Softball Today Teams of the Year
USSSA 18U Texas Travelers Reign as Softball Today’s Team of the Year
By Eric Kramer
The diving catches occur with such frequency that nobody expects a ground ball to elude Jill Jordan’s grasp.
The Texas Travelers’ shortstop has a way of turning almost any hard-hit ball into a routine out.
“I don’t know how many she’s caught, but she does that all the time,” Travelers coach Les Jones said. “It’s not really a surprise anymore.”
But the thing you need to know about Jordan is that she hits as well as she fields.
As a sophomore at Wylie High School last spring, she batted .349 — the second highest average in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — and the big hits kept coming all summer long in helping the Travelers become the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) 18U Softball Today Team of the Year.
Jordan earned most valuable players honors as the Travelers went 7-0 at the USSSA World Series. They were the only undefeated team in the field and, with Jordan patrolling the infield dirt, the team allowed only 13 runs.
“We just played really good defense and we had some great pitching, too,” coach Jones said.
Every member of the World Series squad made their high school varsity team as freshmen, including then 14-year-old catcher Laura Mabary, a slap-hitter who batted leadoff.
She sparked an offense that averaged 6.28 runs per game and ace Brandi Lander took care of the rest.
Lander, a Mabank High School graduate, was selected as the tournament’s outstanding pitcher after throwing nearly every inning.
“When she’s on her game she can be a dominant pitcher,” coach Jones said. “None of the teams there could really handle her.”
The Travelers never allowed more than three runs in tournament play and only one team even posed a threat — the eventual runner-up Missouri Sliders, led by offensive most valuable player Caitlin Blose and defensive most valuable player Julia Spicer.
But thanks to a diving, back-handed catch at the fence by center fielder Brooke Jones in the semifinals, the Travelers pulled out a 3-2 victory in extra innings and then went on to win the championship game, 5-3.
“If Brooke doesn’t make that catch we probably wouldn’t have won that game,” coach Jones said.
There were clutch performances throughout World Series play as four Travelers — Wylie outfielder Sierra Holley, Mesquite outfielder Samantha Reynoso, Frisco Liberty third baseman Erin McLeod and Forney High’s Mabary — joined Jordan and Lander on the all-tournament team.
Mabary made a diving catch on a popped-up bunt and doubled a runner off first base in the championship game, while first baseman Macie Tillery scored the winning run in the dramatic semifinal win over the Sliders.
Right fielder Dara Hendon, another savvy defender, also threw out a runner at first to prevent a run from scoring.
“Everybody on the team contributed,” coach Jones said. “The team has been together since 10 and under so they all kind of matured together and know how to react in pressure situations. It was a really good season.”
USSSA 16U Kansas City Freeze Captures Softball Today’s Team of the Year Honors
By Dave Utnik
The legend of Mackenzie Bradley begins with her glove. It should probably be lined in gold. That’s how good she is.
Nothing much gets past the star sophomore, whether she is chasing down fly balls in center field for Lee’s Summit North High School or covering ground at second base for the USSSA Kansas City Freeze U16 travel squad.
“During the summer, she’s the best second baseman we have,” Freeze outfielder Lizzie Aller said. “She stops everything and she hits really well, too.”
In Missouri, where she is affectionately known as “Mack Attack” — a nickname given to her by teammate Ashley Schmidt’s exuberant dad, Jack Furrow — Bradley is an honor roll student and a versatile athlete who also started at guard on the junior varsity basketball team as a freshman.
But softball is her passion and the sport that could one day earn her a college scholarship. That’s her ultimate goal, anyway.
“Mackenzie is awesome. With her at second base and Jordan Bradshaw at shortstop we have so much range in the middle,” Schmidt said. “Mackenzie is one of the best ‘clutch hitters’ I’ve ever seen. When someone is on base, she will bust the game open.”
Bradley has been doing that in Lee’s Summit since coaches Gary Meier and Kevin Bachkora created the Freeze six years ago. But last summer, she introduced herself — and her gold glove — to the rest of the softball nation by earning the offensive most valuable player award at the United State Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) 16U World Series.
And she happily shared the spotlight with the same girls she first took the diamond with.
“I can’t imagine playing for any other team than the Freeze,” said Bradley, who began her travel career with the U12 squad. “Although I have only known most of these girls a few years, I feel like I’ve known them my whole life. Our chemistry on and off the field is key to our success.”
“Winning softball nationals is one of our greatest accomplishments and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with any other group of girls. Every single girl on this team contributes nothing but good things because of the love and passion we share for this sport. We have so much confidence in each other, because there’s always someone there to pick us up when we’re down.”
Made up primarily of sophomores from Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit West, Lee’s Summit North and Ray-Pec High Schools, the Freeze won championships at the MSP Spring Classic, MIAA College Showcase and Buffalo Wild Wings Tournament before sharing the USSSA World Series title with the Oakville Angels.
It is a diverse squad that features one class president (Allison Nill), a Super Citizen recipient (Rachel McKinzie), a soccer star (Bradshaw), a varsity basketball point guard (Kellie Bachkora) and a Class 4 high school softball state champion (Kelsi O’Neill).
“The Freeze 16A is a fantastic team. I joined them two years ago when they added two players, myself and [catcher] Kennedy Merrell, after they had their first tryout since their inception,” Schmidt said. “Allison Nill had been with the team since the beginning, but this fall she decided to quit softball and pursue golf. Allison made the varsity golf team as a sophomore and is an example of how talented a bunch the Freeze 16U are.”
Though their interests and talents vary, the two things Freeze players all have in common are blue and white travel uniform and memories of a championship weekend in Plano, TX.
“They are basically like my family because I see them almost every day,” said Aller, a 4-wheeler fanatic and another member of the original Freeze 10U squad who was selected as the World Series’ defensive most valuable player.
“We did pretty much everything together and once we got to the field we wanted to win. That’s what we were there for. It’s the best year we’ve ever had.”
The friendships that exist beyond the softball field created virtually perfect harmony throughout the summer as the Freeze went 71-16 with 32 shutouts and a collective .301 batting average.
“What was apparent when I arrived was how well the girls worked together, both on the field and off,” said Schmidt, who shares the circle with talented right-hander Sydnie Meier. “Though we go to different schools, it was obvious they had been best friends for a very long time and that each of them are great athletes.”
Chemistry is an important ingredient for the Freeze. When Nill left, coach Meier was very careful about filling the roster spot before ultimately choosing the program’s first slap hitter, Andi Davis.
“We are very happy to have her on the team,” Schmidt said. “After playing with us in our fall tournament it was evident that she is really going to add a new dimension to our offense. Her addition shows that Gary really does a great job picking girls.”
“Aly [Mosier] was the leadoff hitter for years. Then Kelsi O’Neill took over at number one and she has been awesome. Now we have Andi; a slapper that can get on base like 700 percent of the time. Coach really has a great lineup.”
O’Neill broke her high school’s record for on-base percentage last spring and also ignited a well-crafted Freeze lineup that went 12-3 against 18U competition, while Bradshaw and Mosier led the team in triples.
“We’ve had the privilege of having five original players still with us and the majority of the team for three or more years,” Meier said. “We’ve had to add a few players over the years, but we’ve have been very lucky to keep most of the team together.”
The Freeze averaged 5.3 runs per game in going 6-1 at the World Series, while Schmidt, one of six players chosen to the all-tournament team, threw three shutouts and finished the summer with a 0.83 ERA.
Mosier, Bradshaw and Merrell were also chosen to World Series all-tournament team.
“Representing the United States [at the World Series] was the most exciting experience of my life,” said Schmidt, an aspiring Olympian who considers Jennie Finch a role model.
“As we first secured the number one seed and then fought our way to the championship game we were seeing our dream come true. We’ve played against a lot of very good teams here in [Missouri] so I knew we were ready.”
12U ASA Power Surge Receives Softball Today’s Team of the Year Honors
By Fred Myers
Normal, IL - They were the perfect blend of quickness and power — in the pitcher’s circle and at the plate.
No 12-&-under fastpitch softball team in the country had a better mix of talent than Power Surge, which won 99 games and swept through the national championship tournament in Normal, IL to become the ASA Softball Today team of the year.
“We had a record that is almost unbelievable,” coach Scott Berndes said. “There are so many great teams and to be able to be the best in the country is truly amazing.”
With a pitching staff that allowed less than one run per game, Power Surge won everywhere it went during the 2009 season, including a USSSA 14U competition that prepared them for nationals.
A year after they reached nationals as an 11-&-under team, Power Surge was almost unbeatable in 2009.
Of course that had a lot to do with the efforts of pitchers Sara White, Selena Taamilo and Kaylie Hill, who combined for a 0.79 ERA in the circle — creating a power outage for every opposing team.
“We had the best pitching in the country,” Berndes said.
Of course, Power Surge had arguably the best offense, too.
With four left-handed slap hitters — Erin Mario, Anna Barkhimer, Katie Schultz, and Julea Cavazos — constantly getting on base, the girls from San Diego ran the bases like a merry-go-round.
Catcher Carlee Wallace led the team in RBI, but the Power Surge had big hitters throughout a lineup that also featured Rebecca Dvorak, Katie Byrd, Alicia Brown, Tiana Miller, and Abigail Metsch.
“We were one of only four 11U teams to go to the 2008 ASA Nationals and I think the experience really helped us become ASA National Champions this year,” Berndes said.
Power Surge played with the confidence of aspiring champions all summer in winning the Southern California ASA State Tournament, Fresno Force Classic Tournament, Huntington Beach Surf City Tournament, Palm Springs Big League Dreams, Pre-States Revenge Tournament and the Saboba USSSA 14U Pre-Nationals Tournament.
There were few challenges during a 92-7-1 summer of fun, at least until Power Surge ran into the Southern California Jynx at nationals.
After easily defeating the American Liberty Kruzers, Corona Angels, Team Fury, Lady Lasers and Texas Diamonds, Power Surge faced a stern challenge from the Jynx, who climbed out of the losers’ bracket to reach the finals.
Behind a clutch fifth-inning hit from Hill and a two-run double from Dvorak in the international tiebreaker inning, Power Surge rallied from an early deficit to earn a 5-3 victory.
“We played the best of the best,” said Berndes, after his team went 7-0 with five shutouts during the national tournament.
“The teams from Texas and the south were truly outstanding and it made for a difficult run to the championship,” he said. “Normally we high five the girls after a win, but after winning the national championship, I took my time and hugged each girl and told them how great they were.”