LUDLOW, MO – There are few opportunities to play boy’s fast pitch softball but two high school leagues in northwest Missouri are hanging onto the traditional small town sport.
One such league is the Carroll-Livingston Activities Association which has eight boy’s teams taking the field this season.
Today the sport is classified as an “emerging” sport by the Missouri state high school activities association because there are less than fifty teams registered to play.
SHOW ME STATE, THE LEADER
Missouri is the only state that offers a boy’s (fall) high school fastpitch program. The addition of eighth graders helps teams fill their rosters to assure that squads continue to play.
With the numbers of participants falling with small school enrollments it was a welcome rule change for Southwest who added eighth grader Ryan Bell to create a ten man roster.
This summer Rolla, Missouri served as the host of (the Amateur Softball Association) three boy’s and men’s national fast pitch tournaments and the winner was Northwest Implement of Maryville, Missouri in both the Boys 16-Under and 18-Under tournaments.
McQuinn STONG SUPPORTER
Northwest Implement Coach and sponsor, Greg McQuinn has four boys who play the sport. McQuinn’s sons and their friends. Kyle, 22, Brett, 21, Ryan, 18, and Troy, 17. McQuinn has made sure his boys have teams to play on, including the Jefferson High team in Conception Junction, a small town in northwestern Missouri.
The Jefferson Eagles have quite a fastpitch history, winning five consecutive state championships from 2002-2007.
“Developing pitching starts in about the sixth or seventh grade,” said McQuinn, who is also the school board president of Jefferson High School.
Northwest Implement plays about a 40-game summer schedule. They play in the men’s league in St. Joseph and in weekend tournaments.
McQuinn’s brother-in-law is Eric Lewis, the athletic director and boy’s softball coach at Winston High Schoo, who helps McQuinn in the drive to save boy’s and men’s fastpitch by forming boy’s teams.
This year five teams played in the national 16-Under tournament, four teams in the 18-Under and seven in the men’s 23-Under. Teams traveled from Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, South Dakota, Utah, and Minnesota to participate.
The Jefferson Eagles have won the Missouri state high school tournament seven times since it’s beginning in 1992. In that initial year CLAA member Meadville claimed third place behind North Harrison and Bunceton. Bosworth was second in 1993, and Hale claimed third in 1994. Tina-Avalon was second in 1996 and that year Bosworth was third. T.A. again placed in 1998 with a third and in 1999 Bosworth was the champion for the first of back to back championships.
In 2000 a squad from Southwest captured second place, and until 2009 the CLAA was vacant from the top three until Tina Avalon won third place.
The Southwest boys faced the CLAA’s strongest two teams to begin the 2010 season in Meadville and T.A., and made a lot of improvements over the two game span in their losses.
“It really helps to get experience on the field,” said Coach Marj Locker about the boy’s team who is led by young players with no experience in the game.
Last year the school did not field a team and there’s a lot of ground to be made up. The biggest obstacle is trying to develop a pitcher in three week’s time, added Coach Locker.
YOUNG PITCHER SLATED FOR MOUND DUTY
This season the pitcher most likely to see the most time is freshman Brandon Bothwell who has yet to learn to windmill, but is learning the basics for the moment.
“It takes several seasons to become a really good windmill pitcher, so it was a real challenge to ask Brandon to take the pitcher’s plate after just three weeks, but he is doing an admirable job,” Locker said.
Freshman Cole Upton has a quick glove and has started at the short stop position. Sophomore Caden Hacker is steady at second base, and freshman Alec Trent is working in the outfield.
TWO SPORT GUYS
The rest of the roster is made up of football players who must first fulfill their obligations at football practices and are pulling double duty trying to practice some softball and attend games after football practice is over.
“I haven’t heard any complaints yet about the occasional double practice and we sure had a fun time playing against T.A. last week,” said Coach Locker.
For now the Southwest boys are doing their best against the odds and playing the roll of the underdog as they help to keep an American sport alive.