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What To Watch For At USA Elite Select's World Fastpitch Championship

USA Elite Select's 2nd Annual World Fastpitch Championship promises to be one of the preeminent events of the year attracting teams from 32 states including international Team Mexico. FloSoftball will LIVE stream July 13-16 fields 1-4 at Shawnee Mission Softball Complex and July 13-14 fields 22-25 at Blue Valley Rec Complex.

The WFC united so many of the game's best from all three levels: amateur, college, and professional. We brought back eight former elite players who are now working in the softball industry to speak to current athletes on how to use their platforms. - Jami Lobpries, USA Elite Select Vice President
FloSoftball will cover bracket games and 12U, 14U, 16U, 18U WFC Championship games.


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What To Watch For At USAES 18U


Batbusters Stith
After winning the 2014 and '15 PGF 18U National Championships, Mike Stith's team lost 12 key players including impact college players like OF Amanda Lorenz (Florida) and IF Sydney Romero (Oklahoma) so it wasn't too big of a surprise that the team failed to capture a third straight PGF title, finishing 33rd. Stith is excited about the young players who are competing hard and playing with a lot of energy. No. 1 Hot 100 2017 player 2B/SS Bri Perez (UCLA) and No. 5 SS Taylon Snow (Auburn) have had little to no down time juggling USA JO team and competing with the Batbusters their final year. This may be an opportunity for up and comers Maya Brady (2019, UCLA) and Ariana Quinones (2018, Washington) to step up at the WFC. Natalie Lugo (Florida) and now senior Vanessa Foreman (Arizona) add depth in the circle with the power in the offense coming from 2018 C/DP Terra McGowan (Arizona State) and 2017 IF Jocelyn Alo (Oklahoma), one of the top mashers in the nation.

DeMarini Aces
Ryan Taylor has built the Aces into one of the top programs in the middle of the country and has expanded to the 16U and 14U divisions allowing his 18U team to draw from within more outstanding Power 5 talent. Last summer the Aces finished 9th at PGF Nationals and finished 84-20 thanks to a potent offense that averaged .310 at the plate with more than 40 home runs. Enroute to a top 10 finish at Nationals, the Aces knocked off three teams that finished in the top 10 as well. The senior class is loaded with five Hot 100 players: P/1B Olivia Kinsey (Oregon), P Madison Preston (Alabama), 1B/OF Callie Martin (Missouri), C/MIF Nicole Duncan (Arkansas) and MIF Kendyll Bailey (Missouri). Newcomers to watch include 2018 C Kasey Shell (Baylor) and 2019 OF Lou Gilbert (Baylor).

Georgia Impact - Lewis
Patrick Lewis's team went 58-9 last year and has a ton of talent--out of 17 players now there are 15 SEC commits and one player going to the Big Ten and another to the ACC--but the coach admits, "We were young and it showed in crucial moments." With a year of experience under their belts, Impact won the So Cal Invitiational building towards a strong summer. There's certainly no doubt the Impact team can compete with the elite teams--last year the Georgia team had wins over three Top 20 teams in the FAB 50 18U rankings. Hannah Adams (Florida) and Ashley Morgan (Tennessee) return from injuries and the players added to the roster are a Who's Who of Hot 100 players: 2019 C Julia Cottrill (Florida), 2017 P Ava Tillmann (Ole Miss), 2017 1B Kyra Lockhart (Alabama), 2018 2B/OF Kloyee Anderson (Alabama) and 2018 OF Savannah Stewart (LSU).

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Atlanta Vipers Gold
Dickey Vallery's team did well enough this year, finishing 2nd at USA Softball JO Cup and 33rd at PGF Nationals, and the team got stronger on the field and in the dugout. The coaching staff has added Sharon Perkins, the four-time ACC Coach of the Year, and brings in strong players like Chooch Carroll, the 2020 Auburn commit who's rated as one of the Top 5 players in her class. Along with her big bat, 2019 3B Terrica Williams (Southern Miss), 2019 2B/1B Katie Perkins (North Carolina) and 2018 SS/C Kelsey Bennett (Virginia Tech) join a strong returning core that includes 2017 P Keara Napoli (Georgia) and 2018 IF Savana Sikes (Auburn).

OK Athletics 18 Gold Madden
The Athletics had a strong season last year going 64-11 with a 2nd place finish at ASA Gold, 9th place at Super 48 in Colorado, and a 33rd place finish at PGF Nationals falling to powerhouse So Cal A's in 11 innings. Every starter returns and the pitching staff is even stronger with the pickup of Chenise Delce, a 2018 Tulsa commit. Key returners include 2018 CF Chyenne Factor (Oklahoma State), 2017 SS Sydnee Ramsey (Kansas), and 2017 2B Kennedy Jackson (Oklahoma City) give the Athletics' a strong middle part of the line-up.

OC Batbusters - Lara
The massive OC Batbuster organization has 11 teams playing at the 18U level and expect Clay Lara's team to be one of the best in the country. They are competitive in every tournament they plays in. The key to this Batbuster squad is its stability and consistency in playing efficient defense. Leading the way are a pair of 2017 commits who have played at a high level for several years and both are headed to Loyola Marymount: MIF Maddie Flores and C/3B Molly Gumbo. Two other solid senior infielders to watch are Kiana Cisneros (Boston College) and Maxine Ortega (Columbia). Watch for spark plug Stella Bennett (2019, UCLA) to jumpstart their offense much like her older sister Chip Bennett.

Tulsa Elite Jacks
Jeff Filali's Tulsa Elite program has had a history of producing top 16U teams including the 2012 version that was the ASA/USA 16A National Champs, the 2015 squad which finished 5th at PGF Nationals, and this year's team which took 5th at the USA Softball JO Cup. This year's team will compete almost exclusively at 18U except for PGF 16U Nationals and a few other events. This fall the Elite went 20-1 and won the 18U title by going 8-0 at the ASA Heartland Showcase. Key returners are five elite players: P/OF Mary Collins (2018, Oklahoma State), C/OF Taylor Tuck (2018, Oklahoma State), SS Jolie Fish (2018, Wisconsin), OF/P Rylie Boone (2019, Oklahoma), P/3B Paige Knight (2020, Oklahoma) along with a pickup from another Elite team MIF/OF Gracie Jarvis (2019, Oregon State).


What To Watch For At USAES 16U


Texas Bombers Gold
Bill Jones' Sudden Impact team merged with the Texas Bombers Gold 16U team to form a young and dynamic squad that can crush the ball with the best of them. Infielders Marianna Torres, a Texas A&M commit and 2020 Hot 100 selection, and Chloe Cobb, a 2019 commit to Tech Tech, are explosive on offense and playmakers on defense. In 2016, the Bombers were National Champions at ASA 16U Gold, placed 5th at Colorado Super 32 Power Pool and placed in the Top 10 at the USA Softball JO Cup. Players to watch include 2020 Hot 100 honoree IF Crystal Davila, OF Anna Jones (2019, LSU), IF Campbell Selman (2019, Baylor), IF/OF Kayman Courtney (2019, Kansas), OF Lourdes Bacon (2020, uncommitted).

OC Batbusters Lara/Portesi
Several talented players from Mark Campbell's 14U team move up and will merge with freshmen that played on Smith's team. Pitcher Julia Cabral (2019, Colorado State) is one that was with Campbell last year and she has pitched well this season, clocking as high as 67 mph on the gun. Expect 1B/OF Izzy Nieblas (2019, Maine) to be stellar on offense.

Atlanta Vipers Moore
Marty Moore's Vipers team won the USA Softball JO Cup in its hometown of Atlanta last summer and some feel the team is even stronger this year after it concluded its season with a 46-9-3 record. The Vipers have added more depth to the pitching staff and more pop to its already potent offense. Returners include C/3B Charla Echols (2019, Michigan State), P/UT Briana Butler (2018, Duke), 1B/OF Adia Polk (2018, Troy) and OF/UT Kylie Vannavong (2018, Kennesaw State). Key pickups include 1B/OF Kayla Davis (2018, Alabama), IF Trinity Ingleston (2018, Georgia State), P/1B Tracy Mosley (2018, Howard) and C/3B Hollyann Lott (2019, uncommitted).

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KC Gold
KC Gold returns nine of its 11 players from last year's team which went 60-14 and finished 3rd in the USA Elite Select World Fastpitch Championship and 5th at the ASA Gold Nationals. KC Gold and Originals CK, also from Kansas City, were first-year 16U's in 2016 and were the dominant teams in the area. Their pitchers, Reggie Kanagawa (2018, BYU) and Alana Vawter (2019, Texas), guested for Jersey Intensity-Hawkins and helped the team to a 3rd place finish at PGF 16U Nationals. The two outstanding hurlers are together on KC Gold for 2017 and hope to lead the team deep into the week at PGF and WFC. The defense is solid behind 2B Payton Minnis (2018) and SS Kelsie Lewis (2019), both of whom are headed to Missouri State.

OC Batbusters Campbell
After finishing 3rd at PGF, the Batbusters 02 team won the PGF Ultimate Challenge in Salinas, California and made it to the quarterfinals at IDT Boulder and the DeMarini Invitational. The power-hitter to watch for is No. 2 player in the 2020 Hot 100, Zaida Puni (uncommitted), who has an explosive bat and could be the top long-ball threat in the age division. She hit .458 with a 1.042 slugging percentage including four home runs at PGF Nationals last year against elite pitching. Speaking of pitching, Morgan Smith, No. 13 in the Hot 100 and an LSU commit, is a 5-foot-10 great athlete with mid-60s speed and good off-speed pitches. SS Tiare Jennings, ranked No. 17 in the Hot 100, has committed to Oklahoma and is a three-sport athlete who is one of the top defenders in the country. Other FloSoftball 2020 Hot 100 standouts include Giulia "G" Koutsoyanopulos, No. 22 in the Hot 100 and an Arizona commit, who is a standout defender at first base and hits for power; OF Emily Cazares, No. 62 in the Hot 100 and a Tennessee commit, who is a natural lefty with 2.6 speed home to first and C Camille Marin, No. 96 ranked in the Hot 100 and who is an advanced catcher with strong blocking skills and pop in her bat. Carin won a PGF 12U National Championship and could be a force in helping Mark Campbell's team win it all this year.

Gametime Stars Gold - Williams
Coach Wes Williams took the Gametime Stars Gold team into its second year of 16U play after impressive finishes at the USSSA 16U Texas Nationals (2nd). Based in Oklahoma City, the Stars Gold team lost a pair of D1 players to its 18U Gold team, but returns two outstanding talents in MIF Karli Petty (2019, Oklahoma State) and P/UT Molly Rainey (2019, Central Florida) while picking up P/1B Kaylee Hewitt (2019, Texas Tech) who comes in from New Mexico.

Texas Blaze Bonola
The Texas Blaze Bonola team, coached by Nate Rodriguez, is always a threat to win any tournament because of a strong and deep pitching staff that includes Kamryn Caldwell (2019, Texas Tech), Caroline Cagle (2020, North Carolina), Kailey Brown (2019, Belmont) and Malea Rodriguez (2019, Texas Southern). Complementing the hurlers is an athletic group of position players, most of whom can play several spots. Two to watch are MIF Sydney Belvin (2019, McNeese State) and MIF Nicolette Ramirez (2019, Lamar). Scouts also say they love this team because of the energy and chemistry bring to the field.

What To Watch For At USAES 14U


Texas Impact Gold
Great athleticism is the calling card for Cheyenne Mata's Impact Gold team which tied for 13th at PGF Nationals last summer and didn't miss a beat in the fall going 30-1-1. Top performances included winning the Arizona Shootout and going undefeated at Ronald McDonald and the Mariucci Invitational. The Impact is deep with players who can play multiple positions and many can run 2.8 home-to-first or faster. Six on the team are triple threat slappers who can dominate the small game led by UT JaNaiya Thomas, a do-it-all player who was one of the first 2021s to commit when she verballed to Houston. She has 2.65 home-to-first speed while OF Haleigh Carter (2021); MIF/OF Ryleigh Mata (2021) and OF Mya Holmes (2021) all have speed in the 2.7 range. Each of the trio is getting heavy interest in-state; in addition, Mata has a pair of offers and Holmes is looking at SEC schools like LSU and Texas A&M. The pitching runs three-deep with Megan Lee (2020), a power pitcher who throws in the mid-60s; Raelin Chaffin (2021), who hits 63 mph on the gun and has Big 12 offers and SEC interest and lefty spin pitcher Madyson Blake (2020), who was rated No. 174 in the 2020 class by FloSoftball and has several offers already.

Diamond Sports Hotshots Gold - Dumezich
More than one nationally prominent club coach feels Mel Dumezich's could be the top team in Texas but the humble Hotshots head man says he thinks his team is more in the 15-25 range. Time will tell, but you can't argue with how the team is shaping up for 2017. Dumezich admits his team had a disappointing run at PGF Nationals, but is so respected that the team was invited back again this year. The Hotshots did show a lot of promise as a first year 14U team in 2016, finishing in the Top 15 at the Colorado Sparkler Power Pool and capturing the title at the TCS Bomber Shootout. The squad went 55-15 last spring and summer and closed the year with a fury, going 30-4. The returning talent is formidable, led by P Hailey Hudson (2020, Texas); C Chloe Gomez (2020), who ranked in the top 10 nationally in RBI at the high school level and OF Brionna Warren (2020, Texas A&M) who Dumezich says "will be a top five player in the nation by her senior year." Along with the strong returning core, new blood that will make the team dangerous includes 1B Ella Casas (2021), a daunting power hitter who recently clubbed two homers in one game; SS Zoie Garcia (2021), who can hit for power or lay down a bunt, and P Sydney Macias (2020) a righty with good spin and placement who can also swing the bat.

Texas Bombers Gold
Shaun LaRue's Bombers team had Top 10 finishes at the USA Select Elite tourney (5th) and The Top Gun Invitational (7th) last year and tied for 33rd at PGF Nationals, but looks stronger than in 2016 as the pitching and defense are improved while the bats look to be as prolific as they usually are. The Bombers have experience--12 of the players are 2020's--and talent including six standouts who return from last year. CF Ashlee LaRue (2020) can drive the ball gap-to-gap and batting in the 2-hole uses her speed to set the table for the sluggers. She is attracting interest from Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Texas, Mizzou and Tennessee. The power is generated by 3B Aaliyah Ortiz (2020), who hit 11 home runs last year while maintaining a mid-.400 average. Another top prospect to watch is 2020 SS and lead-off batter Jordan McClain, who has been clocked at 2.59 home-to-first and is hearing from Power 5 schools. Jayden "JJ" Smith (2020) is a tall, muscular catcher who is getting recruited by Texas, Texas A&M, Mizzou and UTSA.

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Tulsa Elite Prospects
The pipeline of talent for the Tulsa Elite organization just keeps getting filled and Jeff Filali has two good 14U programs with the Prospects team being one that can compete with anyone. The Oklahoma-based team has been playing 18U and 16U all spring after building an impressive resume last summer as a 13U squad, winning the USSSA 14U Nationals in Florida, taking 3rd at the ASA 14A State Championship. Anchors on the team include 2021 SS Ally Sockey, who is being recruited by Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 schools; 2021 P/IF Drew Riddle, who brings big home run power from the left side and can pitch in the upper 50s; 2020 righty hurler Makayla Williams, who has good movement and hits 60 mph on the gun and 2020 lefty slapper Auryana Johnson, a center fielder who is starting to get a lot of recruiting interest.

Gametime Stars Walde
The Gametime Stars team came over from the Oklahoma Ultimate organization and has a long history of winning in national tourneys. In 2016 as the Ultimate 02, the team went undefeated at the PGF Qualifier in New Mexico and was competitive against second-year 14U teams at PGF. This spring, Bobby Walde's team has looked strong against top programs in events like the Texas Glory Friendly held in March and Top Gun Invitational, and the Colorado Fireworks/Sparkler Power Pool. Leading the talented team are a trio of 2020 players that could be committed by the time summer play starts: SS/3B Aaliyah Brown; C/OF Whitney Walde, and MIF Kristen Whitehouse. In the circle watch for 2021 LHP Morgan Max and 2020 pitcher Hannah Williams.

Iowa Premier Black
Greg Dickel's organization has become one of the best in the Midwest--the 18U team won PGF Nationals Platinum last summer--and the talent is lining up nicely now at all age divisions. The Premier Black team, coached by Marty Maynes, is a combination of players from the team that was ranked in FloSoftball's 12U FAB 50 last year and the 14U group that finished 17th at PGF Platinum. The team has received an invite to PGF Nationals again as well as the WFC--both at 14U--and is led by 2020 P Jena Lawrence, considered of the top uncommitted players in Iowa. She throws 65 mph with a good change, drop and rise ball and is hearing from schools like Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern. Another 2020 to watch is 3B/P Denali Loecker whi is a top power hitter. The Premier features of the top young slappers in the Midwest in Elia McVery, a 2021 MIF who has also played for the 18U team this spring at times. She works with former college and NPF star Emily Allard.

Ashburn Shooting Stars
Shawn Gallagher's Virginia-based program is up-and-coming and has been impressive with a battery combo of Ivy Rosenberry (2020) who throws in the low 60s with a biting curve. She's also an excellent hitter and could be a dual threat at a high level D1 program. C/2B Maddie Olivas is one of the fastest rising 2021s and has clocked a 1.78 pop time; she also was the defensive MFP of the USSSA All-American game. Nine players on the team have hit .400 or close to it this spring and are being recruited. Two more to watch are 3B/C Kara Tokarchic, an athletic 2020 with a 60-plus overhand velocity speed and 2021 IF Sidney Torres who is a prodigious power hitter who smashed a 290 foot shot earlier this year.

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