While football hits its stride at all levels, elite club softball will be played in Crown Point, Indiana, at the PGF Labor Day Showcase. Games will take place Saturday through the title games on Monday.
FloSoftball will be live-streaming 50 games including the championships and, if you need a softball fix like we do, here are five big reasons why you should tune in to watch outstanding club softball this holiday weekend. *NOTE: We will be streaming fields 4, 5, 8 and 9 only. Make sure to check out the streaming schedule.
1. Bandits: they're champions all over the place.
It was a magical summer for Bill Conroy's Beverly Bandit's program. Headquartered in Chicago, but with players literally from all corners of the country, the Bandits pulled off a unique feat this summer, becoming the first program to win both the 18U and 16U titles at the prestigious PGF National Championships.
The pipeline is loaded with young talent and the Bandits have arguably the strongest pitching depth of any organization with blue chip prospects in the circle like Montana Fouts (2018, Alabama commit who led the Bandits-Ketelhut team to the 16U title), Sydney Supple (2019, Northwestern), Hope Straight (2019, Ohio State), Riley Frizell (2020, Missouri), Keri Munn (2021, Auburn), and many more.
The Bandits are the hot organization, but as Conroy joked recently, "You're only as good as your last game," and many will be watching to see how good the returning teams are.
With eight teams taking the field from the Bandits organization alone, you'll see the next generation of top talent, which leads us to . . .
2. There's talent from all over.
The Bandits hosted the prestigious DeMarini Invitational this summer and had teams from 21 states -- from Washington to Florida -- and though the Labor Day Showcase won't be that widespread geographically, there will still be top teams to watch, especially some of the heavyweights close to home.
Gerry Quinn's Illinois Chill always represents the Land of Lincoln well and has three teams competing. Keep an eye on a pair of two more Illinois teams with talent: the Sparks from Orland and the Wasco Diamonds.
Other Midwest programs to watch including Donny Dreher's Michigan Finesse teams (16U and 14U), the organization that produced Amanda Chidester, and Warren Wolfe's Ohio Outlaws team which also includes a squad from Pennsylvania.
There are also teams from Minnesota, Virginia, and even New Jersey -- Kevin O'Donnell's 16U and 14U teams which always have many D-1 standouts -- and should be one of the favorites to win it all come Monday's final games.
3. Get your softball fix.
Admit it. After a long but fulfilling summer that saw one of the most exhilarating Women's College World Series ever -- as Oklahoma topped Florida, including in the 17-inning marathon that many feel was one of the greatest games of all time at any level -- along with club national championships and the NPF title recently won by the Scrap Yard Dawgs, you're having softball withdrawals.
Sure, it's great to be with family and friends and enjoy great food on the barbecue and a day off from work and school, but don't you find yourself having withdrawals . . . just even a tiny bit?
The PGF Labor Day Showcase is an unofficial kickoff for the 2017-2018 season as club players get back into competition and showcasing their talents. The road to the 2018 National Championships starts this weekend, and we'll get our first look at revised and revamped teams, especially the host Bandits.
We'll get to see who are the players of the future that will be recruited by your favorite college teams, which leads us to . . .
4. Colleges can't come -- but they'll be watching!
The shrinking recruiting window has made some events untouchable as far as coaches leaning over a fence in person to eye a potential recruit.
But that doesn't mean they won't be watching.
Trust us when we say that college coaches LOVE the fact they can evaluate and watch recruitable talent without leaving the comfort of their university office, or even their living room, as FloSoftball live-streams key games involving teams and players being highly sought after.
If you're a coach looking for your next infielder, catcher, or shut-down pitcher, 50 games at the Labor Day Showcase gives you a lot of options -- especially when you can watch multiple games at once!
And if you're a player, you can take satisfaction in knowing that just because you don't see familiar faces wearing their college colors in person, you are being watched!
So if you're not participating in the Labor Day Showcase, there's another reason to watch -- your peers are also, in effect, your competition for the coveted dollars to play at the next level, and you'll be wanting to "scout" those out there who are vying for the same attention of coaches that you're after.
This is a great opportunity to measure your game and skills against proven and fast-rising players going to Big Ten, SEC, and ACC schools. For once, you -- the player -- get to wear the cap of the coach and compare yourself to the rest of your age group.
5. There will be winners.
Often, showcases are blah when there's nothing on the line. That's why, more and more, you're seeing top fall showcases play to a championship or do a hybrid like the PGF Ultimate Showcase -- also being streamed by FloSoftball, at the end of September in Salinas, California -- does where Saturday focuses on showcasing players and then in the evening the elimination games begin.
So it is at Bill Conroy's event over Labor Day -- it has "Showcase" in the name and, yes, it's about getting reps and experience for the younger players. But starting Sunday evening at 6 PM CST, it gets serious as the last two rounds of games kick off the single elimination process and Monday will see winners advancing to try to win it all in the noon games on fields 4 and 5.
Coaches especially like this title run pressure as it shows how prospects play when there's pressure in playing for something. When the chance to win a championship is on the line, the play is elevated and the mood gets serious . . . and it makes for a better tournament.
Everyone loves to see who will be the champion, even if it's a showcase, and with the caliber of teams and players in this event there is sure to be some drama and excitement making it well worth watching no matter what your Labor Day weekend plans are!
*Click here to see the complete schedule of games. Be sure to sign up ASAP to make sure you don't miss a single pitch of the 50 live-streamed games!