Summer softball big improvement over no spring season


Jozie Nicholson and her Seymour High School teammates didn’t have an opportunity to play softball in the spring, but they are enjoying spending time on softball fields during weekends throughout central and southern Indiana this summer.

Nicholson played with the Thunder in the 18U division last weekend at Kasting Park in Seymour. Other Seymour Owls on the Thunder roster were Carlee Robinson, Kate Snook and Stephanni Kleber. Also playing with the Thunder were Rehgen Stuckwisch from Brownstown and Jaryn Holtsclaw, a graduate of Trinity Lutheran High School.

Making up somewhat for the missed spring season also were players from Jennings County, Hope and Bloomington.

“It’s nice to get to play with one of my best friends, Jaryn Holtsclaw," Nicholson said. "She goes to Trinity, and I don’t get to play with her in the spring.”

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Among the teams in the same division as the Thunder were the Red Alert. That team also is made up of players from several schools, including Peyton Brock from Brownstown Central and Kamzi Gross from Trinity Lutheran.

The Red Alert defeated the Thunder in a pool game July 24.

Nicholson said because of COVID-19, the first day this group could play in a tournament was June 14. The Thunder have played in four tournaments, are scheduled to play in Columbus this weekend and will be playing in August. The tournament in Columbus is the state tournament.

“For my travel team, the Thunder, I only play center field. For the Owls, Jerry (Burton, head coach) usually has me play right field," Nicholson said.

Jason Kleber has been involved with girls softball for several years. He is director for the central Indiana region for USSSA softball and also is head coach of the Thunder 18U team.

“I run a tournament every weekend and sometimes two,” he said. “Five girls on this team have graduated high school. At least they’re getting a little bit of something after this strange year we’ve had. It’s nice to still be involved. When we started at (age 6), I didn’t think it would be what it is, but we’ve stayed with it for 12 years, and we’ve had some fun along the way.”

There were 106 teams playing in the USSSA fast-pitch softball tournament in age groups 8U through 18U. They played at Kasting Park and Freeman Field in Seymour, Dunn Field in Columbus and in Hope.

There also was a Thunder team made up of local players in the 14U division.

Nick Underwood is head coach of that team, which includes his daughter, Phoebe Underwood, and Addison Reed of Seymour and Adelynn Anderson of Brownstown.

Reed, an incoming eighth-grader at Seymour Middle School, is an outfielder for the Thunder and despite her youth has considerable experience.

“I’ve been playing outfield since first grade," she said said. "I’ve played a lot of games (at Kasting), in Columbus and all around. I enjoy being with my friends. All I play is softball. We haven’t won any tournaments this summer, but we won some last fall.”

Anderson said she would have played for the BCHS Braves if the team would have been allowed to go in the spring.

“I’ve been playing softball for six or seven years," she said. "I usually play center field or second base. I like to play center. I enjoy hitting gaps. I like the tournaments a lot. We got complimented by the field umpire for our base-running after a game Saturday.”

Phoebe Underwood has been playing softball with her dad as coach since age 5.

“I like it because I feel like he pushes me even harder," she said. "My grandpa (the late Rex Allen) used to be my coach, too.”

She said she enjoys pitching.

“I have a fastball that I can move inside out, up and down," she said. "I have a change-up I can throw inside or out. I have a screwball, a drop ball and a drop curve."

Her coach calls the pitches.

“My screwball is my favorite pitch," she said. "It’s an inside pitch. It comes right up on them if they’re a right-handed batter on the hands."

Brian Personett was the USSSA site coordinator at Kasting Park during the weekend. Among his responsibilities were making sure the right teams were playing on the right diamond at the correct time and to make sure there were umpires ready to make the calls.

“I will typically be at one location for an entire weekend," he said. "Two weeks ago, I was at Martinsville. A week ago, I was at Edinburgh. (Last) weekend, I’m at Kasting. (This) weekend, I’ll be at Hamilton Southeastern."

The game and the enjoyment kids get out of participating motivate him.

“It’s a chance maybe to give back a little," the former Owls coach said. "For me personally, I love kids, I love being around kids. This is a chance where I can still be involved and I can still be around softball and a small part of it."

Personett also said the local communities embrace the visiting teams.

“These tournaments are good for the community," he said. "People are staying in restaurants, people are staying in hotels and they’re buying gas. You’d be surprised how many comments I get on how nice the facilities are. If you’ve got the facilities, why not use them?”

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