Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lady Royals readying for Eastern Nationals in York, Pa.

Shannon Johnson warms up during Lansingburgh Lady Royals 14-and-under practice Thursday evening at Averill Park High School. (Photos by J.S. Carras - The Record).

I caught up with the Lansingburgh Lady Royals' 14-and-under team Thursday night as they practiced at Averill Park High School in preparation for their upcoming appearance in the Eastern National Championships in York, Pa. starting July 28.

A group of about half a dozen players has been together for the past three years. As a 10-and-under team three years ago, playing at Classie Lassies in Wynantskill, the team won the ENC title.

Last year, the team played to a runners-up finish.

For the full story, check out Friday's edition of The Record.

Shelby Fenton prepares to catch a fly ball in front of head coach Matt Johnson during Thursday's practice at Averill Park High School.

Some of the players are from the immediate Troy area, as Catholic Central, Tamarac, Averill Park and Cohoes student-athletes have found spots on the roster. The team also draws from all around the Capital Region, as Genevieve Paeglow makes the commute from Delmar to play with the team.

Unlike their baseball counterparts, who have house leagues and Sandy Koufax teams on which to compete, softball players are often on the road all the time, traveling to tournaments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Some of the Royals' coaches also said that they know of girls as young as 14 who travel to Binghamton multiple times per week to play on teams they feel fit their talents.

The Royals, however, have not strayed too far from home this season. The ENC trip is their only overnight adventure on the schedule for 2010.

"We want to keep their summers as normal as possible because they’re going to be jammed up for the next six to seven years," assistant coach Sean Wood said. "When they start hitting a certain age, you have to do that travel stuff. I just don’t think they’re ready for that yet."

Nina Freed makes a throw during Thursday's Lansingburgh Royals 14-and-under softball practice Thursday evening at Averill Park High School.

The team will enjoy the social aspects of the trip, but they're also going to get down to business once the games start.

Teams will have a bit of social get-together prior to the opening ceremonies. Gift bags, which includes trinkets from each team's neck of the woods, are exchanged, as are pins.

But with 52 teams in the tournament, the Royals are aware they could be headed home Friday morning if they don't play well.

The Bethlehem Tomboys Blaze, East Greenbush Express, Miss Scotties (Ballston Spa), Warning Track Heat (Stillwater) and Waterford Wicked will also be representing the Capital Region in the 52-team field.

Fundraising is also part of the game for the Royals, who will hold a car wash event Saturday. All of the work they do on the outside allows them to keep costs to $150, which is much less than what some other teams charge.

The Royals aren't quite at the level of some of the area's elite travel teams in playing in college showcase events, but head coach Matt Johnson hopes to change that in previous years. All of the Royals' success at the ever-popular ENC tournament can't hurt that goal.

Kelly Donnelly takes a mighty cut at a basketball in an unusual soft-toss training drill for the Lansingburgh Lady Royals 14-and-under softball team. The coaches picked it up during a clinic at Colgate University in February.

"We just want to have fun because we all love the sport," said multi-talented outfielder, first baseman and catcher Nicole Matthews. "We also want to prove to other places that you may be from nowhere, but you can still improve and be really good if you come from nowhere….like Wynantskill."

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