Many of the girls playing in this weekend’s United States Fastpitch Association tournament are just that — girls. But that doesn’t make them rookies.
The 10-and-under Red Alert, from Columbus, is made up of girls approaching double digits in age, and came into being after many of the girls went to the same hitting coach, Eddie Loweth, who coaches the Red Alert 12-and-under squad.
Jeremy Foster, who took his daughter Madyson in for individual batting practice, noticed there was enough talent to fill a team.
Foster and his wife, Kylie, were more than familiar with competitive softball; Jeremy played basketball and baseball at Olivet Nazarene University, while his wife was an All-American softball player at the same school. But what they didn’t realize that “it started this young.”
“It is truly amazing what 10-year-olds can do,” Jeremy said. “They know how to play the game at a high level. At this age it is just getting that out of them consistently. That is always the hard part with 10-year-olds.”
As far as Foster is concerned, Columbus is the mecca of youth softball in Indiana. More than 100 teams of girls ranging from 8 to 18 from the Hoosier state and Kentucky are filling up hotels in the area.
“This is a nice central location to bring girls into from the surrounding counties, and the facilities here are nice enough to host a lot of these types of tournaments that bring competition here from all over,” he said. “The facilities here make it so we are able to not have to travel and play most of our tournaments right here. It’s nice to be from here and draw good teams to here and play.”
Red Alert player Sidney Beier, a catcher from Edinburgh, said the experience has been a laid back one.
“It’s good that none of the parents yell when you do something wrong,” Beier said. “If someone messes up they just say ‘it’s OK, get it next time.’”
After winning back-to-back USFA tournaments in Hope and Columbus, Red Alert came into the weekend the No. 1 overall seed but lost 14-1 to the Indiana Gators, primarily based out of Franklin.
“This was probably the worst we have played all year,” said coach Foster.
For Red Alert to win the tournament, they will have to come up through the losers’ bracket today.
“We have some work to do but that is kind of the trend of this team,” Foster said. “We lose early and somehow get back to the top.”
The Gators came into the tournament with experience.
“Since last September, we have played 94 games and almost 20 tournaments, which is intense for young ladies like this,” said Gator coach Eric Linton. “But we keep it positive and they keep having fun.
“They are little munchkins with a lot of energy and excitement who love to play.”
Another 10-and-under team with lots of experience coming in was the West Newton Blaze out of Decatur Township in Marion County coached by Shawn Shafer.
The Blaze went 43-3 last year and won the USFA Fastpitch 8-and-under World Series. Shafer has been at softball tournaments all over the country, and he finds Columbus to run some of the best.
“It’s neat for the kids playing here,” Shafer said. “We were here playing in the tournament at Lincoln a few weeks back and one at Edinburgh before that. The girls have gotten to know some of these other teams a little bit.”
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