The 16-and-under Shamrocks of Northern Virginia are making big plans for this weekend, and they do not include softball.
"They are already talking about the beach," said Shamrocks Coach Jim Brackin, whose team won an American Softball Association national qualifier last weekend in Richmond.
By winning the tournament, the Shamrocks earned a berth in the ASA Nationals, which begin Aug. 9 in Marietta, Ga. They also earned a rare weekend off. Brackin had scheduled the Shamrocks to play in ASA national qualifiers the next two weekends to earn a berth in nationals. But since they already qualified, they are ineligible for those tournaments.
While Brackin is considering sending the Shamrocks to Ohio for an invitational tournament July 16-17, he will give them a break from the softball field this weekend after they won six games by a combined score of 53-9 in Richmond.
"It was more like a Fourth of July fireworks display than it was softball because the girls were just killing the ball," Brackin said. "We really overwhelmed our opponents."
Kat Peck, a junior at Oakton, pitched the Shamrocks to three victories at the tournament. Christy Anch, a sophomore and second-team All-Met from Broad Run, won two games, including a two-hit shutout of the Keystone (Pa.) Wildcats in the double-elimination championship round.
Aimee Bryan, the team's leading hitter this summer (.432, four home runs), went 8 for 21 and drove in five runs last weekend. Kelly Brown of Gar-Field (12 for 20, six RBI), Jen Wynn of Herndon (7 for 18, 10 RBI), Caitlin Murphy of Madison (9 for 17, five RBI) and Autumn Wacker of Broad Run (8 for 13, three RBI) also have made key offensive contributions for the Shamrocks, who have hit a combined .352 this summer and have won five of the seven tournaments they have played in. At 35-3 overall, they are riding a 13-game winning streak.
The 18-and-under Shamrocks will be among three local teams seeking to qualify this weekend for the ASA Gold Nationals. The top two finishers at the four-team, double-elimination Central Atlantic Regional Championship, which will be held Saturday at Fairland Regional Park in Laurel, will earn bids to the prestigious national championship in Chattanooga, Tenn., later this month.
Defending champion Southern Maryland Dynasty faces Catonsville in the opening game at 9 a.m., and the Shamrocks will host Merchants Fast Pitch, who are also based in Southern Maryland, at 11 a.m. Games will be played every two hours thereafter.
Heather Todd, who graduated last month from Loudoun Valley, is playing for the 18-and-under Fire and Ice of Sterling this summer and, until recently, expected to play at Coker College in South Carolina this fall.
But her plans changed following Loudoun Valley's loss in the Virginia AA state semifinals in Salem last month when an assistant coach from Virginia Tech approached her about the possibility of playing for the Hokies.
"It was a big shock because we lost the game, and then all of a sudden, wow, here was a coach from Virginia Tech talking to me," Todd said. "It really took me by surprise."
Todd then applied to Virginia Tech, was accepted, and given a spot on the softball team. She will play second base for the Hokies, who lost last season's starter at that position to graduation and did not have a backup.
Todd will join area players Clarisa Crowell and Maura Green at Tech. Crowell, who is playing for the Dynasty this summer, was two-time All-Met player of the year at McDonough and a freshman pitcher for the Hokies last spring.
Green, a shortstop, was a second-team All-Met selection at Langley last spring and is playing for the 18-and-under Shamrocks this summer.