Macy Weeks said making any national softball tournament is tough.
But the players around here make it seem easy.
At least nine current high school softball players or recent graduates will compete later this month in various national softball tournaments on different sides of the country.
Weeks, a left fielder for Northwest Whitfield’s Georgia High School Association Class 4A state championship team last fall, is on the Tennessee Fury 18 Gold squad out of Chattanooga. She said most of the players are either from South Georgia or Alabama. The team will compete in the Amateur Softball Association’s 18-and-under gold division tournament in Clearwater, Fla., starting today with the opening ceremonies.
She isn’t the only local player in the same tournament.
In fact, she isn’t even the only Lady Bruin.
Northwest graduate Emily Boyd is on the Tennessee Fury ‘95 team, which also will compete in the ASA’s 18-gold division tournament. Bayli Cruse, who will be a senior for the Lady Bruins and hit the walkoff home run to win the Class 4A state title last October, is on Boyd’s team.
Boyd called the ASA “the premiere softball association to play in.” There’s an 18-A division and an 18-gold division. The 18-A division allows college players, Boyd said, while the 18-gold division doesn’t. Still, Boyd, who will play softball at Ole Miss after earning a full-ride athletic scholarship, believes there are tons of future college players like herself in the gold division.
“In all other divisions except for 18-gold, there are state qualifiers and each state has a different number of berths,” she said. “It’s mainly all Division-I players who play in the gold division.”
The 18-gold division has regional and territorial tournaments throughout the spring and summer for teams to qualify into the national tournament. Different regions and territories account for a different number of berths — dependent on past success — and the maximum number of teams in the tournament is 76. Qualifying tournaments were held through the first full weekend in July.
Dalton’s Allie Blackwood, Christian Heritage’s Rebecca Leonard, North Murray’s Megan Pittman and Northwest’s Colbie Thomas and Hannah Godfrey play for the Georgia Force Elite, and the team also qualified for the ASA Nationals 18-gold division. The squad competed in the ASA’s 16-gold division last summer.
Blackwood is making her third consecutive appearance in an ASA national tournament. She was on last year’s team, which she said finished in the top 20, and two years ago was on the East Cobb Bullets, who were in the 16-gold division, and Blackwood said the team finished in the top 40.
She said next summer would be her last to play for a travel team, and it would have to be in the 18-A division where college players are allowed. Blackwood will play next spring at Austin Peay State University in Clarksdale, Tenn.
“There’s always a lot of teams from around the state,” Blackwood said. “If you make it to nationals, you’re obviously really good. Being able to play in 18-gold is cool, and this is the last time before I go off to college.”
Fellow recent graduate Mykeah Johnson is on the Tennessee Fury ’94 team playing in the ASA’s 18-A division tournament, which begins next Sunday in Salem, Va. As of Monday, the tournament’s team list included 76 squads. Boyd said Ashley Connor is on the Tennessee Fury ’96, which will compete at the Premier Girls Fastpitch national tournament, which begins next Sunday in Irvine, Calif.
None of the local players or high school coaches knew of anyone else who was competing in a nationals tournament.
Boyd’s teams — prior to the Chattanooga-based Fury, she played on a Calhoun travel squad — have gone to nationals the past five years. Twice the Fury tied for fifth. Weeks’ team reached nationals since the 12-and-under division and finished in the top 10 once.
Still, Weeks said it’s tough to even earn a spot in the event.
“You’re one of the top-rated teams in the nation if you get to go to that tournament,” she said. “You have to qualify to go, and it’s usually the best teams across the country.”
Blackwood agreed. She said only “two or three” other players on the Dalton High team besides her play summer travel ball. The talent level for nationals is much higher than the GHSA state playoffs, which the Lady Catamounts reached the past two falls.
“There’s a tremendous difference,” Blackwood said. “On the high school teams, you have maybe three or four standout players. At nationals, pretty much every player is a standout player. It’s just a completely different level of ball.”
Local players on the road looking for tourney titles
Macy Weeks said making any national softball tournament is tough.
- Northwest High School Bruins
All-Area Softball Team and Player of the Year: Cruse was emotional leader for Lady Bruins in state title repeat
Whatever situation Northwest Whitfield High School’s softball team found itself in this season, senior catcher Bayli Cruse’s emotions were in step with the Lady Bruins’ pulse.
Prep roundup: Northwest girls keep pressure on
Northwest Whitfield’s girls basketball team routed Tennessee’s East Ridge at home on Saturday with a 72-20 win.
The Lady Bruins (5-1) didn’t allow a single point in the second quarter and stretched their lead from 25-5 to 43-5 at halftime. In the third quarter, Northwest lengthened its grip to 61-11.
Prep roundup: North Murray girls start Region 5-3A play right
North Murray High School’s girls basketball team was victorious at home Friday against a “tough” Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe squad.
Player of the Year Cruse headlines local selections
Bayli Cruse was happy being named the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Class 4A Softball Player of the Year — and rightfully so.
But she was equally interested — and equally pleased — in which of her Northwest Whitfield teammates joined her on the squad.
"After Deadline" sports podcast - Dec. 4, 2013
The Daily Citizen sports writers Devin Golden and Chris Whitfield start the show duscissing the proposed region alignments for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.
News mostly good on new regions
The Dalton High School athletic department will have to invest more in fuel after being placed in a region which travels south down I-75 and stretches westward towards the Alabama state line.
Devin Golden: Rampage season tickets available on team website
Last season, fans came to the trade center in Dalton to watch an abnormal concept: football in the spring.
The Georgia Rampage return that idea for another season, and fans can hop on board now.
Prep Roundup: Runs set the local theme for Hoopfest
Second-quarter runs became an important theme for local high school basketball teams in the final day of the Southeast Whitfield Hoopfest.
For North Murray’s boys, it led to a win and a fifth-place finish.
Prep basketball: Experienced matters as seniors key Lady Bruins' win
Two battle-tested seniors bailed out Northwest Whitfield’s girls basketball team in a 62-58 comeback victory Friday night against host Murray County. Northwest’s boys completed the sweep with a 66-28 victory.
Prep roundup: Bruins second at Creek Duals
Using a variety of wrestlers at each weight class, Northwest Whitfield High School’s team didn’t suffer from not having a set lineup on Wednesday at the Coahulla Creek Thanksgiving Duals in Varnell.
The Bruins went 4-1 to finish in second place in the event, beating Gordon Lee, Armuchee, Dalton and Coahulla Creek before falling in the championship to LaFayette. It was the second of three events for the Bruins this week.
- More Northwest High School Bruins Headlines
- All-Area Softball Team and Player of the Year: Cruse was emotional leader for Lady Bruins in state title repeat