Williamsburg HS: Experienced Raiders Plan to Defend Their Title

By: Madison Feldhahn

After a heartbreaking end to the previous season, the Williamsburg Raiders mounted a dominating performance in the playoffs on their way to a state title.

The 2023 season meant more to the Williamsburg community than previous seasons have because of Tate Schaefer. Tate was diagnosed in 2018 with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer. He lost his 27-month battle with cancer in March 2021. He was a huge fan of the Raiders and their softball team. The last softball game Tate watched was the Raiders’ heartbreaking 0-1 loss in the 2020 state championship. The 2023 Raiders dedicated their win to Tate.

The Raiders allowed just one run during the playoffs, outscoring their opponent 23-1. The performance was not a surprise to Adam Berte and his team.

“We were preseason number one, so we kind of expected to be one of the best teams. We really got off to a better start than we have in previous years,” said Berte. “Once postseason started, they turned it on. We won every game fairly easily.”

Star pitcher Peyton Driscoll was one of four seniors for the Raiders. The four-time All-State pitcher allowed just 42 runs all season and helped the team to 18 shutouts. Driscoll now plays at Kirkwood Community College. Jenna Thurm, a second-team All-State selection, played catcher for the Raiders and was named Most Valuable Player in the state tournament. She currently plays at Indian Hills Community College. Elle Ridgeway now plays at Simpson College. The Raiders also lost Rylie Metz to graduation.

Berte is not too worried about replacing his star seniors.

“I would say, maybe outside of catcher, we’re still in really good shape. We’re just kind of inexperienced at catcher. Jenna Thurm, the catcher, had a lot of experience and was MVP of the state tournament. That’s maybe the one spot where we’re maybe not quite ready to replace what she was able to do,” Berte said when asking about the seniors he lost. “We have the next player ready to go pretty much everywhere else.”

By the time the postseason rolled around, Berte had 13 players get 15 or so at-bats. Because of their experience, Berte feels the team will be ready to go and do what is needed. It will likely be pivotal in the Raiders’ title defense.

Sophomore pitcher Jersey Metz will likely be the starting pitcher for Williamsburg. Berte looks forward to seeing Metz take another step forward in her production. Outfield Shannon Finn is another key returner. Finn is committed to Kirkwood Community College.

“I’m just really expecting the girls that have been here before to really continue to progress and go out and do what we’ve typically done – play good softball and be in good shape,” Berte told Top Gun Events.

The Raiders play in the WaMaC conference, a very tough conference. 5 of the 12 teams finished in the top 15 rankings at the end of the season. The tough conference is a blessing in disguise for the Raiders.

“If you can do well in our league, you’re probably a top ten team in your class,” said Berte.

In addition to their tough conference, Berte schedules a few games with schools in higher classes. He enjoys the challenges these teams offer.

“Usually, those teams are a little more well-rounded, and they don’t just give you anything, so they’re good teams to play over the course of the year,” Berte said. “We accept the fact that we’re going to get beat a few times and it’s okay.”

The Raiders are looking to return to the state tournament and come away with another title. But Berte wants his players to enjoy the season, too. He recognizes the sacrifices his players make with Iowa’s unique summer season.

“Hopefully, even if their year isn’t exactly what they hoped it would be, they can still say, ‘This is a good thing that I was able to be a part of.’ I would say that’s definitely a goal of mine – to try and help the kids have that,” Berte said.

The Williamsburg Raiders will take on Cedar Rapids Kennedy on May 27 to start their title-defending season.

Team Preview: Winterset High School

By: Madison Feldhahn

Winterset High School in Winterset, Iowa, has set a winning tradition. The Huskies have made the state tournament four years in a row and haven’t had a losing season since 2000. Head coach Steve Corkrean and his program are the reigning back-to-back state champions and are looking to defend their title come May.

The Huskies’ state title capped off an impressive 28-12 year. Winterset defeated Carlisle 11-6 and Fort Dodge 6-4 before taking on North Scott in the state final. The Huskies topped North Scott 5-3.

“It was definitely a surprise,” Corkrean said of their state title. “But when I reflect back, we had good players. They were led by Jena Young, who didn’t play all year. She was a great leader. Even though she didn’t play, she was right there with those kids.”

Young, the 2022-23 Iowa Softball Gatorade Player of the Year, was out with an ACL injury. She led the state in home runs with 22 in 2022 and was a key part of their 2022 title win. She now plays at the University of Iowa.

Corkrean took over the Winterset program in 2001. The 2001 team went 18-18. Since then, the program has made it to the state tournament thirteen times. He has coached the team to five state titles, with three of the titles coming in the last four years. Corkrean was inducted into the Iowa Girls Coaches’ Association Softball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2021. He credits the girls for his success.

“We have just some really good kids,” Corkrean said. “They just want to do what those other teams have done. They feed off each other.”

The Iowa high school softball season takes place over the summer. It’s the only state in the country to have a summer softball season. Corkrean says it gives the Huskies an advantage. The girls spend all school year being coached and are ready to go when the season comes around.

When asked about key returners, Corkrean said, “The two that pitched in the state tournament – Molly Breeding and Brynn Acton. Molly’s a senior and Brynn’s a junior. Kylie Nelson is a freshman and she’s coming on pretty fast. We have some pretty high expectations for her.”

The Huskies have quite a few talented pitchers lined up over the next few years. In addition to Nelson, the Huskies have three other underclassmen pitchers and a handful of junior high pitchers coming in. Corkrean’s Huskies continue pitching throughout the offseason in sessions led by the upperclassmen.

Winterset plays in the Racoon River Conference. The nine-school conference had three schools ranked in the top 10 of the final Iowa High School Softball Rankings last year. Corkrean thinks the conference is one of the toughest in Iowa. He knows preparation early in the season will lead to better performance later. To ensure his team is prepared, Corkrean schedules tough games.

“Every year, we’ll be on the bus headed to Valley to play them. That’s usually our first game of the year. The whole trip, I’m thinking, ‘Why did I schedule these guys? They’re the best.’ But that’s the way our conference is,” Corkrean said. “We don’t really have any nights where we’re playing somebody we might be better than. I think every game is kind of a toss-up. We look forward to it. It’s just made Winterset who we are. That schedule. It’s made us pretty tough.”

Tough is a great way to describe the Huskies. The program is no stranger to high expectations. Corkrean doesn’t want his players to get caught up in the pressure. Instead, he wants them to take it day by day and give their best. Everything else will figure itself out.

“The goal is to get to the state tournament. They know what they’ve got to do to get to the state tournament. If we can get to the state tournament, the rest will kind of take care of itself,” said Corkrean.

The Winterset Huskies’ season will start on May 20 when they travel to face North Polk.

2024 Travel Team Preview: Select Fastpitch 13u – Reliford

By: Jeff Strange

Upon completion of a challenging and successful 2023 spring/summer campaign, Coach Rhett Reliford was positively optimistic as his Select Fastpitch 13u squad entered the fall season. Although technically a “first year” 14u team, the athletes had been exposed to 14u competition throughout the course of 2023, playing up in multiple 14u tournaments as a 12u team. One key highlight for the 2023 spring/summer season was bringing home the Championship at the PG 14A Elite 40 KC Showcase last May, going 7-0 overall in the event enroute to the title.

Coach Reliford’s optimism was rewarded with a 26-6 fall record as Select FP added some additional talent, expanding to a larger roster. It was in late October that Reliford believes that his squad really came together.

“I feel that the key to our fall was finishing up the season out in Chesterfield, MO going undefended 5-0 at the Fall 14U St. Louis Softball Showcase,” said Reliford. “The offensive potential of our lineup really came together, putting 45 runs across the plate. Seven girls hit over .400 for the event, with multiple girls putting the ball over the fence. We were able to produce overall consistent production and power throughout the lineup. The offensive production was paired with excellent pitching and a stingy defense that only allowed eight runs. There were a lot of great individual performances and highlights from the fall – from walk-off homeruns to run saving throwdowns from the outfield – but this tournament was a great example of the team’s potential. We have had an aggressive offseason development schedule and are excited to get back on the field and build on how we ended the Fall this Spring.”

Now looking ahead to 2024, we caught up with Coach Reliford on his thoughts for the upcoming season:

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

“We have a group of coaches with various degrees of knowledge and experience. Some came from a baseball coaching background and have been with the team since the beginning. We have coaches that have gone through the recruiting & college exposure process with older players that can provide some guidance as to what coaches are looking for at the next level.

Our coaching style has always been about player development. We believe in developing on the field skills, mental toughness, and a personal drive in our athletes that will translate outside the game of softball. We strive to install a “Do Damage” mentality at the plate and always a strong emphasis on basic fundamentals for each position. Our staff continues to drill the basic glove work/footwork drills and the attention to detail is evident on the field.”

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

“We recently acquired a pair of talented players from the Omaha area, and we also have a girl from mid Missouri that makes the 2.5-3 hour drive to practice. With team practices at a premium, we are very focused on our practice plans and maximizing our time together as a team. Overall, we have a great group of athletes that have a strong work ethic. They’ve fully bought into the mindset of embracing the grind and that the work doesn’t stop once our team practice is over. So before we even have the chance to remind them to put in the work, these girls have already laced up their shoes, got some dirt on their gloves and our Do Damage mentality at the plate has focused individual hitting work built in.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our primary goal has multiple layers, and each one is built in a way where the ultimate objective is for them to be able to move on to play at the collegiate level. But first and foremost is to establish a strong foundation of skills that will allow them to be ahead of their peers when they hit the high school level. Then we keep building on that skill set by increasing their softball IQ and introducing more advanced techniques.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“Select Fastpitch has grown a lot the past few years but hasn’t lost its primary focus of player development. Eric Jones has built a culture based around the player and providing each player opportunities to grow, develop and leverage years of experience throughout the organization. The opportunity that our girls have with being able to learn from older athletes that play at the highest levels has been very impactful on their passion for the game and development.”

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

“We have a strong core of talented athletes that have played together for years, and we have been fortunate to continue to add additional talent every year, creating an environment that provides healthy competition at all levels of the team. Offensively, we focus on our Do Damage mentality and have multiple girls with out of the park power. With speed throughout the lineup, we focus on aggressive baserunning and putting pressure on defenses. We are excited to have a deep pitching staff with four pitchers that bring a lot of talent and experience to the circle. Our pitching staff will allow us to attack lineups and matchups in different ways and paired with a talented group of catchers we expect a lot of great things from this group. Defensively we are blessed with a very talented infield that has great range and multiple big arms that are able to make the hard plays. Our outfield has really developed over the past year and their speed and talent has been a major factor in our success.”

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“To stay focused on player development and foster a love for the process, hard work and mental toughness it takes to play at a high level. From a schedule standpoint, we want to continue to push the team to play the best competition.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“To prepare our athletes so that they can have an immediate impact at every level as they progress throughout their softball journey. Eight of our 13 athletes will start High School ball in the Fall, so that is a major focus.”

2024 Travel Team Preview: Top Gun 2010 STL

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.”

Olathe West Gears Up for a Title-Defending Season

By: Madison Feldhahn

Olathe West is the reigning 6A State Champion, and the team is poised to defend that title. Top Gun Events caught up with head coach Cynthia Adams to get some insight on her Owls program.

The Owls had a dominant season from start to finish, going 24-1. They defeated Olathe North and Derby on their way to the title. The title game against Washburn Rural lasted just five innings, and the Owls scored 10 runs, including two home runs from senior third baseman Madison Walker.

Turning to this season, Adams knows the Owls are following in big footsteps. The program is looking to defend its title while having lost six seniors who played key roles on the team.

“Those six seniors did a great job preparing this team to be able to compete and know what it’s like to grind day in and day out for the high school season,” said Adams. “I think that we have big shoes to fill, but I think that they’re going to be ready to compete and be able to fill those shoes.”

Adams is excited for returning players to step into the upperclassmen roles and embrace the team’s mentality. Junior pitcher Brevyn Kellepouris is one of those players. The University of Central Arkansas commit allowed just two hits in the final 12 innings of the Owls’ title run. Adams also highlighted junior Maliyah Warren as a key piece. Warren, committed to the University of Central Florida, plays shortstop for the Owls. Adams has just one senior on her team this year and is excited for her to lead the younger girls in buying into the program.

The young Owls program is focused on the day-to-day grind and finding their stride as a team. With the high school season running from the end of March to the end of May, Adams wants her team to focus their efforts on building team chemistry and learning to mesh together.

“Since I started here four years ago, that’s been my number one goal – to drive that we play pitch by pitch, inning by inning. We don’t focus too much on individual stats. We are working as a team. We win as a team. We lose as a team,” Adams said. “We really focus on everybody giving their all every single day. If you do that, good things happen.”

Preparation is going to be key for Olathe West. The program has spent a lot of time scrimmaging and going through live reps during the preseason practices. In addition to these live reps, Adams is hoping to purchase a Hack Attack pitching machine for the program. The Owls raised $9,000 in a fundraiser this off-season.

The Owls are headed to Wichita to face the 5A State Champions Valley Center and the 5A State runners-up Eisenhower High School. The trip is going to provide the team with plenty of team bonding experience and put them to the test on the field.

“I’m excited because [Valley Center] is our first game, and it will just be a really high expectation from the start. I think the girls will have fun regardless, win or lose,” Adams said of the trip. “They get to travel, stay overnight, and have a little team bonding. The stuff they definitely need. It’s before conference starts so it’ll be a nice win-win.”

Olathe West opened in 2017, and this is just the sixth year of existence for the Owls’ softball program. The team has been able to accomplish a lot in such a short period The Owls have a great community, and Adams credits the support from parents and coaches for their rapid rise to glory.

“It just proves more to the point of how hard the girls work and how much they want it,” said Adams. “The girls are great. We’re surrounded by a great support system. They all buy into this program. I think they have so much potential, and they can definitely make a run at it again this year.”

Olathe West travels to Wichita to face Valley Center on Friday, March 22. The Owls will start conference play against Olathe East on March 26.

2024 Travel Team Preview: Beverly Bandits 16u – Moran

By: Jeff Strange

It’s not often that you run across a highly successful team that has maintained a core group of athletes that have been together since a very young age, but that recipe has proven prevalent and productive for Coach Chad Moran’s Beverly Bandits 16u squad.

With a portion of the Bandits athletes coming into the program at the 8 or 9u level, this group has found their way to the PGF finals at both the 10u and 14u levels (covid kept them out of California at the 12u event). Throughout this Beverly Bandits squad’s time together, they have churned out many big victories, while getting the opportunity to play at some great venues.

For Coach Moran, one recent memory that stands out is last summer’s Show Me the Money event in Gainesville, FL.

“This team was very short-handed due to high school ball and injuries,” said Coach Moran. “All toll, these ladies ended up playing four games on the final day, with the championship game being played at the University of Florida softball complex. This was a great event to kick off our season as it was also the first weekend that college coaches could be out. And quite honestly, it’s always fun for the Midwest teams to play in Florida.”

With the 2024 season approaching, we caught up with Coach Moran to get insight and perspective on his 16u Beverly Bandits squad:

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

“Our Coaching Staff consists of Chad Moran, Pat Morris, Lauren Sackett (Junior at Indiana State) and Sarah Stone (Junior at Indiana). Coach Chad and Coach Pat have been in Travel ball for over 35 years combined, with the last 11 coaching together without a daughter on their teams (both daughters played at JMU from 2014 through 2017).

As a staff, our main focus is preparing the girls for college. The athletes with the Bandits can be spread out, so we do not have as much time with team practices as others may. Ultimately, we try not to force our hitting styles, pitching styles, etc. on our players. We choose to focus on the things we think they can do to improve their chances at being successful at the next level. For us, we try to coach the little things as much as possible so that they are one step closer to being college ready.

Coach Sackett and Coach Stone are great at helping the girls through all the ups and downs that come with being a high-level student athlete. Both are very good at uplifting our players when needed but also letting them know when something they are not doing will not work at the next level.”

Does your team face any challenges with schedules?

“Having kids from several states is never easy but all of the Bandit families know what they are getting into when they join our program. Most years, our older teams are attending most of the same established tournaments – Show me the Money in FL, the Top Gun Invite in KC, the So Cal invite in California, the IDT in Colorado, the Easton-Rawlings in Chicago and the PGF nationals in California. Along the way, we put together friendlies that we host in the Crown Point, IN area.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our goals very seldom change; we want to make sure all our players are doing the right things to prepare themselves for college recruiting and to be playing our best ball at the end of the season. At the Bandits, most years you are judged by how high your team finishes at PGF nationals.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“I think the Beverly Bandits are unique because the athletes bring the out the best in one another. The Bandits – like other top clubs across the country – usually have loaded rosters filled with girls going to all different D1 schools. In a lot of cases, some players have a harder time cracking their Bandit team lineup than they do when they get to college. So the competition amongst each other really pushes players to put in the work and get better in their off time.

Years ago, Bill Conroy had to change the name of our friendlies to the Bandits “not so friendly.” The Bandits are all under one umbrella; we don’t franchise, so although we all have each other’s back and help each other as much as we can, we all want to be the best Bandit team.”

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

“We have a team this year where we have no excuses; we are lucky enough that I do not feel we have any holes on our team that will keep us from competing at a very high rate. We are led by our pitchers:

  • Ava Lorenzatti is one of the top pitchers in the ‘26 class and is drawing interest from top college teams.
  • Thea Staten is new to our squad and is a fast-rising pitcher in the ‘26 class who I think will really help our team.
  • Gianna Hillegonds (‘25 – Bradley commit) is the ultimate change of pace pitcher.
  • Addy Poe (‘25 P/UT coming off a knee injury) is our Swiss Army Knife; she pitches, hits, runs and plays the outfield all at a high level.

The remainder of our roster includes:

  • Ava Ratliff (‘25 South Carolina commit) is definitely in the conversation as the best hitter to ever play for the Bandits.
  • Infielder Kiley Carr (‘25 Michigan commit) is a top left-handed hitter and plays a very solid 3rd base.
  • Addy O’dell (‘25 Louisville commit) plays SS and Catcher and is a top athlete in any sport that she would choose to play.
  • Olivia Fischer (‘26) is a power hitting 3B and 1B who we expect big things out of this summer.
  • Addy Ware (‘26) is a 2B/OF who has great speed from the left side and is really hitting the ball well for us.
  • Sydney Herrmann (‘25 Dartmouth commit) has great size and power and is a great student.
  • Addison Fanter (‘25) is a 1B/OF power hitter who really can swing it for us.
  • Brooke Stang (‘25 Illinois commit) is a hard hitting lefty.
  • Ava Hensley (‘25 Akron commit) is a do it all athlete who can run it and play outfield.
  • Hannah Simko (‘25) has been this team’s leadoff hitter and plays her best when the lights are the brightest.
  • Paige Bodenheimer (‘26) is a fast outfielder who has great bat control.

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“We will be in Top Gun, Crown Point, IDT in Colorado, Easton Rawlings in Chicago and then PGF nationals. Our goals are to finish up recruiting and compete at nationals.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“Our 16u teams merge with the 18u teams every year, so this is the last year this group will be fully together. However, the goal is always to produce in college to help younger Bandits down the road.”

Top Gun Indoor Invite Event Recap

By: Madison Feldhahn

The Top Gun Indoor Invite took place this past weekend at the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex in St. Joseph, MO. The 16U and 18U age groups were combined into a high school division with two pools.

Select Fastpitch Reese came out on top of a very competitive Pool A, finishing the weekend 4-1. After losing to Top Gun ’08 2-0 in their first game, Select Fastpitch won the rest of their games. The team tallied 27 runs, including one home run from Lauren Bailey and two from Baylie Roetemeyer. Their most dominate performance came against Nebraska Thunder Fox in an 11-1 rout.

In Pool B, Top Gun National 2027 was dominant, going undefeated through five games. Their victories included a 7-0 win against MN Waves Beech, 16-0 win against Building Champions Peppers Wallace 16u, and a 12-1 win against Nebraska Gold Waller. The team allowed just 5 runs against them, while scoring 41 runs.

Several other teams also showcased impressive performances this weekend:

Louisville Lady Sluggers VanBoxmeer concluded the weekend with a 4-1 record. They battled in close games against Nebraska National Taylor, Nebraska Quakes Macken, and Top Gun National 2027. Their largest margin of victory was 10-3 against Building Champions Peppers Wallace 16u. The Lady Sluggers scored 19 runs and conceded just 8.

Top Gun ’08, NE Echoes Madsen, Originals Moss, and Nebraska National Taylor all finished the weekend with a 3-2 record.

Top Gun ’08 commenced their weekend with a 2-0 win against Select Fastpitch Reese and wrapped up with two more wins against Nebraska Thunder Fox and Originals Moss.

Brad Madsen’s NE Echoes team had three decisive wins. The team started the weekend with a 9-2 win against Primetime Koozer and wrapped up Saturday with a 3-0 win against Nebraska Gold Jarzobski. Their last game was an 8-1 win against Top Gun ’08. The Echoes scored 25 runs, including a home run from Teygan Rasmussen.

Originals Moss secured impressive wins against Nebraska Thunder Fox and Nebraska Gold Jarzobski. The team scored 25 runs across the two days of play and finished with a +14 run differential.

Nebraska National Taylor conceded only 5 runs this past weekend. The team scored 18 runs, one of which was a home run hit by Macy Schneider. Brett Taylor’s team started their weekend with a 2-1 win against MN Waves Beech on Saturday. Their other wins came in a 12-0 rout against Nebraska Quakes Macken and a 3-1 finish against Nebraska Gold Waller.

Thank you and good luck to the teams who participated in the Top Gun Indoor Invite this past weekend!

Top Gun Indoor Invite Event Preview

By: Madison Feldhahn

The Top Gun Indoor Invite returns to St. Joseph, MO on March 9th and 10th to kick off the Top Gun Events spring season. This highly anticipated event brings together sixteen elite softball teams from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

The round-robin style tournament will take place at the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex. The 16u and 18u divisions have been combined into a high school division. All teams will play five games. Top Gun ’08 vs. Select Fastpitch Reese and NE Echoes Madsen vs. Primetime Koozer will start the tournament at 8:00 AM Saturday. Games will start every eighty minutes with the last games starting at 9:20 PM on Saturday. The tournament will restart at 8:00 AM Sunday and run until 6:40 PM.

Gate Fees:

Children (1-12): $5.00

Teens & Adults (13-64): $10.00

Senior (65+): $5.00

Military: $5.00

As coaches and players finalize their preparations, let’s take a closer look at some of the teams joining us.

Louisville Lady Sluggers VanBoxmeer

Coaching Staff: Ashley VanBoxmeer & Andy Paalhar

Team Social Media: @louisvilleladysluggers16u_VB (IG) & @Sluggers07VB (Twitter)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-Ranked 14th in the country

-3rd place at Triple Crown Nationals

-17th place at Colorado Sparkler PP

-Alliance Nationals Top 25

-Top Club Invite Runner Up

-Team 1 Spring Invite Champion

Key Players: This isn’t our full team due to spring high school season, but we are excited to break up the practice routine and get some games in.

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: Continue improving our softball IQ and skill development in preparation for a challenging summer schedule against the best in the country!

MN Waves Beech

Coaching Staff: Daniel Beech (Owner/Director/Trainer/15U National Head Coach)

Team Social Media: MN Waves 15U National (Facebook)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-Champions of the Lexi Kretsch Invitational

-Champions of the USSSA Great Lakes National Championship

Key Players:

-Harper Chappuis (CF)

-Auden Anderson (P)

-Sydney Klar (P)

-Kaitlyn Trask (3B)

-Evelyn DeRock (LF)

-Molly Walker (P/2B/RF)

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: We are maturing as a club and expect to compete with second-year 16s at a regional level. We have the most challenging schedule we’ve ever had – Top Gun Invitational (MO), S&C Showcase (MN), Top Gun Patriot (IL), Firecracker Showcase (IN), 15U Nationals (IA), and World Fastpitch Championships (SD). Our Waves program was invited to the 18U I.D.T. this summer in Colorado so we will go in 2025.

NE Echoes Madsen

Coaching Staff: Brad Madsen, Brandon Brink, Abigail Brink & Jeff Rasmussen

Team Social Media: @bradm198 (Twitter) & NE Echoes 18U National Madsen (Facebook)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-52-19-4 in summer

-Runner-up at Memorial Day USA 16U

-6-0 in fall

-CIS Winner

Key Players:

-Teya Speltz

-Charlie Pryor

-Teygan Rasmussen (new addition)

-Brianna Kutschkau (new addition)

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: As a 1st year 18U team, the plan is to keep competing at a high level. Be that team others don’t want to see on their schedule.

Nebraska Gold Jarzboski

Coaching Staff: Edward Jarzobski (9th year coaching competitive softball), Maurice Anderson (10th year coaching competitive softball, NE Gold coach Team Anderson and Softball President MUS) & Dave Hobza (7th year coaching competitive softball)

Team Social Media: @negold18u (Twitter)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-6 seniors went on to play in college (1 D1, 1 D2, 1 D3, 3 NAIA)

-All 12 of our current seniors are committed to play in college (2 D1, 4 D2, 6 NAIA)

Key Players:

-Mackenzie Groniga

-Emi Waldow

-Katelyn Jarzobski

-Addy Hobza

-Kriestyn Linn

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: Goal is to finish top 4 Top Gun Viper and top 10 in Top Gun Championship

Nebraska Gold Waller

Coaching Staff: Kelli Waller (Head Coach), Steve Hinrichs (Assistant Coach) & Chad Villwok (Assistant Coach)

Team Social Media: @NEGold08_Waller (Twitter) & nebraskagold08s_Waller (Instagram)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-3rd place finish PG National Qualifier KC

-2nd place HS Division Spring Fling

-8th place Top Gun Spring Invite

-6th place USA SB Invite

-3rd place Top Gun Swing into Spring

-3rd place Top Gun Thunder/Gold Invite

Key Players: Lots of great athletes who will be key players this season. Covering multiple positions, we will be challenging our players to get comfortable playing uncomfortable roles.

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: A young 15U team looking to compete against some of the best teams in the HS divisions. All players coming off very successful fall HS seasons and are ready to get back on the dirt this spring. We will be playing a very challenging schedule of Top Gun Events, USA Invites, and Triple Crown. This team thrives off competition and being the best teammates, and we are looking forward to this translating to game time.

Nebraska National Taylor

Coaching Staff: Brett Taylor & Kirsten Dargy

Team Social Media: @NENational08 (Twitter)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-42-29-3 playing an elite level schedule last season

-1st Place at Top Gun NE National Tourney

-2nd Place at Top Gun Thunder/NE Gold Tourney

-2nd Place at USSSA 16) Swing into Spring

-3rd Place at Top Gun Swing into Spring Tourney

-4th Place at USSSA SEC National Championship

-7 Top 4 finishes out of 10 tournaments (not including rain shortened/cancelled tournaments)

-14U PGF Nationals at large bid (Platinum Division)

Key Players:

-Maizey Carpenter

-Reese Pearson

-Toria Rother

-Lauren Schneider

-Alexa Taylor

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: We are an improved team over last year. Our goal as coaches is to continue to develop our players to help them reach their potential.

Nebraska Thunder Fox

Coaching Staff: William Fox (returning to the head coach position after 3 years as an assistant) & Brent Wonder (10 years of head coaching experience in both baseball and softball)

Team Social Media: NeThunder Fastpitch (Facebook), @nebraskathunder18u2024 (IG), @Nethunderf (Twitter) & 18U Thunder Gold (Fox) (SportsRecruits)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-Our 4 graduating seniors committed and continued their athletic careers at the collegiate level (Barton College, Chadron State, Northwestern College and Highland CC)

-Fall resulted in 2 additional commitments (Concordia & Central CC)

Key Players:

-Ayla Mathney – committed to Calumet College of St. Joseph, a leader in the circle

-Joslyn Sargent – junior at Ashland High School, new to our roster, she looks to make a statement at SS and in our lineup

-Kaylee Tanuis – senior from Papillion-LaVista Class A State Champions, she is a vital and diverse player on our roster

-Macey West – multi-sport athlete expanding her abilities and strengths as a UTL

Expectations for the 2024 Spring Season: With 3 returning players, we are looking for a season of growth and development. Develop a new team culture, drive athletes to become competitors, teammates, and family, achieve player goals on and off field, and continue the tradition of collegiate commitments

Primetime Koozer

Coaching Staff: Head Coach Todd Koozer & Assistant Coaches Kelsey Koozer and Alyssa Grewcock

Team Social Media: @Primetime_Kooz (Twitter) & primetimesoftball06.com

Key Players:

-2024 Kaidence Dumas – Quincy University commit, powerful hitter who will pitch, play 3B and 1B

-2025 Makala Koozer – Uncommitted, great speed, slapper/power slapper, OF

-2024 Avery Gossett – Fort Hays State commit, great athlete, really good power at the plate, OF

-2024 Morgan Stock – College of St. Mary’s commit, very fast, versatile hitter, OF

-2025 Sydney Atkins – Uncommitted, pitcher & has become a good hitter

-2024 Joslyn Policky – Southeastern CC commit, catcher, SS, 3B

Expectations for the 2024 Spring Season: As a team, we have always prided ourselves on developing kids and getting them prepared for the next level by using a team first mentality and competing against high level competition. This team was created with the purpose of having fun, while still being able to accomplish those high goals and expectations.

Select Fastpitch Reese

Coaching Staff: Krista Reese (Head Coach) & Jason Bailey (Asst. Coach)

Team Social Media: @StLouisSoftball (Twitter) & Select Fastpitch-16U STL (Facebook)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes:

-Finished in top 16 of Power Pools in Scenic City Summer

-Finished 3rd at Savvy Softball Elite Summer Invite

-Finished in top 16 in Alliance Open Nationals

-Finished with a record of 5-2 at Tulsa Elite Summer Invite

Key Players:

-Sarah Rizello (P) led the team in wins with 10, SO with 85, and ERA 2.756.

-Abby Kritete and Elia Cabo anchor the outfield. Kriete led the team in Fielding Percentage at 0.988 and is second on the team in batting avg. with a 357 avg. in the fall and 556 avg. leading into this spring. Cabo is leading the team in avg. leading into the spring with an avg. 0f 750.

-Kaylee Brock (SS) locks down the left side of the infield. She batted 377 last season and her range and exceptional arm strength anchor the infield defense.

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: Select Fastpitch, formerly St. Louis Softball Club, looks to build on the success they had in 2023 with a qualifying bid to the Alliance Championships in Indianapolis. We expect to have all of our 2025 graduates signed by the end of the season, and we are excited for what the future holds for our 2026 grabs and expect several commitments in the fall.

Top Gun National 2027

Coaching Staff: Head Coach Stephanie Kim & Assistant Coaches Matt Griffin & Amanda Schuster

Team Social Media: @topgun_skim (Twitter), @coachstephkim (TikTok) & Top Gun 2027 NTL (Facebook)

2023 Summer & Fall Successes: Last season, as a 13U team, our proudest finish was placing 9th at the IDT. We were champs of Top Gun Discovery, runner up at the Alliance Super Cup this fall in Clear Water, and finished Top 3 in a 16u Perfect Game Showcase and Savvy Summer Shootout. Our team hit 50+ homeruns in spring/summer of 2023 and ranked #45 in US Club Rankings. Four of our players earned 3rd place in Missouri State Championships as freshman. Three of our freshmen earned All-State honors and five earned Academic All-State.

Key Players: We have multiple players already receiving Power 5 interest. Some of our top producers include:

-2027 Bryli Seifert (MIF/OF) – Earned starting SS as a freshman and went on to receive 1st Team All-State honors and Academic All-State. She hit .548 AVG, 1.592 OPS with 5 HR, 4 3B, and 9 2B. On our team last summer, she hit 19 2B, 2 3B and 10 HR. She is one of our top offensive producers and is Top 3 in most categories on our team.

-2027 Bailey Barnett (SS/3B/C) – She led our team this summer in nearly every offensive category: homeruns (16), batting average (.469), hits (83 in 75 games), doubles (19), RBI’s (74), and runs (66). She broke her high school’s home run record as a freshman, earned 2nd Team All-State and Academic All-State, and helped her team secure a 3rd place state finish.

-2027 Holly Munson (LHP/1B) – 5’9 strong pitcher with intense presence on the mount. Top 100 in 2027 Extra Innings. She lead her high school team to a 3rd place finish as a freshman, earned 1st Team All-State honors and Academic All-State, and had 96 K with a .968 ERA. She hit 4 HR. Last summer, she had 160 K and hit .500 with a 1.726 OPS.

-2028 Addison Ellis (LHP) – 5’9 long levers, very spinny, and misses a ton of barrels throwing in the low 60s. In our last tourney this fall (Clearwater Alliance Super Cup), she pitched 15 IP and 25 K with a .457 ERA and only gave up 3 hits.

-2027 Zariya Mabion (OF/UTL) – Z is one of the most athletic players in the 2027 class. She is ranked Top 25 in the 2027 Extra Innings. She tore her ACL in June 2023 and had already hit 16 HR, 6 triples, 11 doubles, drove in 44 runs, scored 65 runs, and stole 29 bases. Finished her season early from injury with a .469 AVG and a 1.569 OPS.

Expectations for 2024 Spring Season: It’s about exposure and opportunities for these young women. Our expectation is to play and COMPETE against the best competition in the country, As a second year 14u team, we will be playing up in 16u until June. Once June hits…it’s on. Our summer recruiting schedule includes: Hotshots Summer Exposure in TX, Top Gun Invitational-Maverick in KC, and then we head to Colorado for the Patriot Games, Super Cup, and IDT. We come back to KC to play in the Top Gun Elite Championships to prepare for PGF Nationals to finish out our season.

Top Gun Events Brings Midwest College Classic Softball Tournament to the Kansas City Metro


Top Gun Events Brings Midwest College Classic Softball Tournament to the Kansas City Metro

Shawnee, Kansas – [March 6, 2024] – Top Gun Events, a renowned name in elite softball events, today
announced that it is hosting the Midwest College Classic Softball Tournament from February 28
to March 2, 2025, at the Mid America Sports Complex in Shawnee, Kansas. The event will be a
showcase of talent and competition for collegiate athletes from around the region and beyond.
The Midwest College Classic is poised to be a standout event in the collegiate softball scene,
featuring teams from NCAA Division 2, NAIA, and Junior College levels. With a guaranteed
five-game schedule, teams will have the opportunity to compete in a series of matchups, with
two games scheduled for Friday, two for Saturday, and one final game on Sunday.
“We are delighted to host the Midwest College Classic, an event that embodies the spirit of
competition and camaraderie in the softball community,” said Jeremy McDowell, owner at Top
Gun Events. “As a company dedicated to supporting elite softball players and female athletes,
we are proud to put on an event that provides a platform for collegiate players to showcase
their skills and passion for a sport they love.”
The tournament is expected to draw more than 40 colleges from 10 or more states across the
Midwest region and beyond, creating a diverse and competitive field of participants.

Inquiries in registering for the event, please contact: paige.crawford@topgunevents.com.
About Top Gun Events
Top Gun Events is based in Kansas City and hosts premier softball tournaments, providing a platform for
athletes to showcase their skills in a competitive and safe environment. They are committed to
promoting sports excellence and development