that while their stuff is unique, understanding how to attack each hitter while also understanding the situation in play is a big key. We aim for our hurlers to have a strong mental approach while also instilling in them that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to carry a confident swagger while they are working their craft.”

Does your team face any challenges with schedules? If yes, how do you manage that?

“We have many multi-sport athletes and a few out of area athletes that we coordinate schedules with. Team practices are paramount and utilizing the time that we have together to make for a fun and constructive experience is key.

Ultimately, all of our athletes understand that while they may miss practices from time to time, in order to achieve their goals, they are willing to put in the necessary time to help develop themselves on their own time. Our parent group does a fantastic job with their daughters in helping them along the way. It takes a village to build this dream and we are blessed with a group that has bought into this mentality.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Ideally, we are aiming to prepare these girls to be ready for the highest levels that we come across – whether that is the competition level that we see now, high school-aged level of play and/or ultimately preparing them and helping them get recruited into college. Along the way, we want the girls to enjoy this unique experience that they have as scholar athletes and help develop leadership attributes that can translate into their respective futures.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“Top Gun Fastpitch has a great college recruitment platform in place that I believe will be beneficial as move closer to navigating that element for our athletes. In the meantime, we have received strong support from our sister squads in the organization that helps set the bar high for our girls. And quite frankly, our organization is blessed with one of the top pitching coordinators in the country (Randi Shanks) that helps set us apart from other organizations.”

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

“I’m very excited about our roster as we move into 2024. We return nine players while picking up three. As mentioned before, our roster features lots of firepower. Comprising our roster for 2024:

  • Lorelai Kellner: RHP/2B – High powered arm in the circle with nasty stuff. Big bat in the lineup and a key defensive player in the field. The definition of explosive athlete.
  • Caroline Moore: RHP/1B – Another power arm in the circle with a big, strong frame. Sizable power at the plate.
  • Ava Dixon: RHP/3B – A newcomer to our squad this year. Exceptional spin in the circle with a power repertoire that cooks. Excellent glove in the field and a line drive bat that shows good pop.
  • Lola Seawel: RHP/UTL – Another newcomer to our team. Huge upside. Long and whippy with premium velocity and spin in the circle. Very athletic and quick; versatile in the field with a bat that has come a long way since the fall.
  • Sydney Bonzo: C/3B – Exceptional defensive catcher. Receives well and blocks everything. An authentic field general. Massive power at the plate with premium exit velocity.
  • Maggie Neally: C/1B – A true titan on the field. Big, strong frame. Receives well behind the plate and features a bazooka arm. Scary power at the plate. High-upside athlete.
  • Ella Heath: 1B/OF – Tall and very athletic. Moves exceptionally well for an athlete her size. Natural born hitter with big power. Clutch performer that comes up big. Great glove at 1B.
  • Maycie Lesinski: MI/OF – Exciting athlete with exceptional speed. Very versatile defensively. Gives a tough AB and can cause chaos with her bunting ability.
  • Anna Strange: MI/OF – Electric athlete. Quick bat with pop. Strong bunter, good speed. Powerful arm and extremely quick feet and hands, capable of making the acrobatic play. Versatile defensively.
  • Avery Watson: MI/OF – Another electric athlete. Outstanding softball IQ; can play just about anywhere on the field. Ballhawk in the OF with a strong arm. Good pop at the plate and a burner on the bases.
  • Olivia Borgmann: OF – Lefty slapper with outstanding speed. Wreaks havoc on defenses with her ability to read the field and play the short or power game. Strong defensive OF with a very good arm.
  • Kayla Swinford: OF – Sparkplug athlete. Strong defensive OF capable of playing all three OF spots. Good speed on the bases and a line drive bat that can also put down a bunt.

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“To continue to develop this group and challenge them with strong competition along with instilling a work ethic that can help maximize results – all the while making this a fun and positive experience.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“Educating the girls on what it will take to succeed not only in this game, but in their futures as well. Additionally, we aim to help them take the necessary steps to showcase their skills in tournaments, camps and communications with schools that are of interest to each respective athlete.”

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