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Softball Factory Athlete Madison Burrell’s Decision to Continue Her Softball Career Pays Off

Softball Factory athlete Madison Burrell

Softball Factory athlete Madison Burrell was faced with a dilemma she never thought would come her way: “Should I hang up my cleats?”

Burrell was starting to feel like the sport that was such a huge part of who she is was beginning to consume her world.

“I was starting to become tired of how it was taking over my life,” the Gulfport, MS native confesses. “I was starting to dislike softball because I was having to cancel with my friends just about every time that they would make plans. I was missing events for family and there was little time for myself. My day was school, softball, homework, sleep and then repeat.”

Looking to the future, Burrell feared if she continued to play it simply would not be fun anymore.

“Whenever I would think of college it would be the same,” the Our Lady Academy high school senior admits. “My day looked like school and sports and I would not have time to explore and enjoy college life or just have a moment for myself.”

But deep down, Burrell knew she wanted to finish what she started.

“What changed my mind was that I was going to be letting down people if I stopped,” Burrell reveals. “My dad has been dreaming of me playing on a college field since I first picked up a glove. I even felt like I was letting down the coaches at the Softball Factory who had worked so hard at fine tuning my skills and showing me that I needed to believe in myself and that it was possible for me to play at the next level.”

Not only was she considering how her choice would affect others, but most importantly she considered how it would impact her own life.

“I also saw that it would be getting rid of part of myself,” she says. “Softball was what I used to help me if I was sad, upset, or just not feeling right. It was something I could always go back to whenever I needed something to help settle my mind. I couldn’t bring myself to let those people down and lose this huge part of my life.”

Having been a part of the Softball Factory program since 2016, it is not a total surprise that Burrell thought of the support she has received from her Softball Factory coaches over the years when contemplating her future.

“I liked how the coaches showed you that if you work hard enough and listened that there is nothing stopping you from being able to play at any softball level that you want,” Burrell, who has attended multiple Softball Factory events, explains.

“The coaches would show you support throughout the program and help you with everything you wanted.  Any question had an answer and support and encouragement. That is something that I found always bringing me back to Softball Factory.”

“On the field, the Factory has taught me to know the whole game, so you can play the game to your best ability and advantage,” she answers when asked if there is anything she has taken from her many Softball Factory events and applied it to her life, on or off the field.

“If you know the whole game, you not only help yourself but communicate better with your teammates and be in the best positions for fielding the ball, based on batters’ stances and have an anticipation of what is next in the game.”

“Off the field, I’ve learned to take everything as a team approach and see that everything has a cause and effect,” she continues. “What I do and what choices I make directly affect myself or one of my friends in the future.”

And that is exactly what the student athlete did when deciding what was best for her – and what was best for her – was to continue to play the sport that she believes “brings all different kinds of people together as a team and as a family” at the next level.

Burrell has signed her National Letter of Intent to play Softball for Lyon College.

Burrell signing her National Letter of Intent to Lyon College

“Signing my Letter of Intent was kind of a ‘WOW’ moment,” she exclaims. “It wasn’t until I signed that piece of paper that I felt, ‘I am going to play softball for this college, and they want me there.’ It was like my wakeup call saying that all the work I put in was real and worth it, that I am worthy of playing and it isn’t a dream anymore.”

The future Scot credits Softball Factory with helping to assist her with the recruiting process that led to this special moment.

“The Factory helped with understanding recruiting and also how to look for a college,” she explains. “Fit is important. Who doesn’t want to play for a Division 1 school? But that may not be the right fit. Understanding when you can contact a school and when you can’t is also important. The Factory and the coaches gave great instructions on when, where, and how to reach out and how to frame the first contact.  It made the process so much easier to process and complete.”

Once unsure about playing softball at the next level, Burrell is now very eager to get started next year.

“I am most excited about all of the people I will meet and the bonds that I will make with my teammates, and to see the growth of myself both on and off the field,” she answers when asked what she is looking forward to the most.

Burrell now has zero doubts about her decision.

“It feels like I have kept myself from making a mistake, she now understands. “I would have regretted by not playing. I am so excited to know that I get to continue playing and realize that I would have been missing out on something amazing if I had quit playing.

It feels great to know that there was a coach out there who saw my abilities and thought enough of them that they want me on their field. That I can continue to build on those skills even after the game in terms of leadership and teamwork.  It adds to the belief in myself that others had in me during a time I doubted.  So, it is amazing to know that I am able to continue playing what I thought I was not going to.”

Softball Factory Alum Ana Gold Thrilled to Commit to Duke University

Softball Factory alum Ana Gold

Softball Factory alum Ana Gold is quick to credit softball as something that has shaped her into the person she is today. Having recently committed to Duke University, she is elated to know she will be able to continue to play the sport she adores so much at the next level upon her 2021 Ballston Spa High School graduation.

“Committing to Duke truly was a dream come true,” the Malta, NY native gushes. “From incredible academics, athletics, people, coaches and staff, Duke really does have it all. I could not picture myself attending and playing softball at any other university.”

Ana with Softball Factory coaches Leah and Dave Majeski, who also coach Gold with Team South Carolina

In the same way that Gold cannot picture herself playing softball for anyone but Duke, it could also be said she cannot picture her life without the sport of softball in general.

“I love everything about softball,” the shortstop says. “Of course, I love hitting and fielding, but softball is so much more than that. It takes more than just talent to be successful in this sport. To be successful you need to be mentally tough, competitive and confident. You need to be willing to learn from mistakes and be okay with failure. You need to love the grind and put the work in when no one is watching. These are things that set softball apart from other sports, which is why I love it so much.”

Gold attributes Softball Factory as a key contributor in her journey to becoming a Blue Devil.

“I learned many valuable things during my time with Softball Factory, not only about softball but about life,” Gold, who has participated in five Softball Factory events, reveals. “One of my biggest takeaways from the coaches is that if you have a desire to be successful you always have to put in 100% effort mentally, physically and emotionally, especially when no one is watching.”

Ana with Coach Majeski and Softball Factory teammates at the 2018 Softball Factory Fall Classic

“Softball Factory definitely helped me with my recruiting process,” she continues. “Living in the Northeast, there aren’t any big tournaments and my travel teams aren’t able to qualify for them. Therefore, it was hard for me to get exposure in front of college coaches because most of them were out recruiting at the bigger tournaments. However, playing with Softball Factory allowed me to play in one of the bigger tournaments: the Atlanta Legacy Showcase. I emailed some colleges my schedule and several came and watched me during this tournament, one of them was Duke. I am incredibly thankful for Softball Factory and the opportunities they provided me.”

That Softball Factory 2019 Atlanta Legacy Showcase not only helped Gold grab the attention of her future university this past July, but also aided her in creating new friendships.

“My favorite event with softball Factory was the Atlanta Legacy Tournament,” the high school junior recalls. “I became very close with some of the girls on the team and I am still in contact with some of them. One night we did a scavenger hunt in The Battery, and that has to be one of my favorite memories.”

Meeting like-minded athletes and coaches in the softball community is something the student athlete enjoys.

“Softball Factory allowed me to play with talented girls from around the country in high level tournaments,” she explains. “I was able to create new relationships with teammates and coaches and was surrounded by people who have similar goals as me.”

Having goals is something Gold finds to be important and currently has her sights set on accomplishing her dream of ending her high school softball career on the ultimate high note.

“My biggest goal for my last two high school seasons is to win the state championship,” she answers when asked what she hopes to achieve in her last couple of seasons at the high school level. “We have lost in the NY State final game the last two years, but I believe this is our year.”

While the future Blue Devil is focused on finishing her high school softball career strong – and admits she will miss playing with her teammates and friends – she truly is excited to take her talents to Duke when the time does come.

“I am looking forward to play at the next level because I will be surrounded by some of the most talented players and knowledgeable coaches who are going to push me to be the best softball player and person I can be,” she says. “Being in a competitive environment really excites me and I look forward to that. But I am most excited for our team to be able to compete in the NCAA tournament.”

Gold is not the only one who is excited for her future with Duke University.

“It’s been a pleasure working with Ana since she started working with us when she was in the eighth grade,” Softball Factory executive player development coordinator Adam Darvick says. “Not only did she display incredible work ethic and abilities on the field, but she also excelled in the classroom. Now Coach Young and Duke University will get to experience her drive and talent as she begins her collegiate career in the fall of 2021. I’m ecstatic for her and can’t wait to see the future holds!”

Softball Factory Alum and Alaskan Athlete Nadia Chernich is a Trailblazer for Females in Baseball

Nadia Chernich

Growing up a softball and baseball player in Fairbanks, AK can be quite the challenge. With nearly year-round cold temperatures and a lack of opportunities to play, it could be easy to overlook the two sports from an early age. Softball Factory alum Nadia Chernich, however, refuses to let any limitations interfere with partaking in the sports that mean the world to her.

“You only get two months to play the sport you love outside,” Chernich reveals. “Also, our entire state has only two travel softball teams and seven baseball teams. Just to play a weekend tournament requires driving eight hours.”

Eight hours is not the farthest the 2024 Monroe Catholic High School grad has travelled for softball and baseball. The Chernich family realized if the two sports were not going to come to Nadia, Nadia was going to have to go to them.

“I have been leaving to attend camps and events and tournaments around the country whenever I can during the fall, winter and spring,” Chernich answers when asked how she is able to keep playing softball and baseball throughout the year, even when it is freezing back home. “Of course, I continue to practice at indoor gyms during the winter to build arm strength and more power.”

Big city traffic, TSA lines and constantly changing time zones are not always fun for the catcher, but the traveling is something she truly enjoys.

“I love meeting all the different people from other states and seeing how they react to seeing a girl from Alaska play,” she says. “I always bring souvenirs from home to share and end up being called simply ‘Alaska’ by the end of the tournament.”

Softball Factory events are something “Alaska” is willing to travel for, and a tool she believes gives her opportunities to play one of the several sports she loves year-round.

“They have helped me develop my skillset and to perform at a higher level,” Chernich, who has attended multiple Softball Factory events, explains. “I attended a weeklong Softball Factory camp in Florida in late December when it was -30 degrees Fahrenheit at home. I was sweating in the sun and having a great time diving in the outfield grass that would be totally impossible at home. I love the coaches at Softball Factory so much – the southern hospitality makes me laugh and I know that they really care about us getting better.”

The coaches and people involved are what the 2019 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Rookie says are what she likes most about Softball Factory.

“The coaches are so good!” Chernich exclaims. “The Southern accent brings a smile to my face and they are so genuine, but still direct and honest. I always learn new things and it is the best way for me to track what I need to do to improve. I really am grateful for the different events offered and look forward to another invitation. I love all the coaches, but special shout-outs to Ryan Iamurri, AJ Hamilton, Andi Williamson, Nicki Trumpler and Coach Dave Majeski for really helping.”

Chernich, whose most recent Softball Factory event was the 2019 Softball Factory College World Series Futures Select Training, does not just excel at softball, but also crushes it at baseball and basketball as well.

The multi-sport athlete knows how to grind.

“It is quite hard,” she admits when asked how difficult it can be to balance everything at once. “But I plan it all out to make sure I get enough hours of practice each day. I put in a lot of energy and am known for my quickness, so you could say I just keep running. (Just) Today, I took 500 basketball shots in the morning and then 500 more after lunch. I have a softball game at 6pm and then a baseball game at 8pm followed by some more practice. My parents also are my chauffeurs and I owe a lot to them because my younger three siblings also have their activities.”

Although she loves all three, Chernich does have a favorite sport.

“I like girls’ baseball the best,” she reveals. “Baseball is a perfect sport and playing with all girls gives me that extra layer of comfort.”

She can also play with the boys.

“I always have something to prove,” she says.

Chernich is the only girl on her baseball team and knows that not only can she keep up, but she can be a key player.

“There is the feeling that I can’t just be ‘good’,” she shares. “I have to be ‘excellent’. I have been chosen for the travel team the past two years and play an important role on the team. I sometimes feel sad that those who are ‘just average’ get stigmatized so negatively. There is a big double-standard.”

Her efforts behind and at the plate for her baseball team have not gone unnoticed. Chernich recently took part in Major League Baseball’s Trailblazer Series for the second year in a row.

The MLB Trailblazer Series is a baseball tournament for girls that is part of MLB’s commitment to draw more young people to the sport, no matter their gender, race or where they come from.

“Playing at Trailblazers has been a wonderful opportunity to see many talented girls from across USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico,” she gushes. “I love how much support MLB has given us and it was also fun to meet my softball hero Jennie Finch there too. It is a great experience to meet USA National Team players, MLB executives, umpires, and just to play the game.”

“It is inspiring to talk to girls my age who are doing the same thing in their community,” Chernich continues. “There is a friend I have from Brooklyn, New York who I have played with multiple times in Illinois, at the Little League World Series complex in Williamsport, Penn., again in New York, and now in California. How cool is that? It was a great honor to be on the field and have my name announced during pregame of the Los Angeles Dodgers game.”

The talented Trailblazer sees her future in MLB as well. While she has not decided which sport to pursue at the collegiate level just yet, she does know her goal is to become the first female umpire in MLB.

“I was researching baseball for a school project a couple of years ago and was amazed to learn that there had been no MLB female umpires,” the aspiring umpire says. “As a catcher, I get a good look of balls and strikes and really like justice. My Mom always thought I would make a good lawyer. My Dad is a basketball and baseball official.”

Chernich is already making the connections with important people in the industry and taking the right steps and initiative she will need to make her dreams come true.

“I have met Perry Barber who is a top-rated female baseball umpire,” she notes. “I also spent an hour on the phone interviewing Rich Rieker, who is the Director of Umpire Development for MLB. He was very encouraging and even sent me a box of official gear and a rulebook.”

“Trailblazer” is truly the perfect word to describe the Alaskan athlete.

Six Softball Factory Alums Honored as Gatorade State Softball Players of the Year

This week, Gatorade announced the winners of the 2017-18 Gatorade State Softball Players of the Year and Softball Factory is proud to announce that six former athletes were recognized for their achievements on and off the field.

Since 1985, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has been established to recognize and celebrate the nation’s top high school athletes for their talents in athletic achievement, academic excellence and exemplary character. Now in its third decade, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has become one of the most prestigious accolades in high school sports. Former Softball Factory alumnae who have been named Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year include Bubba Nickles (2015-16) and Rachel Garcia (2014-15).

We congratulate each state’s winners this year and especially to our Softball Factory family who have received this honor.

The six Softball Factory athletes are:

Kaylin Kinney | Kennedy HS | Cedar Rapids, Iowa

The junior right-handed pitcher and first baseman helped lead her Cougars squad to a 33-6 record and the regional semifinals this season. On the mound, she went 15-3 with an ERA of 0.50, striking out 133 hitters. She also hit .563 with 13 homers and 41 RBI. Kinney was a First Team All-State selection and helps locally in a soup kitchen and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Kaylin attended a Softball Factory National Evaluation and Tryout event this past February in Monticello, IA.

Lauren Esman | Gull Lake HS | Richland, Michigan

Esman, a left-handed pitcher, outfielder and first baseman led the Blue Devils to a 30-5-1 record and she was completely dominant on the mound, going 20-0, 0.45 ERA and an eye-popping 278 strikeouts, entering the district postseason. The senior hit .523 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI and a 1.058 slugging percentage through 36 games. She is ranked as the nation’s No. 66 recruit in the Class of 2019 by Softball America.

Esman attended the USA Softball JO Cup Workout with Softball Factory in July of 2018.

Logan Gronberg | Bismarck HS | Bismarck, North Dakota

Gronberg, a right-handed pitcher/corner infielder hit .670 with 15 homers, 67 RBI, 38 runs scored with a 1.289 slugging percentage for the 26-3 Demons this season. She had a 12-2 record with 101 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings pitched.

In August 2017, Gronberg attended the USA Softball AA Camp in Oklahoma City, OK.

Macy McAdoo

Macy McAdoo | Tuttle HS | Tuttle, Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma signee performed well at the 2018 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament and had previously attended a Softball Factory National Evaluation and Tryout in Oklahoma City, OK back in October of 2017.

This season, she helped lead the Tigers to a 35-1 record and the Class 4A state championship. Macy went 24-0 with a 1.00 ERA, fanning 228 hitters in 126 innings pitched.

McAdoo has volunteered locally feeding the homeless, assisting with tornado relief efforts and coaching youth softball players.

Bailey Betenbaugh | Union County HS | Union, South Carolina

Betenbaugh, a senior right-handed pitcher and first baseman led the Yellow Jackets to a 23-5 record and the Class 3A state finals this past season. This is the second Gatorade Softball State Player of the Year award for Bailey, winning it during her sophomore season as well. She went 21-4 in the circle with a 0.64 ERA and struck out 225 batters in 152.1 innings pitched. With the bat, she hit .481 with 12 homers and 38 RBI.

The accolades continue for Betenbaugh, who is a four-time Region Player of the Year and is a devoted member of her youth church group. She is a signee to play softball at the University of South Carolina this Fall.

She attended a Softball Factory National Tryout in Columbia, SC back in April of 2015.

Bailey Misken | West Springfield HS | Springfield, Virginia

Misken, a senior right-handed pitcher, helped lead the Spartans to a 22-1 record and an appearance in the Class 6, Region C tournament semifinals at the time of her selection.

Her stellar 22-1 record with a 0.35 ERA through 23 games, also included 214 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 139 2/3 innings pitched. She recorded 11 shutouts, including four no-hitters and a perfect game going into their regional final four.

Misken has volunteered locally at an assisted living facility, and worked as a youth baseball coach and youth softball umpire.

Misken participated in the 2016 Under Armour Softball Factory Eastern Classic with her team.

11 Former Pre-Season All-Americans Among Alumni in 2019 Women’s College World Series

The first weekend of action in the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s College World Series is complete with 16 teams advancing to Super Regional play this coming weekend. Softball Factory is proud to announce that 11 former Softball Factory Pre-Season All-Americans are among the alumni listed on rosters of teams who made it this far, including four from the inaugural event in 2014.

This year in total, 150 players who participated in at least one Softball Factory event, were listed on rosters of teams in the tournament. This is up from 121 players who were part of last year’s WCWS. Looking at it from another angle: 58 of the 64 teams (90.6%) entered into the 2019 NCAA Division I Softball Championship tournament have at least one Softball Factory alumnae on a roster, an increase of five teams from last year.

The University of Florida, Alabama State and Lipscomb led the way with seven Factory alums while Florida State, Toledo and James Madison University each feature five alums.

Prior to Super Regional Play this weekend however, the field of 64 teams were set with the goal of getting to Oklahoma City for this year’s championship. The 2016 and ’17 National Champion Oklahoma Sooners were announced as the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament and have advanced to Super Regional weekend after winning in the Norman region. The defending champion Florida State Seminoles have also advanced to the second weekend after winning in the Tallahassee region.

For the third consecutive year, the SEC led all leagues with teams entered into the dance, with 13 selected for the tournament. Two teams made their first appearance in the tournament: Detroit Mercy University and Seattle University. Both have already been eliminated.

NCAA.com’s feature on the field of 64 revealed a cool stat: Since the tournament began in 1982, only 13 schools have been crowned the NCAA Division I softball champion. 11 of those 13 teams will compete in this year’s tournament.

Below is the list of Factory alumni who are on rosters of teams selected for this year’s tournament. Players listed in bold are former Softball Factory Pre-Season All-Americans.

Oklahoma – Jocelyn Alo, Falepolima Aviu, Sami Skelly, Shay Knighten

UMBC – Imani Dawson, Anna Lonchar, Karly Keating

Wisconsin – Savanna Rainey

Notre Dame – Quinn Biggio, Alexis Bazos

Louisville – Eden Mayo, Jordyn Wolfe, Rebecca Chung

Southern Ill. – NONE

Detroit Mercy – Sydney Pollock

Northwestern – Skyler Shellmyer (2015), Maegan Hollins

Texas – Lauren Burke, Janae Jefferson (2017), Elicia Espinosa, Jaden Hoelker (2016)

Sam Houston St. – Kyndal Kutac, Kayte Martinez, Bailey White, Sherida Fisher

Texas A&M – Baylee Klingler, Kelly Martinez

Houston – NONE

Arizona St. – Jade Gortarez

Lipscomb – Khayla Green, Hannah DeVault, Jenna Pealor, Megan Gray, Chloe Yeager, Mandy Jordan, Sarah Higgins

Alabama St. – Kaitlyn Kilner, Alexis Syndor, Teah Steel, Casey Durham, Skyler Sullivan, Kimberlee Owens, Kristin Gunter

Alabama – Elissa Brown, Sarah Cornell, Krystal Goodman

Florida – Hannah Sipos, Natalie Lugo, Kelly Barnhill, Odalys Cordova, Amanda Lorenz, Danni Farley, Amanda Beane

Boston U – NONE

Boise St. – Rebekah Cervantes, Morgan Lamb

Stanford – Nikki Bauer

North Carolina – Leah Murray, Lexi Godwin (2015), Shayla Thompson

Ohio St. – Niki Carver, Ashley Prange

Longwood – Leah Powell, Jessica Smith, Angelina Sherba

Tennessee – Ally Shipman

Oklahoma St. – Kelly Maxwell, Logan Simunek

BYU – Morgan Bevell, Allie Hancock, Erin Miklus, Libby Sugg

Tulsa – Aubree Seaney

Arkansas – Maggie Hicks, Keely Edwards, Aly Manzo

South Carolina – Alex Fulmer

South Florida – Madison Epperson, Jaycie Michael (2015), Georgina Corrick, Riley Gore

Bethune-Cookman – Maiya Fudge, Briana Zavala

Florida St. – Bianca Cruz, Elizabeth Mason, Savannah Parker, Madison Kennedy, Kathryn Sandercock

Washington – Pat Moore, Morganne Flores

Fordham – Kelly Bright

Seattle U – Natalie Montgomery

Mississippi St. – Anna Kate Segars, Jackie McKenna

Virginia Tech – Jada Crittendon, Kelsey Bennett (2018), Grace Chavez

Illinois – Danielle Brochu, Zaria Dunlap, Danielle Davis

Toledo – Megan Choate, Brianna Robeson, Bekah Yenrick, Maggie McGurk, Samantha Golden

Kentucky – Tekiya Garr-Carter, Briona Rance

Ole Miss – Ava Tillmann, Amanda Roth, Abbey Latham (2014)

Tenn-Chattanooga – Hannah Wood

Southeast Mo. St. – Claudia Gallo

Louisiana-Lafayette – Kendall Talley, Keeli Milligan (2014), Casey Dixon (2017)

Auburn – Taylon Snow

Colorado St. – Mackenzee Collins

Harvard – Aubree Muse, Elizabeth Shively

Arizona – Ivy Davis, Taylor McQuillin, Alyssa Denham, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza

Minnesota – Carlie Brandt, Allie Arneson

North Dakota St. – Kara O’Byrne

Drake – Libby Ryan

Georgia – Jaiden Fields, Madison McPherson, Jessica Morgan, Lacey Fincher

Texas Tech – Zoe Jones

Louisiana Tech – AJ Williams

Monmouth – NONE

LSU – Savannah Stewart, Morgan Cummins

Michigan – Meghan Beaubien, Katie Alexander, Natalia Rodriguez (2014)

Saint Francis (PA) – Tayven Rousseau

DePaul – Gabby O’Riley, Morgan Greenwood (2014)

James Madison – Hannah Shifflett, Cambry Arnold, Victoria Figueroa, Payton Buresch, Michelle Sullivan

Missouri – Danie Garrison, Kimberly Wert, Eli Daniel

Cal St. Fullerton – NONE

Weber St. – NONE

UCLA – Rachel Garcia, Julie Rodriguez, Shea Moreno, Bubba Nickles

Softball Factory Alumni Mikey Dominguez, Siarah Galvan and Maddie Mann are Rockport Strong After Hurricane Harvey

Softball Factory alumni Siarah Galvan, Madisen Mann and Mikey Dominguez

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Rockport, Texas area on Friday August 26th, 2017, it caused $55 million in damages to its school district – contributing to the $125 billion worth of damage it did in total – and took out the town’s electricity for almost a month.

To top it off for Softball Factory alumni Mikey Dominguez, Siarah Galvan and Maddie Mann, their school, Rockport-Fulton High, was destroyed along with its softball and baseball fields, and suddenly their dream of playing their freshman season of softball together was nearly collateral damage.

Everything the trio of close friends and teammates had worked so long and hard for appeared completely out of reach, that was, until the town of Rockport and some familiar famous faces came together and showed everyone just what it meant to be “Rockport Strong”.

“These girls live for softball,” Dominguez’s father, Ron Dominguez, shares with a laugh.

Dominguez, Galvan and Mann have known each other since the age of six and are currently in their seventh year of playing softball together. The passion the high school sophomores share for the sport has given them a special bond.

“We have always been such good friends,” Galvan, the team’s starting left-handed pitcher says. “But when we are out there on the field, it is a whole different level of friendship. We all have a great time and tear it up on the field.”

“I think what makes us so close is that we have the same drive and dedication,” adds starting catcher Dominguez. “Every weekend we would go to the field and get a good three to four hours of work in.”

Having played in both select ball and little league together growing up, the three dreamed of what it would be like to all be named starters for their freshman season at Rockport-Fulton High School, so when Hurricane Harvey slammed the peninsula of Rockport with flooding and winds peaking at 156 miles per hour, it was safe to say the outlook for their school’s 2018 season looked bleak. In fact, it was quickly sinking in that things would not be the same in Rockport for a little while.

“Hurricane Harvey was one of the scariest things my family has ever gone through while it was happening and dealing with the aftermath was more than I could have imagined it would be,” Ron Dominguez recalls. “My daughters were experiencing what it was like to take a bath with bottled water, not being able to get news and having to line up for their food.”

Maddie Mann checking out the damage

“One of the very first things we checked on was the softball field,” starting infielder Maddie Mann admits. “I was so devastated seeing both our sheds gone along with our batting cages, but I was hopeful.”

“It was very upsetting not knowing if our field was even going to still be there due to the hurricane,” Galvan says, echoing her friend’s concerns at the time. “When we were still evacuated there was so much tension and anxiety of not knowing if we would even come back to anything.”

Not only were the extremely poor field conditions a concern, but 25 percent of Rockport-Fulton’s student body was forced to transfer to different schools due to the destruction of the country’s biggest storm since Hurricane Katrina’s deadly path through the city of New Orleans in 2005. It became apparent that the team – if there would be a team at all – would not look how it had originally been pictured.

“After Harvey, I thought we wouldn’t come back to Rockport-Fulton High School,” Mikey Dominguez, whose bedroom had a tree crash through it during the storm, reveals. “It was definitely hard to deal with because everyone was going to different schools and some starters would not be coming back. I thought we wouldn’t have enough girls to even have a season. It was to the point where I didn’t even know if I was going to come back.”

Despite her fears of not playing in the spring with her friends, Dominguez kept working on her softball skills in her backyard, even with all the debris. She and her father also took video footage of the debris that littered the softball field that was like a second home to her and uploaded it to Youtube.

Mikey Dominguez cleaning up debris

This team was not going down without a fight. Family members sprang into action to help clean up the school’s fields and donations started pouring in from people who had seen the Youtube video.

“It meant a lot knowing that our families were out there in the heat trying to keep our freshman season still going,” Galvan reflects. “It gave us hope that soon we would be able to still play and show our abilities.”

“It felt so heartwarming to know people went out there almost every day to help get the fields ready for us,” Dominguez adds.

Their families soon would not be the only ones helping to keep their freshman season alive.

Some well-known faces made some big donations to the students at Rockport-Fulton. Popular talk show host Ellen DeGeneres made a massive donation of $1 million for the school to rebuild its gym and baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan donated $10,000 to the Rockport-Fulton Little League to assist Memorial Park with getting their fields ready for the upcoming baseball and softball seasons.

The kind gestures meant so much to everyone in the town.

“I was actually in shock and disbelief at first!” Mann exclaims. “But then I felt so grateful that we have such amazing people in our world that wanted to help us in our time of need.”

“Being a small town, it’s really hard getting noticed for events that take place here,” Dominguez explains. “For Ellen to reach out and help us means so much I can’t put it into words.”

With everyone’s generous donations and hard work, the Rockport-Fulton High School softball team was able to participate in the 2018 season. Hurricane Harvey caused a great deal of damage, but the team got through it and was even able to see the bright side of the circumstances.

“It was very emotional seeing our beautiful town look so awful and destroyed,” Galvan remembers. “But it made the community become united and very close with each other.”

Her father, Steven Galvan, shares his daughter’s positive point-of-view.

Dominguez, Mann and Galvan during their freshman season

“Hurricane Harvey really shook our community, but as we say here in Rockport, we are ‘Rockport Strong’ and the whole community helped each other,” he shares. “It really brought this community even closer.”

With everything that had happened and the loss of some of the team’s starters, not much was expected from the 2018 Lady Pirates. That did not stop Dominguez, Galvan and Mann from having the freshman season they had been dreaming of.

The three Softball Factory Alumni went an impressive 26-4 on the season and were crowned district champions, all starting the championship game in their respective positions.

“Last season was definitely one for the books!” Dominguez says with excitement. “We were strong, confident and had each other’s backs. No one knew how good Siarah really was until it was too late.”

The breakout season truly was special for Galvan. The ace pitcher even credits Hurricane Harvey with how their season played out.

“It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me,” she answers when asked how it felt to have the season the Lady Pirates did. “Our team was so pumped up and motivated to do our very best out there on the field for our town. Hurricane Harvey definitely had a big part in our success.”

“Our freshman season was so exciting!” Mann adds, also reflecting on the successful season that almost never was. “To play with my amazing teammates to starting at the position I love was a dream come true.”

Mann and Dominguez at a Softball Factory event

Dominguez, Galvan and Mann have all participated in numerous Softball Factory events, most recently the 2019 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament.

“Being in the All-America games together was super, fun especially since we were on opposing teams,” Mann says. “For me and Mikey, this was our second time [at the Pre-Season Tournament] so it was that much sweeter, we became two-time All-Americans.

I loved the event and just having an amazing team who went undefeated, winning the tournament was just awesome! Other than the amazing coaching staff, I would have to say the overall experience is my favorite thing about Softball Factory and that is why I come back for more events.  You meet so many people and make these amazing friendships.  You also get to work with amazing coaches who teach you so much.”

Mann and Galvan

“To do something like that with Maddie and Siarah was so fun,” Dominguez agrees. We each loved being around different girls and watching each other play. The event was awesome! It was definitely worth it! Softball Factory always helps me build new friendships. I love all the new drills and tips I learn that I bring back to my team.”

Like her teammates, Galvan also continues to enjoy her time with Softball Factory and keeps coming back for more.

“It was so exciting to be able to share a really fun experience with such nice and fun people and I can’t wait for the next event to share with them.”

That next event will be the 2019 Atlanta Legacy Showcase in July.

Maddie Mann and Softball Factory director CJ Browder

“I look forward to playing with Mikey and Siarah on the same team at the Atlanta Legacy,” Mann shares. “We always play great together. So excited to share that experience with them, make more memories with them and with my other teammates as well. I am equally looking forward to working with the coaches and to seeing Coach CJ Browder! She has been a big supporter and its always great to be able to work with her.”

“I look forward to meeting new people again and competing together as a team,” says Galvan. “I also can’t wait to have a great time with amazing teammates.”

Whether it be at a Softball Factory event or on the field that almost kept the trio from playing their freshman season together, Dominguez, Galvan and Mann are so grateful to be able to continue to play the sport they live for.

“The thing I love the most about softball is the game,” Mann answers when asked what she loves most about her favorite sport. “Softball gives me the feeling of having a purpose.”

“I love the competition of the sport, and how you can see yourself grow as a player,” Galvan chimes in. “The adrenaline that you get once you get a great hit, or once you’ve thrown a great pitch.”

Of course, having each other, is also why they love softball so much.

“I love how all of us can be ourselves around each other,” Dominguez says. “I love how competitive we are. When I step on that field, I feel like I belong here, and I’m meant to be on that field to compete.”

Sense of Closeness, Comfortability in Haley Price Choosing Commitment to Thomas University

Softball Factory Athlete Haley Price

Softball Factory alum Haley Price has committed to taking her softball talents to Thomas University and is ecstatic to have the opportunity to continue building relationships in the softball community. As for Price, the sport is all about teamwork and creating a bond with those around you.

“The thing that I love about softball is that it isn’t an individual sport,” the Lodi High School senior catcher and outfielder shares. “It requires everyone on the team for us to be successful. With it requiring everyone on the team, it has helped me create close bonds and great friendships with many of girls that I have played with over the years.”

In fact, Price says that her future teammates and coaches at Thomas University are what drew her to committing to becoming a Thomas Nighthawk.

“What went into my decision of committing to Thomas University was the atmosphere in Thomasville,” she reveals. “I fell in love with the town and the people there. Another thing that went into my decision was the coaching staff and the girls that are on the team. I feel very comfortable with the coaching staff there, and the girls were very friendly and welcoming to me.”

This sense of feeling was welcomed and being a part of something special with others is also what the Lodi, Calif. native believes stood out the most from her experiences with Softball Factory.

“I like the family aspect and unity that Softball Factory provides,” Price, who has attended a Softball Factory College PREP Program in San Francisco, Calif. in March of 2018 and both the Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic and the Fall Classic National Showcase in November of the same year, answers when asked what she likes about Softball Factory the most. “The coaching staff is very motivational and friendly. The evaluations from my first tryout to my final tournament showed me my development and growth along with areas I need to continue improving on.”

To have the opportunity to continue her softball career with the Nighthawks is something that is very dear to Price.

“When I committed to Thomas University, it was very exciting and emotional for me,” she says. “It was emotional for me because it showed me that all my hard work, time and dedication has paid off. It also allows me to fulfill my goal for playing softball at the college level.”

Now, at that college level, Price will be able to build many more special relationships.

“The thing that I am looking forward to about attending Thomas University is that not only do I get to further my education to become a successful person later on in life, but at the same time I get to play the sport I love for another four years of my life,” she states. “Then, I also get the opportunity to meet so many new people and create new friendships while I am there.”

2018 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season MVP Hayley Parrott Commits to Walters State

For Softball Factory athlete Hayley Parrott, softball is many things.

It is an outlet for her to deal with any issues she is going through, a way to express herself, a motivator, a sport filled with life lessons and something that has created special friendships in her life. Most importantly for Parrott, softball is a blessing.

“Softball has, to me, been the one of the biggest blessings I have been given,” the 2019 shortstop and pitcher for Loretto High School shares. “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

“People deal with their problems in many ways,” Parrott explains “softball was one of the main ways I dealt with the issues in my life. Softball helped me expressed myself in many ways. It showed me what hard work and dedication really is. Softball is the reason why I try my best to keep my grades up, because if I didn’t have good grades, I wouldn’t be able to play the game I love so much. Through all of the different teams I have been on, softball has really taught me what life is really like, how people can cheat, belittle you, try to make you think you are not good enough, but softball has really showed me that you do not need to care what other people think about you, you just do you. The other teams I have been on showed me that they are other people that have the same passion for the game as I do. Some of my really good friends in my life, I have met through softball. “

The Leoma, Tenn. native is delighted to have the opportunity to continue her journey with the sport that has played such a major role in shaping her into who she is today, as she has committed to taking her talents to Walters State.

Parrott has attended multiple Softball Factory events, including an Under Armour Softball Factory College PREP Program in Lebanon, Tenn. in April of 2017, the Softball Factory World Series in June of that same year and the 2018 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament last January, and  believes Softball Factory has been a tool that benefited her greatly in the recruiting process and something that assisted in elevating her game.

“Softball Factory has been the most helpful program into showing me what colleges are looking for in a player,” she says. “They have helped me improve my skills, mentally and physically, as a player. The events are really unique because you get the opportunity to play with softball players from all over the United States, you get to connect with different people and develop friendships that will last forever. Softball Factory has also led me to get the chance to play with team South Carolina, coached by Dave and Leah Majeski, which was an awesome experience.”

“Since I have been a part of Softball Factory, all of the different skills they have introduced have really increased my game performance,” Parrot continues. “What I have learned is you do not need to take things for granted, you need to give it your all and put everything you have forward every time you walk on the field. Softball Factory showed me what it takes for you to be a college athlete, they helped me figure out to see if I had what it takes and if I had the work ethic to become a college athlete.”

Parrott is eager to continue to sharpen her softball skills at the next level and views joining the Lady Senators as a way to do just that.

“Walter State stood out to me because the coaches do not give into irrelevant excuses,” Parrott said. “They put everything they have to make their players the best they can be. They expect their players to give everything they have, nothing less. The coaches are genuine good people. Walter State just seemed to be the right fit for me in many ways.”

Parrott welcomes being pushed from her coaches to continue to work hard with open arms and takes pride in the amount of effort she gives to the sport that means so much to her. In fact, her dedication is what she believes helped her earn Most Valuable Player honors at the 2018 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament in Conroe, Texas.

“I honesty was not expecting that at all,” she answers when asked how it felt to be crowned MVP of the event. “I did not think that I even compared to all of the incredible players I had the chance to play with. Winning MVP really showed how hard I have worked to improve my game. It gave me a boost of confidence that I did not have before and showed me that I am good enough.”

The future Lady Senator is set to return to the event that gave her that boost of confidence and take part in the upcoming 2019 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament on January 18th.

Five Questions with Softball Factory Coach and Polish National Team Head Coach Dave Majeski

Softball Factory coach Dave Majeski has been named the head coach of the Polish National Softball Team! We caught up with Coach to talk about this exciting opportunity to make a big dream of his come true.

  1. How did being named the Polish National Team Coach come about? What led you to be named the Head Coach?

At our Softball Factory event in Vero Beach, FL on an adjacent field, I watched the Chinese National team training with American coaches. Being of Polish descent, I researched the teams and leagues in Poland and made contact with the President of Baseball and Softball. That led to numerous interviews and Skype calls and eventually my hiring onto the team. After discussions with the Polish Olympic Council, I was named the Head Coach of the 19U and 22U National teams and will assist on the senior team.

 

2. How do you recruit players for the team? What is the process of selecting players?

In February, I will travel to Poland for 7-to-8 days and travel to four different cities where the biggest softball clubs practice. There, I will assess the current players and their talent, as well as instruct all coaches and players on how to progress. After evaluating, instructing, and coaching, I will return to the United States. Currently, I am getting the word out about the opportunity for American players to play for Poland. If they are of Polish descent and can document their heritage, they may be able to play for the Polish National team with the goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

 

3. How long will you be in Poland for training?

Ideally, I would move to Poland and train the players year-round. With my career and my daughters’ schedules, that isn’t realistic for me. The current plan is for me to spend a week or so in February evaluating the entire country’s talent. I will possibly return in May to reassess the progress of the teams. In July/August, I will be there for approximately three weeks with the teams competing in the European Cup World Championships.

 

  1. What are specific goals you have in mind as the Head Coach.

My short-term goal is to raise the current talent level of all the existing teams, win the European Cup and qualify for the Olympics. Long-term, my goals are to raise the participation numbers of the sport nationwide, raise the level of instruction, and raise the love of the game in general.

 

  1. What are you most excited about heading into this experience?

I am most excited about possibly competing in the Olympics and representing Poland. I had a good collegiate career in the baseball world and was not invited to the USA Olympic trials as a player. Now I have the ability and chance to make my dreams come true.

Softball Factory Alum Tayler Ramos Finds Confidence and Commits to University of North Carolina Greensboro

Softball Factory alum Tayler Ramos has been feeling a boost of confidence lately, and with good reason, as she has committed to playing softball for the University of North Carolina Greensboro Spartans.

“It is very exciting, I was very proud of myself and felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders,” the Lake Brantley High School senior replies when asked how it felt to commit to becoming a future Spartan.  “I think my confidence went up too.”

The Apopka, Fla. native will be the first to admit she has struggled with being shy in the past, and credits Softball Factory as something that helped her overcome being timid at times.

“I am not afraid to get to know new people and teammates,” Ramos answers when asked what she has learned from her experiences with Softball Factory. “That had been a problem for me in the past because I can be really shy. Now I enjoy learning new things and stepping out of my comfort zone more since the coaches at Softball Factory pushed me more and made me rely on my skills more.”

Ramos was able to take being pushed out of her comfort zone and grow.

“I am a shortstop and I learned to cover second base better than I had before,” she says. “Also, I take the throw down at a different angle now, which really has helped me.”

The 2019 shortstop attended an Under Armour National Tryout in Orlando, Fla. in January of 2017, the Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic in Savannah, GA 10 months later and was named MVP at the 2017 Softball Factory Christmas Camp and Tournament a month after that. It is safe to say she has made the most of her Softball Factory experiences and did not let her shyness get in the way of building new and important relationships.

“I met many teammates who I’m still friends with today,” she recalls. “I enjoyed learning to work together as a team and I think it is an important factor in this sport.  I also learned to communicate better with my teammates on the field.”

The friendships that she has made from softball are one of the many things she loves about the sport.

Ramos at age 12, the only girl playing on the All-Star Team for West Seminole Baseball

“I love the competitiveness of the game, the fast nature of the game, and the friendships I have made,” Ramos, who played baseball from ages four to 13 before making the switch to softball, says. “It’s like another family and we rely on each other for many things.”

Along with getting to know her teammates, Ramos also lists the organization of drills, the fast pace of learning and the “great coaching staff” as factors that made her time with Softball Factory so enjoyable.

Two of those coaches, Dave and Leah Majeski, have made a huge difference in her softball career.

“Coach Dave and Coach Leah are so welcoming,” Ramos states. “Coach Dave is very funny. And so easy going. He really cares about everyone and is extremely fair. I respect Coach Leah so much because I know she was a great softball player at Alabama. That’s the school where I initially wanted to play softball, so I respect her a lot. I traveled from Florida to South Carolina to play on their travel softball team, Team South Carolina. I enjoyed that time and hope to be able to do it again during the summer of 2019 because they were great teams. You learn so much, yet the whole environment is just laid back because of Coach Dave and Coach Leah.”

The respect and admiration between the Majeskis’ and Ramos is mutual.

Ramos with Coach Leah Majeski and her fellow Softball Factory athletes

“I met Tayler about a year ago when she was on my 18U team in Savannah at the Fall Classic,” Coach Leah Majeski remembers. “I was instantly impressed with the way she moved on defense. As I coached her over the next few days, I got to know her personality and work ethic and realized she was a wonderful kid with a really awesome family. I invited her to join my travel ball team for the next summer in hopes that I could fine-tune her even more and help with her recruiting journey.”

Majeski would indeed go on to help Ramos with her recruiting journey.

“Even though UNCG contacted me before Softball Factory, Coach Dave Majeski and Coach Leah Majeski went above and beyond to give insight on my skills to UNCG coaches and encourage the commitment decision,” the future Criminal Justice major reveals. “They also encouraged the coaches to come and see me play at the summer tournaments. I really love Coach Dave and Coach Leah. They really had an impact on my softball life and boosted my confidence. “

Ramos at bat for Lake Brantley High School

Ramos is excited to take the next step in her softball career and is looking forward to putting on the UNCG blue and gold.

“I really liked all of the coaches when I went to a camp and visited the campus,” Tayler said. “I also knew a few of the girls who were there, and everyone was very welcoming, and it felt so comfortable. It felt like this was to be my college home and softball team from the beginning. The campus was beautiful and very different from Florida. “

Coach Leah Majeski also looks forward to seeing Ramos on the field as a Spartan.

“After spending the past summer and fall with Tayler, I can say without a doubt that she is an extremely driven ball player, a great teammate and I know she will be a big asset to UNCG,” she shares. “I can’t wait to see her play at the next level!”