Savvy Softball’s Annual Easton Rawlings Elite Fall Championship Proves to be Big Draw for Athletes and Coaches
By Jeff Strange
The weather was terrific and the competition was top-notch on the weekend of 10/20-10/22 for the annual Easton Rawlings Elite Fall Showcase hosted by Savvy Softball. A big draw for elite level softball athletes and college coaches looking to evaluate prospective players for their programs, the Easton/Rawlings Elite Fall Showcase has become a staple event for overall exposure. We caught up with Savvy Director Dan Paulson to get his take on the busy weekend of softball, what drives him in this game and the future prospects of his events.
How long has this event been taking place?
Savvy Softball has been running this event since 2020. At the time, it was known as The Demarini. In 2021, we collaborated with Easton Rawlings and began running the event in O’Fallon and Edwardsville, IL. This was the 13th year overall that it has been ran.
How many teams were initially in the event when it became known as the Easton/Rawlings Elite Fall Showcase vs. the turnout for this fall?
We had roughly 80 teams total when we began running it in 2021. This year, we had 140 teams spread out over six complexes in the St. Louis metropolitan area – three parks in Illinois and three parks in Missouri with age groups ranging from 12u-18u.
What format do you use for your showcase games:
At 16u and 18u, its 1 hour and 40 minutes, finish the inning and 2-hour time slots. We feel that is unique – the average number of innings played this fall for those age groups was 6.3 innings. The longer game times allows college coaches to see a student-athlete hit two, three or four times in a game…pitchers get to throw five or six innings as opposed to just two or three innings in a shorter game format. We schedule the games two hours apart; this allows us to stay on schedule and makes it easier for college coaches to plan accordingly. Ultimately, it is all about getting the athletes the best opportunity to showcase what they can do and helping the college coaches know where and when they need to be to look at an athlete that they may be interested in.
Do you know approximately, how many college coaches checked in this fall?
The number of coaches in attendance was over 200; we are still figuring exact numbers, but my estimation is somewhere around 250 this year. I noticed one game last Saturday that had 39 college coaches standing behind the backstop watching. It was a very good turnout – we try to make it as appealing for them as we can by providing them with a printed booklet to go along with the digital booklet for all of the information. We provide food and beverages as well so they generally remain at the parks all day to take it all in.
Was there any difference in how the 16u/18u divisions were ran vs the 12u/14u divisions?
16u and 18u play five showcase games between Saturday and Sunday with their schedules lined out. We had teams from 20 different states and with scheduling their flights and travel; it makes it easier for them to know when they’ll be done on Sunday. For the 12u and 14u, we made it competitive with a cash prize on the line. Each team started in a box-bracket with four teams per bracket. This way they knew exactly when they were going to play their three games on Saturday. Sunday was brackets with cash prizes awarded to the top two teams in each 12u and 14u divisions.
What are your plans for the future?
For our fall event, we’ll most likely continue with a very similar format. We run a summer event that in 2024 will be our third year conducting – the Savvy Softball Elite Summer Shootout. We continue to look for other areas that might have a need for a strong tournament, but really just need to find the right venues and the right dates. We want to make sure that we use top class fields and to make sure that we have the strongest teams that we can attract to any of our events. At the end of the day, in order to maintain the number of teams that want to play in the event and to give everyone – the teams and college coaches – a good schedule that they are happy with, it ultimately takes fields that are of good quality, but are not too spread out for any coaches that may want to travel from park-to-park to see athletes and teams that they want to see.