The girls are back on the field.
The TNT Maryland 18U fast-pitch softball team began its season in June, emerging from forced sports sabbatical caused by coronavirus to post successful weekends at its first two tournaments in Hagerstown and Spartansburg, South Carolina.
The team is made up of student-athletes from area schools, primarily Severna Park and Northeast, and the players were thrilled to get back to what they know and love.
“Considering all of the uncertainty about COVID-19 and summer sports, I am happy to finally be playing softball,” said Severna Park rising senior Mackenzie Rice, an outfielder for TNT. “Having such a close group of girls helped us immensely, and thankfully our team chemistry hasn’t faded over the past couple of months.”
The chemistry showed over the team’s first two weekend tournaments together. Playing against A- and Gold-level softball teams in the 18U Open bracket of the USA Softball 18U Invitational in Hagerstown in mid-June, TNT made it to the tournament semifinal after a strong Saturday of pool play and a pair of wins in Sunday’s knockout round. The team fell to the eventual tournament champion Lady Black Sox, 2-1, in eight innings in the semifinals, but nonetheless posted a 31-11 run differential for the weekend.
Over the weekend of June 19-21 in Spartansburg, South Carolina, the team navigated hail and thunderstorm delays but still managed to play four games, going 3-1 against teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. TNT closed the weekend with a 9-1 victory and outscored its opposition 20-9 in the tournament.
TNT Softball is the Maryland affiliate of a national TNT organization that supports teams along the East Coast. The flagship 18U team was formed this year in a partnership with Athletic Performance Inc (API) in Gambrills as central Maryland’s elite softball organization geared to train female fast-pitch players to get recruited and play at an elite college level. The organization plans to expand to the 16U, 14U, 12U and 10U age groups this fall.
The team is coached by Meredith McAlister, Kelly Burke and Roger Simonds, who collectively have NCAA Division-I playing and coaching experience in addition to Gold-level travel softball playing and coaching experience. None of the coaches have daughters on the team, and their coaching efforts are fully voluntary.
McAlister said this summer will present a new recruiting landscape with colleges pushing their recruiting periods back to July 31. Despite missing the May portion of its schedule, the TNT players stayed sharp with regular Zoom meetings and home workouts designed to build skills, remain connected and stay in peak shape.
“COVID kept us off the fields in May but we utilized Zoom calls, Google classroom training and individual skills workouts until we could get on the field for staggered small-group skills and eventually full practices,” said McAlister. “Most showcases we play in are offering live-streaming options, and we are personally utilizing streaming services to try to bring the tournament games to the [college] coaches, where they can watch from the comfort of their home. Live-streaming tournaments and the latest development of live-streaming elite-level league games mid-week is the potential future of the softball recruiting world.”
The team consists primarily of rising high school juniors and seniors and includes Rice, Chelsea Coleman (Glen Burnie), Sammi Sisolak (Catonsville), Ashlynn Bishop (Archbishop Spalding), Jasmine Parks (SPHS), Madison Bonnett (Northeast), Makayla Blake (Northeast), Holly Taylor (Northeast), Peyton Sullivan (SPHS), Sophia Martinez (McDonogh), Abbie Iaquinta (SPHS ‘20), Kerri Kazmarek (SPHS ‘20) Livi Driver (SPHS), Ella Ryan (SPHS) and Ruth Williams (Northeast). Christina Ballagh joined the team for its weekend in Hagerstown as an injury substitute.
The TNT 18U’s have five more weekend tournaments throughout the mid-Atlantic region through early August. Sullivan, a rising senior at SPHS, said the team is even more focused after its long hiatus.
“I missed being on the field with my team. It was honestly pretty weird not seeing them; they’re my softball family,” said Sullivan. “We have already played two tournaments and came back even stronger than before. Now when we are together, we are even closer after being apart for so long.”
TNT Maryland powered by API will hold tryouts for fall teams in all age groups in early and mid-July. For more information, visit www.tntmaryland.com.