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Softball squad on high ‘alert’ for upcoming season

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Members of the Red Alert ’01 softball team are like most other 12-year-old girls.

The one big difference, though: They’re serious about softball.

Not only does Red Alert ’01 practice year-round, each of the 10 girls on the team has an individual hitting coach. The pitchers have pitching coaches.

“I enjoy it,” said first baseman-pitcher Hunter Crain, a Hope resident. “In my spare time, that’s what I do. It’s not easy, but it’s fun. There’s been times that it’s been tough, but that’s what makes you better.”

Red Alert ’01 features pitchers who can throw more than 50 mph from 40 feet, runners who can get from home to first in less than 3 seconds and batters who can hit the ball over regulation college fences (210-foot).

“The key to it is having an understanding of the game,” Red Alert ’01 coach Jeremy Foster said. “It’s the additional work that they put in.”

That individual work has helped the team become successful. Red Alert ’01 has won four tournaments this year and has qualified for the USFA World Series from July 5 to 12 in Panama City, Florida.

“We’ve been playing good as a team together, and we’ve been putting a lot of effort into it,” said second baseman Sierra Norman of Columbus. “We have hitting lessons and pitching lessons, and we work hard at that, and that makes us good as a team. All the hard work is paying off. We’ve done really well this year, and we’re excited about Panama.”

Although Red Alert ’01 qualified for the USFA World Series in the B Division, it played in the A Division in last weekend’s USFA State Tournament at Lincoln Park. The team made it all the way to the finals and led Indy Edge 10-6 before allowing three runs in the sixth and two in seventh to fall 11-10.

“They are the team in the state of Indiana,” Foster said of the Edge. “For our girls to play that well and to have them on the ropes, for a B team, it was certainly an accomplishment. We thought we’d get the competition we were looking for and could compete, so we moved up.”

Red Alert ’01 has come a long way since starting two years ago as a U10 team made up mostly of kids from Columbus. The team branched out last year as a first-year U12 team and now has eight communities represented among the 10 players.

“We had our struggles at times,” Foster said. “This is one of the biggest jumps in fastpitch softball — going from 10-and-under to 12-and-under.”

Softball at the 10U level is played with an 11-inch ball and a 35-foot pitching distance. At 12U, it moves up to a 12-inch ball with a 40-foot pitching distance.

“The other big difference was the maturity of the girls we played,” Foster said. “We faced some girls that were very mature for 13 years old and stronger and bigger than we were. We were competitive, but we certainly faced our struggles. Winning tournaments is awful tough to do as a young 12 team.”

Still, Red Alert ’01 won USFA State Tournament at Lincoln Park last summer to qualify for the World Series. The team will return there in a couple of weeks.

“Standing on third base coaching the other day, coaching in the state championship A game, I was thinking back to less than three years ago,’ Foster said. “Half the girls on the team couldn’t catch a fly ball. (The turnaround) was just remarkable.”

The team is brimming with talent. Third baseman Savannah Harweger of Seymour and center fielder Madyson Foster of Columbus are the first two hitters in the lineup and have better than .600 on-base percentages. No. 3 hitter Haley Mobley of Seymour has two home runs, leads the team in RBIs and is the No. 1 pitcher and shortstop.

“We have two slappers at top of lineup that get down the line in 3 seconds,” Jeremy Foster said. “Then, our 3, 4, 5 and 6 hitters can knock the cover off the ball. We can hit up and down the lineup. It’s a good mix of speed and power, and a lot of that goes into understanding your role and what you’re trying to do because it isn’t easy to do.”

Cleanup hitter Sidney Beier of Edinburgh plays catcher, outfield and a little first base. Norman is the team’s No. 6 hitter and plays second base and right field.

Crain has played a key role at first base and pitching.

“The last two weekends, she has been huge for us on the mound,” Jeremy Foster said.

“We’ve really worked together and come together as a team,” Madyson Foster said. “I think we have good defense. We don’t let a lot of balls get by, and we help our pitcher out. We have a mix of speed, but we can also pound the ball.”

Most of the girls work with Eddie Loweth Jr., who is the head of the Red Alert organization and its hitting instructor. Some also work with Columbus North coach Jerry Burton and Kelsay Lucas, who will be a senior at North.

“I really like to do it,” Madyson Foster said. “You don’t really get tired of it. You’re practicing a lot, but it’s fun. I don’t mind it at all.”

“I think this year has been one of the top years that we’ve had,” Crain said. “Everybody has improved since the beginning of the season. With all the practices, we really improved over the winter.”

The girls say they enjoy playing year-round and aren’t afraid of getting burned out with softball. Madyson Foster got a little break last week when she played volleyball with the East Columbus Volleyball Club in the AAU National Tournament in Florida.

“I like the intensity of (softball),” Madyson Foster said. “I like playing together with your teammates and playing games. We can blow a team out, and the next game, we have to fight hard to win. I think our team can win both ways.”

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to be with my team all winter and not just in the summer season,” Norman said. “I like softball because you’re with your team a lot, and your teammates are your sisters. You also get to work on stuff. There’s always things to work on. We also get to travel around a lot to play in tournaments.”

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