Today, we head to Georgia to meet the team that won the ASA 18U Gold National Championship and learn why the coach won’t be in the dugout this year and then cover two dozen verbal commits from the last week or two. Finally, we ask YOU, our fantastic readers, to send in your nominations for the top players in the Class of 2014…
TEAM PROFILE: ATLANTA VIPERS-GILES
Imagine you win a National Championship in anything… what would you do next? Go for a repeat? Look for a better gig? Go to Disneyland?
For Greg Giles, who led the Atlanta Vipers-Giles team to the ASA 18U Gold National Championship this summer, he’s doing none of the above.
Not to say he won’t be following it, he’ll just be taking a year-long sabbatical from coaching to go follow his twin daughters, Kaci and Jesse, play collegiate softball as the 18-year-olds will play their freshman seasons at Morehead State (Ky.) and Lee Univ. (Tenn.), respectively.
“I’ll still be involved with the Vipers,” Giles told us this morning, “just not on the field coaching. Greg Jennings will coach the 18 Gold team, I play on helping with things throughout the year—like the Legacy Tournament next July—but I’m looking forward to spending Saturdays this fall watching my daughters play.”
Giles has been with the Vipers for four years and led the organization to the ASA 18 Gold title this year with an exciting 3-2 win over the Wagner’s Gold team (read about the championship game here).
But the team didn’t come out of the blue to do it; the Vipers had finished fifth the year before and fourth in 2011 as a 16U team. Giles felt the experience playing in those earlier tournaments helped prepare his team for this year’s championship run.
“We felt the older you get, the more the pressure goes away,” he explained. “You’ve gotten used to playing in front of coaches and it’s not as tough as before. Our girls never flinched—I think we only had two errors in the whole tournament.”
Handling pressure was key as was the Vipers team staying focused on the prize.
“What made this year so great,” continued the coach, “was not just the talent level the team had, it was the way we went to Nationals and how the players policed themselves. Whether it was putting the head on the pillow at 11 pm every night or drinking a minimum of five waters a day, they knew they had a chance to win it all and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”
The title-winning team was experienced too: 13 of the players were seniors including two pitchers who were lights out good.
“Megan Betsa, who’s now at Michigan, was pretty phenomenal,” stated Giles. “No one could get a good swing on the ball and over the last five weeks she didn’t give up back-to-back hits.””
“Sam Martin, who’s a freshman at College of Charleston now, was also very steady all year.
Handing the keys to the Vipers Gold team over to Jennings doesn’t mean the cupboard is necessarily bare. The one returning 2014 player just happens to be one of the best seniors in the nation: Meghan Gregg, an infielder who’s committed to Tennessee.
“Meghan was our shortstop and she’s not only fast, she’s quick,” Giles continued. “Her arm strength is great and she has a very high softball IQ. What makes her most dangerous, though, is her ability to hit. She’s a converted righty and she picked up everything on the left side in a year so she’s still improving.”
“Meghan is 5-foot-10, but she can do it all: push, drag bunt, slap and has the power to hit the ball over the fence. She was our lead-off hitter and could beat you in so many ways.”
Like many softball coaches, Giles’ experience started off in baseball. He played at Gadsden State Community College (Ala.) and Georgia State. When his playing career was over “I always found a way to stay it and when the girls began playing softball it was a natural progression to go into coaching.”
The Vipers, a long-standing organization with a solid track-record of success, has two teams per age group at the 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18U levels. The 10U teams, for example, will have one first year and one second year at that age level.
“Our goal, like most organizations, is to find a pathway for the girls and their families to play high-end competition as well as exposure to regional and national college coaches.”
Coach Giles explains that softball in the South has its advantages and disadvantages.
“While the West Coast has had years and years of club ball, you have to understand that in the South slowpitch has just left the last six or seven years. What the South does have is a strong talent-driven base and like in football, where a Dad will instill in his son the love of his favorite team, girls and their parents now have this same type of passion towards softball as the boys do towards football. The level of commitment, both in time and money, is great now.”
“A quick story,” the coach father of two related. “Two years ago, Lisa Fernandez came out one of our tournaments and I drove her back to the airport. She’s recruiting for UCLA and said, ‘You know, with our tradition of winning you think it’d be easy to get girls to go out West, but it’s not the case anymore. Your dads are doing a good job of getting the players to stay home and play in the South.’”
*** The All-American Sports Academy-Merrida team based out of Tracy, Calif. has a lot of talent including Pac 12 players like OF Cherish Burks (2015, Oregon) who was with the Grapettes before and P Bubba Nickles (2016, UCLA), who we recently profiled (Daily Update 09.13.13)
The latest commitment for AASA is 2015 OF/SS Jessica Garcia, who’s headed to Oregon State.
We spoke to Head Coach Bryan Merrida today and he said of Jessica that “she was recruited by OSU to be an outfielder, where she for us although she plays shortstop in high school.
“Jessica’s tall and lanky and runs like the wind. It seems like her strides are five feet long! She’s also a good slapper with power and possesses a strong arm in the outfield.”
She joins another AASA 2015 outfielder in committing to the Beavers… the first was Shelby Weeks.
*** Firecrackers-Blanco Head Coach Jeff Blanco says his 18U team has a commitment in SS/3B Kaylee Delgarn who has verballed to Villanova.
“Villanova saw her last summer and caught their eye,” says the coach. “She took an official visit to the Philadelphia school the weekend of September 14-15 and committed on the trip after she was offered just prior to going there.”
“Kaylee is a very strong infielder with great range and a strong arm,” says Blanco. “She also has a very powerful bat.”
*** We profiled the Illinois Chill Gold team on Monday and another Chill 18U team, this one coached by Brian Edwards, also produces great-student athletes. One that’s committed recently is 2014 pitcher Taylor Langtry who’s headed to Bucknell.
Gerry Quinn, who heads the Illinois Chill organization, says of Taylor:
“She has worked extremely hard to become a D1 pitching recruit. She has excellent movement and changes speeds well. Taylor was looking at a couple of D1 opportunities, but recently visited Bucknell and fell in love with the school and campus.”
“Quality of education was a huge factor in Taylor’s decision. Bucknell is able to offer more than just a D1 softball opportunity, it offers a world-class education and that fits her needs perfectly.”
*** OF Ari Burns of the So Cal A’s-Sota team has moved up from the 16U level and is already making an impression.
Last week in a double-header against the Explosion she hit a home run that cleared the fence, all the more impressive when you realize she was the youngest player on the field.
It led Head Coach Anothony Sota to do something unique.
I said, ‘Welcome to 18s,’ and gave her the game ball, which I’ve never done before,” he explained.
No wonder then, that several schools were after her, but last week she finalized her college choice when she committed to Cal State Fullerton.
“Fullerton had offered her about two months ago,” continued Coach Sota,” and they’ve seen her a lot. I’m friends with the coaches there and they liked her even before she came on my team. Last Wednesday at 6:15 pm she was talking with them while I was teaching my outfielding class and committed. Ari wanted to stay local because she wanted to stay closer to her family.”
As for her playing skills, her coach is high on the sophomore rightfielder.
“She’s definitely a true utility player, she’s so athletic she can do whatever she wants. Ari is strong… let’s put it this way: I brought her up from 16U because she’s a strong kid and I really see a bright future for her.”
*** Several more verbals to report, listed alphabetically:
— P Chloe Braun (2015, George Washington)… Gold Coast Hurricanes
— P/OF Tucker Caraway (2015, South Alabama)… Firecrackers-Rosales
— P Kristen Clark (2014, Texas)… Firecrackers-May
— IF Amanda Doyle (2015, LSU)… So Cal Choppers-Shipman/Ziese
— C Hayden Ellis (2015, Marshall)… Ohio Nightmare Gold
— P Brynne Fitzpatrick (2015, Cal-Berkeley)… San Jose Lady Sharks
— IF Avery Grimes (2015, Texas-Arlington)… Firecrackers-Rosales
— P/1B Natalie Helmich (2016, James Madison)… Wagner’s Sports 55
— OF Elizabeth Humes (2016, Radford)… Georgia Gals
— C Maddy Kim (2015, Army)… San Jose Sting
— 3B Shannon Legacki (2015, Presbbyterian)… Florida Power Black
— SS Alesha Mann (2014, Georgia Southern)… Georgia Gals
— P/3B Lena Mayer (2014, UC Santa Barbara)… KG Hitters
— IF Morcan McCallum (2016, Kentucky)… Firecrackers-Rosales
— C/IF Megan Nordin (2015, Cal Poly)… San Jose Sting
— IF/OF Maddison Smith (2014, Dartmouth)… Texas Glory
— OF Olivia Tamewitz (2015, Ole Miss)… Heritage Generals
— P Tara Thacker (2014, Northern Illinois)… Ohio Lasers Gold
— C/SS Ashley Tinsman (2015, Maine)… Polar Crush Gold
— IF Llesenia Torres (2014, Long Beach State)… Sorcerer Gold
— P Amber Van Duyse (2015, Murray State)… Bats Academy Fastpitch
HOT 100 PROSPECTS: CLASS OF 2014
We’re working on a list of the top senior prospects and will be announcing who we think are the top players in the ’14 class and are taking nominations.
If you’d like to put in a plug for a player, send in your info to us at email@example.com. We’ll take stats, honors, accomplishments, recruiting info, photos… whatever you got!
If you’d like to submit information, forward to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow us on twitter at @SS_Softball.