2024 Travel Team Preview: Originals 26/27

By: Jeff Strange

Coming off a highly successful 2023 campaign that featured an overall record of 63-20, the Originals 26/27 put together an impressive list of accomplishments to punctuate their season. Highlights included:

  • A 1st place championship showing at the Top Gun Heritage Championship in Bixby, OK
  • A 7-0 showing to capture the title at the Top Gun Ranger in KC
  • Tied for 5th out of 58 teams at the World Fastpitch Championships, going 7-3 overall

The success of those performances provided many proud moments for this Originals squad. However, assistant coach Sara Hollister believes that it was this groups’ showing at the Top Gun Invitational that provided the key point of their successful season.

“The highlight of our 2023 season took place at the Top Gun Invitational at Blue Valley in KC. We were tied for 1st in the Maverick Division. We went 5-1 that weekend facing insane talent from across the US. We picked up big wins over the MI Firecrackers-Renne 3-2, SO Cal Athletics Marinakis 14u National 11-2 and the TX Athletics Mercado-Bonola 4-2.”

Top Gun Events Media caught up with assistant coach Hollister to get her feedback on several key elements for the Originals 26/27 squad’s 2024 season and beyond:

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

“Head Coach Jason Moss has 30 plus years of competitive coaching experience. He favors a strategic and motivational coaching style.

Assistant Coach Tony Austin has 20 plus years of collegiate and competitive coaching experience. He is very strategic in game planning and coaching each player to their strengths.

Assistant Coach Matt Johnson has 23 years of collegiate and competitive coaching experience. He brings a transformational and developmental coaching style.

Myself – Assistant Coach Sara Hollister has 20 plus years of competitive coaching experience. I primarily focus on player IQ and the mental side of the game.”

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

“The challenges we face as a team mostly pertains to our roster coming from about a 4-hour radius for practices. The girls and their families are dedicated in making sure they get to all the workouts they can. There are many zoom meetings to cover other things outside of the physical practice portion of our workouts.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our primary goals and objectives are to keep the girls hungry and motivated. This allows them to strive to continue competing with themselves and each other to prepare them for play at the next level.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“We are family oriented. Earl Turnure founded the Originals organization in 1983. We are old school in our approach of developing players and Stacey Moore, who is the head of our organization, preaches that the Originals stand on the principle that there are more options for college than the D-1 or bust mentality.”

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

“We are entering our “down” year as a first year 16 u team with three 2027’s. We are playing an elite schedule, so we will have our hands full every weekend, which is exactly what the girls need to continue to grow. We are traveling more than half of our schedule, which is taxing on our players and their parents. We have added 3 girls to our 2024 roster from the Select Organization who have a season of 16s under their belt; they will provide excellent guidance to our team.

  • Kennedi Casey/OF (’26 Kearney High School)
    • Defense: Plus first step and angles to the ball. Average arm that has shown improvements in arm strength. CF footwork/corner OF arm.
    • Offense: Gap hitter with flashes of power to all fields from the left side. Keeps hands inside the ball well and above average strike zone awareness. Handles the bat well in hitting situations.
  • Jesenia Solis/UT (’26 Lees Summit High School)
    • Defense: corner defender with quick first step. Quick hand and release. Average to above average arm strength.
    • Offense: left handed hitter with good bat control and strike zone awareness. Keeps hands inside ball well and good barrel control.
  • Jazmyn Brown/P/OF (’26 Holden High School)
    • Defense: Plus speed in the OF that can develop into a strong CF. Above average arm.
    • Offense: Slap hitter with plus bat control. Strong bunter with plus speed on the bases.
    • Pitcher: Above average velocity with command of four pitches that can be thrown in any count. Developing stamina for later innings. Athletic on the mound.
  • Jacie Gentry/OF (’27 Lathrop High School)
    • Defense: CF with polished angles to the ball and range. Plus arm with quick release and carry.
    • Offense: Power bat with a big swing. Pull side swing that is developing opposite field power. Improving strike zone awareness.
  • Kyndall Hay/C/OF (’27 Blue Springs South High School)
    • Defense: Developing catcher with strong arm. Needing improvement on glove handling but showing growth.
    • Offense: Pull-side power hitter, free swinger. Plus foot speed.
  • Brynlee Johnson/C (’26 Park Hill High School)
    • Defense: Plus softball IQ and a field general. Above average arm behind the plate with quick feet and hands. Plus framing and feel behind the plate.
    • Offense: Gap hitter that has developed the ability to drive the ball out of the park. Plus strike zone awareness with high contact and hands inside the ball from the left side.
  • Haylee Wait/3B/P (’26 Fort Osage High School)
    • Defense: Quick hands and reaction at 3B with developing quicker release. Average arm velocity.
    • Offense: Contact hitter that puts ball in play to opposite field. Handles the bat well on bunts and situational hitting.
    • Pitching: Strong 3 pitch mix with plus control. Average velo with plus spin rate.
  • Lucia Trevino/P/UT (’26 Blue Springs High School)
    • Defense: OF with good range and above average arm.
    • Offense: Plus speed from the left side. Gap power and developing increased contact.
    • Pitching: 3 plus pitches that command the zone well. Ability to control the inside part of the plate. Above average to plus velo.
  • Katie Stephenson/UT/P (’26 Belton High School)
    • Defense: Plus arm, great lateral foot speed, can play middle but better suited on corners. Quick release.
    • Offense: Combination of power and contact. Puts ball in play, work power and plus strike zone awareness.
    • Pitching: Average to above average velo. Command of two pitches with 3rd right behind. Competitor in the circle with plus athleticism.
  • Riley Hollister/MI (’27 Blue Springs South High School)
    • Defense: Plus softball IQ, ability to play both middle positions. Above average arm, quick hands and release.
    • Offense: Gap hitter that has started to develop power. Handles the bat well and keeps hands inside the ball and on plane from the left side.
  • Tayah Garringer/UT (’26 El Dorado Springs High School)
    • Defense: Corner IF and OF with above average arm and quick first step at both positions. Her ability to be versatile allows her to be in the lineup at all times.
    • Offense: Gap power swing that has the ability to hit the ball out of the park. Quick hands that stay inside the ball well and drives the ball to opposite field with power.

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“We preach to the girls that our goal this season is to compete against the best of the best and use those games to keep getting better. Our team goal this season is to qualify for the 2024 Alliance Fastpitch National Championship.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“We want to continue developing our girls to prepare them for college. Travel ball is expensive – we want to build them up, get them the exposure they need and help them acquire as much scholarship money as possible…a little thank you to mom and dad!”

2024 Travel Team Preview: Louisville Lady Sluggers 16u – VB

By: Jeff Strange

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins Championships.” It’s a quote that coach Ashley VanBoxmeer of the Louisville Lady Sluggers 16u – VB holds in high regards for her nationally ranked squad.

For VanBoxmeer’s squad, 2023 featured many key highlights, including:

  • Runner-up at Top Club Invite – Oklahoma
  • 3rd place at Triple Crown Nationals – Dalton, GA
  • 17th in the Colorado Sparkler POWER POOL Division – Colorado
  • Top 25 at the Alliance Nationals in the Tier 1 Division – California

Coach VanBoxmeer attributed much of her team’s success in 2023 to their persistent approach to compete at the highest levels.

“One thing about championship teams like this one is that they’re resilient,” said VanBoxmeer. “No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity. We play the toughest schedule week in and week out from the end of May to the end of July in the biggest events, on the best fields, against the best of competition. As a first year 16u team, this group earned the respect they deserved and are currently nationally ranked as #14 in the country.”

Now looking ahead into 2024, Coach VanBoxmeer and her Louisville Lady Sluggers 16u – VB squad are eyeing another season of challenges and success. Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach VanBoxmeer to get her feedback on several key elements for her team’s 2024 season:

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

“Andy Paalhar is one of the very best coaches in the Kansas City area. He handles all of the outfield and scouting and also assists in the offensive strategy. He is always investing in his knowledge of the game, to not only benefit himself but also the players. Andy gives 110% to each of the girls and is either staying after or coming early to get the girls extra reps. The amount of time and energy he spends on this team is a huge reason why we are so successful.

I have played and competed at the highest level, under the best coaches and trainers in the world. I have been coaching for almost 10 years now and am a full time coach/instructor. I have been there and done that, which is a huge benefit to my players as both a mentor and coach.

To me coaching is taking a player where she can’t take herself. You have to have a sense of confidence about what you are building. You have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you are trying to accomplish on and off the field. I view the softball field as a character-building arena. I consider building the character of the person just as important as developing the skills of the player. I teach my players through my words and actions the values of respect, resilience, empathy, teamwork and sportsmanship that will benefit them long after their playing days are over.”

Does your team face any challenges with schedules (drawing athletes from multiple states, perhaps)? If yes, how do you manage that?

“No, we don’t have any challenges with out of state players. Players from all over the country see what we are doing, how we are doing it and want to be a part of it. However, not just anyone can make it on this team. We look for a very specific type of athlete and family. Yes, a certain skill level is required to compete at this level, but mostly we look at the knowledge, work ethic and personality of the athlete. Finding the passion, commitment and love for the game is something you can’t teach and is what matters the most to us.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our team always has one goal – “Hustle, Compete, WIN.” We focus on our purpose and process, which then leads to the results. Individual success comes from the success of the team. Especially during the recruiting process, which can add a lot of stress, we stay focused on our #1 goal and each player’s responsibility to contribute to that goal. The rest takes care of itself.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“I think the finished product that we put out into the world is what makes us unique. We don’t define our organization’s success by the amount of players we have put into college, or the individual achievements our athletes’ produce. Is this exciting, expected and valuable? Absolutely, but it is not what makes us unique. We produce amazing young women who are not only prepared to compete as freshmen on the softball field and in the classroom, but young ladies who are organized, respectful, smart, disciplined & confident. They are great leaders and teammates who make anyone around them better and will do the same when their playing days are over and as they enter their next chapter of life.”

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

“We have added some big time talent to our already talented team! We are very well rounded in all areas of our game and we feel like we do not have any areas of weakness. Our goal is still the same – Hustle, Compete, WIN!”

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“To stay consistent on our developmental path and focused on the task at hand, both as a team and as individuals.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“To help them achieve greatness, continue to grow and evolve as young ladies, and prepare them for the next level and challenges life brings.”

2024 Travel Team Preview: Nebraska Gold ’09 National builds upon challenges and development, eyeing successful 2024 season

By: Jeff Strange

June 16, 2023. The Nebraska Gold ’09 National team was gearing up for a high-profile contest while playing in the prestigious Top Gun Invite in Kansas City. They had drawn a power-packed Texas Riptide 14u squad. According to Larry Swift, the current coach of the NE Gold ’09 National team, the Riptide’s roster was loaded with eye-catching athletes.

“Everyone on that team, including their starting pitcher, looked the part,” said Swift. “They could swing it and they could throw it.”

The anticipation caught the attention of the ballpark as well. With roughly 200-300 people in the crowd watching – from parents and friends to entire teams in the facility – the expectation of a highly entertaining game was alive and well as the venue was buzzing with excitement.

The game started with a weak ground ball by Nebraska Gold, securing the first out for the Riptide and driving the eager and enthusiastic Texas fans into a frenzy. However, despite a 2-1 disadvantage at the end of the 1st inning, Nebraska Gold ’09 National kept plugging along, picking up a run in every inning. NE Gold’s starting pitcher, Taelyn Rupiper settled in the circle and scattered three runs over 6 innings. NE Gold won 9-3 and drew the attention of seemingly everyone as they left the facility.

It was games like these that helped the athletes and team grow together. As a first year 14u team last summer, this skilled squad was often pitted against older competition, challenging them to test their talents.

July1, 2023. Nebraska Gold ’09 National suffered a “less than flattering 12-3 defeat” to the 16u Finesse Frank team at the Top Gun Patriot in Peoria, Illinois. However, they came back on Sunday and outscored two 16u teams 19-5 through a series of balls hit in the gaps and well-placed bunts put down the line. The NE Gold coaching staff believes that their athletes were at their best at that point and ready to compete with anyone, until the rains came and washed out the event.

Carrying that momentum into their last weekend of the summer, Nebraska Gold ’09 National played up in an 18u tourney in Nebraska (as a 13u team). They went 8-1 on the weekend, winning the event. In the process of taking home the hardwire, NE Gold pulled off 6 consecutive wins on Sunday with 15 over the fence home runs. All toll, they concluded their championship run near midnight on Sunday.

Now, looking into 2024 Coach Larry Swift and his Nebraska Gold ’09 National squad are eyeing another season of challenges and success. Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach Swift to get his feedback on several key elements for his team’s 2024 season:

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

“Each of our coaches brings a unique perspective to the Nebraska Gold ‘09 National team. Mitch Kampbell and Nick Beard have five players on this squad they have coached since the girls were 7 years old. Day-to-day work and focus are their best-selling points. This is Jeff Kurrus’ third year with the program, with team culture and everyday enjoyment of the process being his forte. Joining the staff this year, Lexi Swift offers something the other coaches can’t – a female’s perspective as both a coach and a former college player. And program director Larry Swift’s role is multifaceted. He has been a coach in the dugout when his Nebraska Gold teams have won at the highest possible level as 18-year-olds, which allows him to bring that perspective to this 14-year-old group and show them what it will take for them to get to that level.”

Does your team face any challenges with schedules (drawing athletes from multiple states, perhaps)? If yes, how do you manage that?

“Each of our players are from the Omaha or Lincoln areas, except for one that travels from Grand Island, Nebraska – nearly two hours away. So, our practice and game scheduling runs relatively smoothly, besides the times when we have an injury or family event that prevents a particular player from participating. When this occurs, we reach out to a select group of players from Nebraska and surrounding states who we have formed bonds with, and they play with us that particular weekend. For example, our girls love when their South Dakota or Missouri friends play with them as a substitute for a tournament. This also provides them more exposure to kids they’ll get to know later in high school and even into college, making those transitions easier for them.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“We have a multitude of goals for this team. First, we want to continue to prepare these athletes for their transitions through or into high school ball for their respective schools. For example, we had 9 girls who were freshmen this past fall, at 6 different high schools. All 9 made significant contributions to their high school varsity teams, with three of them receiving All-State accolades and 6 making the state Tournament semi-finals or finals. We want the same results for our other 3 incoming freshmen this year. Second, we want to prepare them for the college game. In addition, their individual work and team work is accomplished by their interactions and workouts with NE Gold players already in college. For example, recently several current college playing alumni, including Ruby Meylan, who was a University of Washington’s starting pitcher in last season’s College World Series, pitched to our players and took at-bats vs our pitchers. Once our girls see someone of their skill levels, they are ready for anything. Third, on the field as a team the girls have set a goal to be in the Final Four for every tournament they play this year. With this goal, they will always have the mindset to win every tournament. Fourth, our hitters want to compete in every at bat, so they’re working to have a QAB rate of 70%. It takes out batting averages and on-base percentages to create a more defined role at the plate – how well did you compete.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“First and foremost, we pride ourselves on our Gold DNA pillars. The pillars are: Toughness, Discipline, Workers Always Win, Masters of Appreciation and Not About You. These pillars are followed by all the coaches and players in the organization. We have weekly sessions with both players and coaches reviewing these and understanding how we make the organization much better. It is the open-door policy of players working with players of all ages. It is not uncommon before a practice to get a phone call from a girl from another Gold team who wants to work out with your team that day. Or to walk into one of our indoor facilities or outdoor complexes and see a very accomplished player from one of our older groups working with a younger player.

Second, the Gold program is always striving to find the right fit for a kid. If a particular kid’s current skill level dictates that she needs to be on another team, then steps are made to create this proper fit for all parties.

Lastly, Nebraska Gold’s desire to bring in kids outside of our program who contact them allows the program to share its purpose for its individual players and teams. This open-door policy once again allows Nebraska Gold to focus on fit for each individual player.”

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

“In 2024, the Nebraska Gold 09’ team will be able to compete against any 09’ team in the country. Eight of our 12 players have already left the yard at some point during the 2023 year, and it’s only a matter of time for the others. We boast great team speed and athleticism throughout the line-up. Our pitching staff is led by two girls who throw 60+ and will command the zone. Here’s our crew in a nutshell:

  • Dylan Glatter – the best receiving 09’ catcher we’ve seen. Cat-quick defensively and a combination of power and finesse at the plate.
  • Hayden Peters – slapper/outfielder whose tremendous speed can take over an entire tournament on both sides of the ball.
  • Tenley Kampbell – First baseman/pitcher whose homerun balls, quite often, never get 20 feet off the ground. Amazing power. In the circle, continues to beat some of the best teams we face by relying on control and movement.
  • Taelyn Rupiper – Our Ace in the circle, she throws 60+ MPH whose best pitches are her riseball and change-up. Her ceiling is extremely high, and she continues to get the ball in our biggest games with no fear of failing.
  • Becca Dinkelman – Also tops out in the low 60s in the circle, but Becca’s most impressive attribute is her raw power. Though small in stature, she remains the kid most likely to hit a ball halfway up the light pole.
  • Mallory Closman – She has the entire package. Crazy athlete with speed and power. Mal immediately jumps off the page as soon as you see her warm up between innings.
  • Maddie Kurrus – With only two errors from the 2nd base position the entire 2023 summer, our most reliable fielder. Has also led the team for multiple years in HBPs and BBs with her “by any means necessary” mentality.
  • Abby Beard – Our best all-around hitter. Squares up more balls hard than anyone we have, and can fit anywhere in the lineup she’s needed, from a leave-the-yard send a message leadoff to a run producer in the 4-hole.
  • Kaylin Hinerman – A converted swingaway kid from a slapper, Kay will garner a ton of attention this summer because of her size and strength.
  • Lily Johnson – An absolute athlete. Scarred, bloody, ready for more. This is Lily after a weekend tournament. The ultimate competitor with an absolute cannon for an arm.
  • Brooklyn Phelphes – Another cannon, this time from the centerfield position, this former slapper will also boast a rare combination of speed and power this season. From a defensive standpoint, she covers ground like crazy.
  • Kinley Nixon – A newcomer to our team but will play 8 positions for us. Fearless at the plate and able to bunt and run, Kinley readily fills in every hole this team needs on both sides of the ball.

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“As stated before, the girls want to be competing for championships every weekend, with a Top 4 finish in every tournament, regardless of the competition, is one of their goals.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“To have an even larger factor for their high school teams and work toward achieving their own goals in high school and beyond, both inside and outside of softball.”

*Editors Note: Article updated February 7, 2024 to reflect that Larry Swift did not coach the team in 2023*

2024 Travel Team Preview: Top Gun ‘27/’28 STL 14u eyes upcoming 2024 campaign

By Jeff Strange

Upon reflecting on this past season and some defining moments, Top Gun ‘27/’28 STL 14u head coach Brian Grenia offered up some insight on his thoughts on what has led him, his coaching staff and group of athletes largely constructed from the greater metropolitan St. Louis area to where they are now…

“There’s so many things that this team does, both collectively and as individuals, that make me proud,” said Grenia. “I can’t pinpoint one thing that I’d say “defined” our season or that really defines this team. I’ll just say this: In September of 2021, we had eight players on the roster. Eight! Tournaments had begun, we only had eight, and several people were hoping we would fold so they could scoop up some of the top players. Just two years and 146 wins later, we’ve developed this group of girls into a legitimate team. We just flat outworked a lot of people.”

Moving to a new organization this past fall and now donning the navy blue and orange of the Top Gun organization, Grenia also took some time to reflect on some of the positive moments of the past season, while still with the Missouri Bombers.

“We won the first tournament of the spring and our final tournament of the summer,” said Grenia. “That was our last time wearing a Bombers uniform. That was an incredible way to end our tenure as the Missouri Bombers ’09.”

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

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

“Matt Frownfelter and I are going on our 4th season together stretching back to our first year as MO Bombers. Dave Smith is in his 2nd season as an official coach on the team.

As far as responsibilities go for the team – I’m responsible for the defense; Matt has pitchers, catchers and base running; Dave owns hitting and our mental development. As a side note: this Fall, Dave earned his Mental Performance Mastery certificate to become a certified mental performance coach. He believes so strongly in helping our girls and others in their mental health that he committed 100’s of hours studying this aspect of the game. Few people know that about him.”

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

“Most of our players will play a second sport in HS. That makes that Friday night game in the Spring a little challenging. Fortunately, the heart of our tournament season doesn’t begin until after Memorial Day when HS sports won’t be a factor. We practice late on Tuesdays and Sundays in order to minimize any conflicts.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

1) To build the girls’ self-esteem

2) To teach them how to work hard.

In your opinion, what traits make your team unique?

“We are still a homegrown team. January-March, we practice together twice a week as a team. In-season, we practice together weekly as a team even during heavy tournament play. Our roster is entirely 2009 girls from the St. Louis (and surrounding) area.”

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

“I’m excited about the team heading into 2024. We returned 10 players and picked up a much-needed second catcher. That’s really where we focused at the end of the summer. We carry five pitchers and two catchers, which is a luxury for us compared to our rosters over the past few seasons. Offensively, we are strong up and down the lineup possessing both speed and power. Our defense has always been one of our strengths. I’m looking forward to watching the girls work on defense this year.”

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“We will work hard with indoor training five hours a week from January through March. We will run up to Iowa once or twice this winter to play an indoor just to break up the grind.

Spring ball is challenging for us this year because all of the surrounding states will be in high school ball. We will probably play up in some local events. In addition, we plan on setting up situational scrimmages with teams in March and April, just so we can see live pitching and work on our defense.

This summer, we will alternate between local tournaments and travel events playing in some of the bigger name events.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“We are spending more resources on college recruiting. We played 230 games over the last two seasons in an effort to maximize game reps. That was by design. It is extremely difficult to simulate live reps, under pressure, in practice or even practice games. We made a decision to play a lot tournaments. Going forward we will be more selective on what we play, focusing more on showcase events and camps.”

2024 Travel Team Preview: Nebraska Gold 16u National looks to build off successful 2023 campaign; gears up for 2024

By Jeff Strange

For Coach Bill Heard’s Nebraska Gold 16u National team, the summer of 2023 was filled with many jubilant moments, en route to an overall record of 49-10-2. Highlights for the summer included:

  • A championship performance at the Top Club Spring Invite (7-0)
  • A third place finish in the Nikki G Classic while playing up in the 18U division
  • 5-1 in the Top Gun Invitational (Sunday was rained out)
  • World Fastpitch Champions (10-0)

Those performances alone cemented a strong showing for this NE Gold squad. Nonetheless, Coach Heard believes that it was his team’s performance at the Colorado Sparkler last summer that really defined this groups’ season.

“With the Sparkler being such a big event, we truly didn’t know what to expect,” said Coach Heard. “As a 15U team, we were not given a berth to the power pools; we had to earn it. We went 3-1 in our supplemental pool and moved our way up to the power pools. We lost to a very good Hot Shots National team on Friday evening. However, we were able to pull out three wins on Saturday against very high-level competition (Rogue FC, Aces and VA Glory National) to get to Sunday. All of our kids contributed to this run and allowed us to compete at the highest level.”

That showing led to a Top 8 Finish at the Sparkler and asserted this squad as a top contender on the national stage going into 2024.

Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach Heard to get his feedback on several key elements for his Nebraska Gold 16u National squad’s 2024 season and beyond:

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

“Myself – Bill Heard. I am the head coach at Gretna High School in Gretna, NE. I have been coaching this team from the very beginning (7U).

Chad Perkins – Head Coach, Omaha Marian High School, Omaha, NE. Chad joined the coaching staff last year. He has coached multiple Nebraska Gold teams over the years, including the 2020 Nebraska Gold 18 U, which was a highly successful team.

Jess Waller – Assistant Coach. Jesse joined the team last year. Jesse has been a coach in the Nebraska Gold and Nemesis organizations in Nebraska from the time this group began playing softball.

McKenna Nixon – Assistant Coach, Assistant Coach Gretna High School, Gretna, NE. McKenna has been coaching this team for the past three summers.

Our coaching style/philosophy is to place our trust in our players. We rotate our players throughout events. Our belief is that each player on our roster has the ability to compete and help us. The true strength of our team is our depth and ability to continually grind away throughout tournaments.”

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

“We have athletes from three states, which can be challenging at times. The reality of our situation is that we are unique for the level of competition we play at. Most teams we are seeing are drawing players from all over the country. We have one player from South Dakota and two from Colorado. We have seven players from the same high school and three more who live very close to each other. Long story short, our model is different from other teams; we have to make the most of the roster we have and max out every player.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our goals are unique. We do not talk about winning and losing; we focus on being great teammates and being great competitors. Ultimately, we feel that winning and losing is a byproduct of the way we do things. We want each player to max out their abilities, so we constantly provide them opportunities. With the level of competition we play and the constant opportunities, the recruiting piece tends to take care of itself.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“We have strong leadership (Larry Swift), a tradition of success that creates an expectation for kids at a young age and foundation that allows for this to continue for years to come (Gold DNA). With all of that said, I think our organization is unique because it places doing what’s right for kids ahead of all other decisions.”

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

“We return our entire team from last year, in addition to two new players we have picked up.  If we can stay healthy, we should be very competitive.

  • Pitchers:
    • Alexis Jensen (UNL Commit)
    • Jayd Juarez (2026)
    • CJ Morgan (2205)
    • Caitlyn Semple (2025)

Our staff should be strong this year. More depth than we have ever had. All of our pitchers will draw lots of college interest this spring.

  • Catchers:
    • Carlie Muhlbach (UNL Commit)
    • Brylee Rupiper (2025).

Brylee and Carlie give us a great combination behind the plate. Brylee is receiving considerable Division 1 interest as well.

  • Infielders:
    • Emersyn Exner (2026)
    • Emerson Johnson (2026)
    • Makenna Harrington (2025)
    • Megan Marshall (2026)
    • Autumn Bryant (2026)

This is a strong and versatile group. Each can play multiple positions, which allows us to have lots of lineup flexibility. Lots of college interest in this group as well.

  • Outfielders
    • Anniston Trevarrow (2025)
    • Brylee Heard (2026)
    • Raina Waller (2026).

Our outfield play is one of our strengths. All three can more than carry themselves at the plate and will garner college interest this spring. Multiple infielders will also spend time in the outfield for us this spring.”

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“We hope to be competitive in every event we attend this year. Our schedule will be very demanding and will challenge our depth, toughness and preparation.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“We would like to see all of our kids playing at the collegiate level and enjoying their experience. Long term, the hope is that softball can provide some lessons that kids can use the real world starts.”

2024 Travel Team Preview: BC Peppers Organization Gears up for 2024, with 18u Squad Phoenix-Bound for the Upcoming Weekend

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.”

2024 Travel Team Preview: Select Fastpitch 18’s Jones/Byrn Looks to Add to Tradition of Success in 2024

2024 Travel Team Preview: Select Fastpitch 18’s Jones/Byrn Looks to Add to Tradition of Success in 2024

By Jeff Strange

In the fall of 2023, Select Fastpitch brought together remaining athletes from three teams in the organization (Select 18’s Jones/Byrn, Select 18’s Alvarado and Select 16’s Salazar, whose team placed as a finalist in the PGF Premier National Championship) to create the 2023/2024 Select 18’s Jones/Byrn squad.

Success was immediate in the fall, as the newly formed team brought home third place at the Scenic City Top 25 tournament, suffering a lone loss in a hard fought battle to the Arizona Storm.

Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach Eric Jones to get his feedback on several key elements for his team’s 2024 season:

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

“I love our coaching staff this year! Myself and Mike Byrn are co-head Coaches again this year, which is a blessing to have someone of Mike’s caliber alongside us. Jason Salazar is also on staff; he was the Head Coach for the 16’s last year who had an amazing year, making a big run at the PGF Premier National Championships, knocking off some of the top teams in the country to get there. Brandon Washington is also on staff and handles our in game stats for us.”

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

“This team is composed of athletes from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, and Illinois. Having athletes from different states does pose some challenges at times, but we navigate it pretty well.  We do carry a bigger roster, which helps with athletes that have high school softball seasons at different times of the year. We have practice pods in St Louis, Columbia (MO) and Kansas City, which offer varieties of locations and opportunities to get work in.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“Our objective this year is to mesh this team into one unit by June. It is awesome to have amazing athletes, and on that alone they can win some games. However, to reach the goals that they all have – and try to finish what they started last year – will take all of them and we hope that they are able to mesh into that team that we know they are capable of. Our second goal is to continue to develop and prepare them for the next level, mentally and physically. We want them to be in positions to compete for starting roles when they head off to their colleges.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“The trait of our organization is to be a blue collar, hardworking organization where there’s no entitlement or selfishness. We pride ourselves on being overlooked by some of the bigger organizations and feed off that energy. We’ve always had athletes that are grinders and play the game for the right reason.”

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

“Our depth in the circle is unmatched, and anchored with some of the best pitchers in the Midwest and nation. Our athleticism up the middle is very good; I think this could be one of the best overall defenses that we have ever had. This year our team is led by some returning seniors, as well as some of the Top 2025’s around.

In the circle, we have a wealth of depth and talent that we feel comfortable with any of them being in a big game situation. Peyton Hardenburger (Tennessee), Kaelee Washington (Kansas), Abby Carr (Arizona State), Kelsey Hoekstra (Rutgers), Ryann Sanders (Louisville) and Bre Severino (Ball State) are all top flight pitchers and will have a big impact for us this year. With the grind of the schedule, it will allow us to keep some pitch count and innings low throughout the summer, so we can go into Nationals healthy. More importantly, the seniors can go into college and not have arm burnout.  

Behind the plate, we have Bailey Amezcua (Kansas) who can also play anywhere on the field, and is a big bat in our lineup.

Our infield is comprised of some legit athletes who can also cause damage at the plate. Led by Madison Uptegrove (Missouri), Marin Heller (Florida State), Siena Snyder (Ohio State), Kendall Yarnell (UCF), and Cydney Fullerton our infield is very deep with an ability to hit for power in any count.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“Our goal beyond the 2024 season is to keep developing and putting ourselves into positions to play the best competition out there. We want to see where we are at so we can prepare for great tournament runs in the summer. Fall, winter and spring for the most part for us is just development and growth. The summer is where we like to put it all together. We also strive to help our athletes go to their high school teams and have fun and shine amongst their school peers as well.”

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

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.”

2024 Travel Team Preview: St. Louis Chaos ’09 National Perone-Beatty sets foundation with strong 2023 Fall Season, has eyes set for successful 2024

2024 Travel Team Preview: St. Louis Chaos ’09 National Perone-Beatty sets foundation with strong 2023 Fall Season, has eyes set for successful 2024

By Jeff Strange

Coming off a successful fall 2023 campaign, the St. Louis Chaos ’09 National Perone-Beatty squad has established themselves as a top contender on the national scene heading into 2024. The Chaos’ fall successes were highlighted with two impressive first-place finishes, including a 7-1 showing in Oklahoma City at the Top Club National Invite where they battled a tough Vision Gold ’09 team in the championship game, avenging their only loss of the event.

Head Coach Phil Perone’s squad promptly followed up that outing with a 5-0 run in the HFL/Alliance Fall Championship, bringing home another first-place finish and capping off an impressive 12-1 run over their final 13 games.

Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach Perone to get his feedback on several key elements for his team’s 2024 season and beyond:

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

“With four coaches total – Evan Beatty, Adam Oberle, Dave Purves and myself, we are an experienced coaching staff with a combined 50+ years of travel softball, so we have a wealth of knowledge of what works and will not work at the next level. Our style emphasizes paying attention to details and not focusing on winning. If we focus on doing the little things and paying attention to detail on and off the field, winning will take care of itself. In practice, we move at a fast pace while working on the details of each movement and always applying controlled pressure, so the kids are prepared to play fast and confident when they hit the field.”

Can you hit on some key points/highlights from this past season?

“We have had the core for several years now and this past summer was a defining one for us as a group. At one point over the summer, we were left with our eight core players and that is when they ramped up their focus and started to play for each other. They regrouped and began to focus on the importance of TEAM. We won several older aged tournaments, qualifiers, and placed high in a few others, but with our lack of depth, we began to struggle going into the Alliance Fastpitch Championship Series. As a group, we knew that we had to thicken the roster and as the head coach, I knew we were too talented to take this next step without Evan Beatty in our dugout. We have a committed coaching staff and adding Evan’s 25+ years of coaching, knowledge for recruitment, and relationships is a huge advantage for our group as they continue the process of reaching their goals over the next 2-3 years.”

“We received stand out performances from:

  • Emily Perone was a key offensive contributor throughout the season.
  • Lexi Lohnes has established herself as one of the top two-way talents in the Midwest.
  • Kenzie Wieland is a workhorse in the circle and provides big power at the plate.
  • Ava Oberle was our most consistent player offensively, defensively, and in the circle. The kid is a softball player…just wants to be on the field and will do anything for the team.
  • Peyton Purves also had a great offensive year, but her defense behind the plate is next level; she is one of the best I have coached at that position in my 13 years.
  • Jay Haffer solidifies our defense with her great range at Shortstop and in the Outfield. She also offers power and speed on offense as well.
  • Katie Oelze has speed and power and was a key contributor in the middle of our lineup. She has come up huge in pressure situations at the plate.
  • Carlie Isbell was a new addition for 2023 and is solid behind the plate and at several infield positions. She helps our defense rotations and is one of our vocal leaders.”

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

“We will face challenges this upcoming spring with players from 4 different states, so we will navigate it as we go and play local tournaments utilizing players in our organization. Our travel season will begin with our full squad at our organization’s tournament – Hustle City (AFCS qualifier) at the end of May.”

What are your primary goals and objectives for your team?

“This year, our goals are different than what they have been in the past from when I took over this team 5 years ago. I have always had our girls learn multiple positions and sometimes sacrificed wins over learning and growth. In the past, it wasn’t out of the ordinary for us to have three shortstops in a bracket game. 13u and below we feel is all development while competing, and when you do that the winning will eventually take care of itself. We are getting to that point now where the girls are more position oriented with two main spots on the field and it showed in our play this past fall by winning two Alliance Tournaments and securing our AFCS bid to California.”

In your opinion, what traits make your organization unique?

“Being one of the oldest organizations in the region, we have been competitive on the national stage from the start in the early 90’s. During that time, we have remained small and family oriented, focused solely on development of our players on what works at the next level. We have monthly organization workouts at our own facility, which also allows players 24/7-365 access to work out individually. It is a huge luxury to have that asset and as we add players, coaches, and teams, they will immediately be able to take advantage of all the hard work that has been put into our future success.”

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

“Our team picked up 4 players for the fall to add to our core and we will continue to look for like-minded athletes that want to compete within our group setting and at the highest level nationally. Makenna Johnson is a top 2028 athlete that has rejoined our group and is a huge addition to our lineup as she rotates in at shortstop with Jay Haffer and the outfield. Brylie Mills, Deja Jackson, and Brooke Bucy are all strong athletes that solidify our group with a team first mentality, and it will be fun to watch these players as we move forward. With the addition of these players, we added speed, high average, power, and defense. They bring depth to our group that we lacked as we continue the journey. Our goal this year is to continue to build a champion mindset and that will be reinforced with the addition of Evan to our coaching staff.  We want to continue to compete against the best in the country and win; that is our focus and our thoughts as we head into winter workouts. Our Pitching group really turned the corner this fall as they began to focus on their three main pitches that worked in pregame. We limited our free passes our last two tournaments and made it difficult to score with our strong defensive play. We have a solid rotation at the catching position with three players really working well together, keeping each other fresh. We feel the group at any time can eliminate a runner for us, so having them behind the plate as a weapon is a huge advantage moving forward. All of our players have two defensive positions, so our rotations defensively are coming together. We have a great foundation built from the past 5 years and they can now see their dreams are in reach, so the real work begins for our group.”

What are your short-term goals for your team?

“We are putting our kids through a professional evaluation to identify biomechanical deficiencies that may affect performance and precursors for future injury by developing an individual physical therapy and strengthening program for each player after their individual evaluation. The girls will then be professionally evaluated every few months to see their progression, so it is exciting for our organization to be partnered with a company that works with MLB teams and D1 college programs.”

What are your long-term goals for your team?

“I think our long-term goals are whatever the players’ goals are, or continue to be. They drive the bus, and we will be there to guide them along the way. This is their journey; of course we want to compete at the highest level, but we only can do that if they are determined on their individual goals. I told them 5 years ago, we will not fail them and to trust the process in the good and the bad. That thought hasn’t changed and is still discussed within the group. If they continue to trust the proven process developed over years of success, our group will realize their dreams and be able to perform and compete immediately at the next level.”