San Diego hosted in 2011 with Team North Florida taking the title while Marietta witnessed the East Cobb Bullets become the first Georgia team in any age group to hoist a softball amateur championship in 2010.
Four Georgia summer softball travel teams — the Atlanta Vipers out of Kennesaw, a second Atlanta Vipers squad, the Georgia Knockouts from Atlanta, and the Angles out of Richmond Hill near Savannah — will attempt to duplicate the feat set by the Bullets.
“There’s no better way to finish off your season than having an opportunity to play for a national championship,” Vipers coach Chris Dean said. “Some of these girls have played travel ball since they were 10 years old and now they get to play against the best of the best from across the country. All of these teams are tough and we all have one goal in mind.”
Dean has two local players — Allatoona rising senior Jessica Finch and rising Wheeler senior Adaria Dixon — on his roster. His Vipers 18U Gold squad placed 13th at last year’s ASA national tournament.
The event, which features 73 of the best youth softball teams in the country, begins today with pool play and ends with the championship contest slated for July 28.
The field is composed of teams from 15 ASA regions and 21 different states. California and Texas each have the most with 13, while Florida is next with eight and Washington follows with five. Georgia, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma each have four teams participating.
Pool play games — 17 pools of four teams each and one pool of five teams — will be held Monday and Tuesday. A 73-team, double elimination tournament beginning Wednesday follows to crown an eventual national champion on Saturday.
“This is a team that’s strong offensively,” Dean said. “We have 15 girls who have signed to college or have verbal commitments and 13 of them are going Division I. We’re a balanced senior driven team that knows what this tour-nament is about. For some of these girls, it’s their seventh trip to an ASA national championship.
“If we play to our potential, we can challenge for the championship. It’s a highly competitive atmosphere, and you definitely want to stay in the winner’s bracket as long as you can and minimize the games that you play because it can get hot in Oklahoma.”
Jenna Reilly, a rising senior at Pope, was a member of the Georgia Impact 16U team that finished as the Class A national runner-up at Chattanooga (Tenn.) a year ago. This season, she’s playing for the Knockouts coached by Rex Gibbs and Joel Hembree.
Local players who are members of Greg Giles’ Vipers 18U Gold team include recent graduates Katie Blair (Kell), Dresden Maddox (Harrison), Maisie Steed (Hillgrove), Kara Chambers (Allatoona) and Shelby Sinclair (Lassiter). Rising Harrison senior Kaci Giles is also on the squad. Many of them were a part of the 16U Class A team that placed fourth at last year’s tournament.
“It’s the base of the team from last year plus a few additions,” Giles said. “This team has transitioned well from 16 to 18 and has played well in all of their Gold tournaments this year.
“All 15 of the girls are committed to college and that’s exciting. It shows their desire to play at the next level.”
Giles has a team he believes can go deep into the tournament again.
“We have some very solid players and very good depth,” he said. “We can go to the bench at any time and play girls that could be starting. I think we also have great pitching.
“We’ve seen lots of Gold teams from other regions and have a good snapshot of what to expect. I’ve challenged the girls to go deep into this tournament. We have speed, power, good defense and really good pitching, so I’m excited to see how we do.”