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Softball | Softball Tournament | 6/2/2022

OKC Challenge Kicks Off Summer Fastpitch

Jerry Miller     
Photo: Perfect Game
The first weekend in June generally kicks off the summer travel ball season. This year is no different as 142 teams from across the country will converge on Oklahoma City, fastpitch softball’s heartbeat, for Perfect Game’s 2022 Oklahoma City Challenge. The four-day event kicks off on Friday, June 3 and concludes on Monday, June 6 when champions will be crowned in seven divisions across five age groups.
 
The 10U-Open, 12B, 14B, and 16B games will be played at the Chickasha Sports Complex is Chickasha, Oklahoma. Chickasha is approximately 40 miles south and west of Norman. Norman will host the 14A, 16A, and 18U-Open teams at Reaves Park.
 
Teams from all across the Midwest, South Central, and Southeast are part of the field. Clubs from as far away as Ohio, Florida, and Georgia will join programs from Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Tennessee, South Dakota, and host Oklahoma in one of the early summer’s premier events.
 
10U-Open
 
Six 10U-Open clubs will play their games in Chickasha. The Tornado Athletics Blue and Gold teams from Southwest Louisiana, along with the Colorado Rebellion-Perry from Parker, Colo., Havoc from Mobley, Mo., Originals 2011 from Lee’s Summit, Mo. and the Texas Oilers-Eppler from Wylie, Texas make up this field of young, talented, and aspiring players.
 
12B
 
The 12B field is deep and any number of teams could work their way through pool play and make a bid to take home the coveted PG championship trophy from the Chickasha Sports Complex. Some familiar program names that have a long and storied history of travel ball make up the 12B group.
 
The Beverly Bandits 11U Futures from Circleville, Ohio, Select Fastpitch 11U from Kansas City, Kan., ATX George 12U from Austin, Texas, Colorado Rebellion-Karjala from Parker, Colo., Indiana Gators Premier from Monrovia, Ind., and the Iowa Blitz from Des Moines, Iowa are just a few of the teams that carry program history to OKC.
 
There are also a number of teams who are just now making a name for themselves, like CPYL Starburst from Cedar Park, Texas, and another Texas squad, Dynasty Six, from Corpus Christi. Look for the Fireballs from Hiawatha, Kan., Golden Glove 12U from Poplar Bluff, Mo., and the two KC Pride entries – Red and Navy – to make some noise. The Lawrence Hummers from Lawrence, Kan., along with four teams from the Lone Star State, PSP Fastpitch 2K9 from Alice, Texas, Team Elite Cantu from Frisco, Texas, San Antoinio’s Team Legacy ’09, and the Texas Oilers 12U Eppler from Wylie, will look to make their marks in Chickasha.  
 
Coming all the way from Tinley Park in Illinois is the Windy City Ice Black. They will be challenged by WUSA Wave 12U out of Houston, the Texas Oilers 12U Mayhem from Wylie, NTX Bombers from the DFW Metroplex, Mid MO Pride 2009 from Jefferson City, Mo., and a couple of solid clubs from Nebraska including, Nebraska Stealth from Papillion (home of OU sensation, Jordy Bahl) and the Nebraska Thunder from LaVista, Neb..
 
Any number of teams could win this division as there is some emerging talent at this level that will certainly get even better as the summer goes. A number of surprises in pool play are sure to shake up the brackets. Look for great enthusiasm and tremendous action from the 12B teams. This could be a lot of fun!
 
14A
 
The action and excitement gets kicked up a notch with the 14A tournament. Reaves Park, in the shadow of Oklahoma University in Norman, will play host to this talented group of teams.
 
The team names are familiar to many fastpitch fans who follow travel ball. A number of the young players participating in the OKC Challenge this weekend should eventually have the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. For now, however, they will be taking on some of the best individuals and teams that their age level has to offer.
 
The programs that many of these teams are associated with are some of the very best in the country. The KC Bombers 14U (Kansas City, Mo.), Lady Dukes SE (Kennesaw, Ga.), Nebraska Gold 515 Dillinger (Polk City, Iowa), Originals j2 (Independence, Mo.), St. Louis Chaos ’08-Backsmeyer (Chesterfield, Mo.), Texas Glory 2526 (Burleson, Texas), and Impact Gold 2K7 Hranicky (Port Neches, Texas), are just a few of the squads that are certain to compete at a very high level in Norman.
 
There are a number of other entries who won’t back down from the competition. The aforementioned are certainly worthy, but there are some really outstanding teams in this division that could very well challenge for the championship, including, 316 Elite (Wichita, Kan.), Vision Gold AR 2526 Barham (Joplin, Mo.), Epic National 2026 from Norman, who could have a slight homefield advantage, and TBSA Wahoos 08 (Springfield, Mo.).
 
The Missouri Bombers 08 Gold out of O’Fallon, Mo., and Epic Premier X07 from Broken Arrow, OK are also solid programs that will impact both pool and bracket play. These two programs are as good as any in the field.
 
Not to be slighted in the least are Pryme 25/26 National (Verdigris, Okla.), the Nebraska Quakes Prime - Van Boskirk (Omaha, Neb.), and Southern Force 14U National (Lewisburg, Tenn.). These three fine programs are coming to OKC with just a couple of thoughts in mind. Win our pool, dominate the bracket, pose for a championship picture, and take the winner’s trophy home.
 
The 14A division will be outstanding. The competition will be fierce. Whatever team survives pool play and manages to play their way to a championship, will have certainly earned it.
 
 
14B
 
There are 36 teams in the 14B division. If this were late summer, there would probably only be a handful of teams that could be considered a favorite to win. For the great majority of teams playing in the OKC Challenge, however, this is their first true test of the travel season. As teams gather at Chickasha Sports Complex, they all enter knowing that this tournament is wide open. Who eventually hoist the championship trophy is a complete unknown.
 
Teams from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, and Georgia will invade southwest metro Oklahoma City anxious to get on the field for the first time in something other than a scrimmage or practice game. Workouts are over and it’s time to find out who made the most improvement over the winter and spring.
 
Clubs from as far away as Kennesaw, Ga. and Downers Grove, Ill. will tangle with teams from many cities in Texas or Kansas. There is a good bet that a club from Iowa will match up with a team from Arkansas and a squad from the Show Me State of Missouri will tangle with club from Nebraska or Oklahoma.
 
One thing for sure, when the dust finally settles on Monday at the conclusion of this tournament, players, coaches, and parents will have enjoyed the competition and the visit to the Home of Fastpitch Softball, Oklahoma City. Good luck to all the 14B teams!
 
16A
 
The 16A division is loaded with quality players and teams. Choosing a favorite to take the title, especially considering how early in the season it is, is truly just a coin flip. The action at Reaves Park in Norman should be fast paced and the enthusiasm and energy should be off the charts.
 
Missouri, which plays its high school ball in the fall, has the most entrants, by far. It is probably a certainty that many of the travel clubs in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado, which also play interscholastic softball in the fall, have a bit of a head start on those states that play the traditional spring season.
 
The Oklahoma Athletics Hughes 16U (Piedmont, Okla.), Pryme 24/25-Ray (Verdigris, Okla.), and the Oklahoma Blaze 16U (OKC) are the de-facto hosts of this division. The Cyclones 16U Red (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and SD Nationals 16U (Tea, S.D.) are making the longest trips. It is almost a fact they’ll be fired up and ready to play!
 
The Missouri teams, KC Ambush (Lee’s Summit), KC Bombers 15U and KC Bombers 16U (Kansas City), AC Fury (Rosendale), KC Zephyrs-Crooks (Lee’s Summit), Louisville Lady Sluggers-Arnold (St. Louis), Midwest Intensity-Murphy (Saint Peters), Missouri Crushers Elite (Union), and Missouri Stealth Arrowood (Fulton), undoubtedly have some familiarity with each other, which makes for some built-in intense rivalry.
 
The Pilots (Wichita, KS), Strikers 05 (Gardner, KS, and 316 Elite 16A-Derrico (Wichita, KS) will make the drive south on I-35  intent on carrying the championship trophy back north. They will unquestionably be challenged by two Nebraska Thunder clubs out of Omaha. The Thunder 14U Pechar/Lutmer playing up a division and the Thunder Elite-Christians are sound teams from solid organizations. Both of these squads would settle for meeting up in the finals.

16B
 
There is very little difference in the talent level between the A and B divisions when players reach the 16-year-old age group. If young women are still involved with the sport by the time they reach this age group, it is a passion for them. They are dedicated and they truly practice their craft. Softball is important to them! That means something!
 
There may only be a slight difference in the depth of pitching and possibly a tick more velocity from the A level to the B level. Maybe. There will be many players participating in the 16B division who will be playing college ball in a few years. That is undoubtedly a fact.
 
The competition at Chickasha Sports Complex will be fierce. The winners of 16B will have certainly earned their trophy and the accolades that go with it.
 
There are 21 teams in the 16B field from 10 different states. Choosing a pre-tournament champ is not an option. Too many good teams and too many good players will take part in this tourney and it’s basically the first true challenge of the summer.
 
Good luck to all the 16B teams. Represent!
 
 
18-Open
 
Slugfest! Donnybrook! All out, all day! Competition in the 18-Open division could be epic! There will be a number of solid teams and top-flight games played that will highlight talented individuals in the advanced division. Most, if not all, of the young women participating at this level have been playing softball for as long as they can remember. Some could possibly be competing for the last few times in the sport they love. After one last run in the sun, too many 18U players, unfortunately, will hang up their cleats. When the 2022 summer season concludes, so will many careers. But that’s OK! Make it a great summer!
 
A great many of the players who will take part in the OKC Challenge, however, are enjoying one more June and July with their friends before they head off to college and intercollegiate competition. Either way, the 2022 OKC Challenge will give all the players who have dedicated a great deal of time to softball, an outstanding opportunity to start the summer off right!
 
Nine states will be represented at Reaves Park in Norman and the clubs attending this early summer tourney are certain to benefit from the quality and competitiveness of each contest.
 
A few club names jump out. The Batbusters Sandoval (Westminster, Colo.), along with their neighbors from Broomfield, Colo., the Colorado Ballplayers Academy, are certain to bring a solid game to OKC. The Oklahoma Intimidators Green/Rogers (Sallisaw, Okla.) and Next Level TX (Odessa, Texas) are usually in the upper echelon of programs regionally. CO Hype (Thornton, Colo.), Whiplash Softball (Lincoln, Ill.), EC Coyotes – 18 U (Elizabeth, Colo.), Nebraska Dominators (Lincoln, Neb.) and SPI 18U Elite (Tulsa, Okla.) are all solid clubs who will present a challenge for any club they play.
 
The Roosevelt Riders 18U (Des Moines, Iowa) are a quality program with a number of age level clubs that produce outstanding players. Commotion (Braymer, Mo.), Crusaders Fastpitch (Killeen, Texas), Tulsa Elite 18U Wood (Tulsa, Okla.), Queen City Revolution (Springfield, Mo.), and Mid MO Grit (Jefferson City, Mo.), are certain to challenge for the coveted PG Championship trophy.
 
The competitive fires are certain to drive OLY Fire (Bloomington, Ill.), Midwest Angels 18U (Paxico, Kan.), Vision Elite 18U (West Fork, Ark.), and Missouri Fury 04 (New Melle, Mo.). Each of these squads will show the talent and grit to win!
 
The 18U Open division promises to showcase outstanding talent. The energy and excitement will be palpable. The 18-Open tournament will be one to remember!

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