Great American Premier Softball Showcase
Annual tourney features competition aplenty
More than 100 fast-pitch softball teams will converge on central Ohio for the Great American Premier Softball Showcase that begins Friday, July 13, and concludes Sunday, July 15.
Teams will compete in four age divisions -- 10U, 12U, 14U and 16U/18U -- and all games will be played in the Olentangy school district, which has 18 fields. All excess funds generated will be split among the high school softball programs at Liberty, Olentangy and Orange.
"This is the 10th annual tournament and it has really grown," director Mike Wilson said. "There is a waiting list and we have a tournament board that goes through the applications and resumes to select what we determine to be the best teams."
The 10U division has 14 teams, the 12U has 15, the 14U has 29 and the combined 16U/18U has 52. All 110 teams are guaranteed four games.
Wilson estimates last year's event generated about $600,000 for the local economy.
"You're talking about 1,300 players, their parents and families and friends and relatives," he said. "They all have to eat and drink. There are teams from Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and even one from Wisconsin in addition to all the Ohio teams, so look at the lodging as well."
Still, the primary attraction is the players.
"It is a great tournament with great competition," said Glen Widner, who coached the Lasers White to the 16U/18U championship last season. "These are nice facilities and the event really helps the high school programs here because of the high caliber of the travel players who will be competing."
Widner also coached the Lasers Black 14U team last season, and that team played up a division and finished fifth in the 16U/18U event. He is back coaching the Lasers Black 16U team this season, with many of the same players moving up.
Many central Ohio players fill the rosters on the Ohio travel teams.
For instance, the Lasers Black 16U team has Mason Robinson and Kyle Davidson of Orange, Jackie Fowler and Abby Rhodes of Central Crossing, Liberty's Madison Kadlic, Olentangy's Hailey Wilson, Ready's Madison Gatley and Pickerington North's Hannah Murphy.
"Because of the competition and this being one of the top tournaments in Ohio, it also has become a college showcase," Wilson said. "Right now, we have over 50 college coaches registered to attend. So these young players are not only having fun and competing, but they also could be contacted about playing on the next level."
Tony Gunter will be coaching the Ohio Stingrays in the 10U division and the Xtreme Heat 99 team in the 12U event. Both programs originally were based in Pickerington.
"We're real excited about it," Gunter said. "When you play in a tournament like this, you get to play the more competitive teams with the bonus of not having to travel far. We try to fill the schedules with challenging opponents because that's the only way you get better. We're not out there trophy hunting."
Gunter, who coached one of the Xtreme teams in the Great American Premier Softball Showcase two years ago, also has a number of area players on both rosters.
The Xtreme Heat 99 roster has representatives from Dublin, Galloway, Groveport, Pataskala, Reynoldsburg and Sunbury. The Stingrays 10U roster includes players from Delaware, Grove City, New Albany, Pataskala and Pickerington.
"This is one of three tournaments that we apply to get into," Gunter said. "It's a great event, and we want to do well. Both teams have had strong seasons. The Stingrays are 54-10-4 combined in the fall-winter season and the spring-summer season. The Xtreme is 36-17, and they have also played up in several 14U events."