FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Sting 12U softball team is poised for a run at a national title.
After a dominant season in which the team never finished worse than third in any tournament and won its league at the local level, the Farmington-based Sting will head to the United States Specialty Sports Association National Championship next week in West Covina, Calif.
The tourney is set to begin its opening ceremonies Monday, with the Sting opening play in Pool B against Los Angeles’ Easton Elite on Tuesday.
“We’re playing against teams who pay $2,000 to $2,500 per player to play, and these girls pay $80 to the league, and we fund raise for uniforms, tournaments and this trip. We’re going there to have fun and learn,” said Sting’s head coach Terry Maness, who has spent the last four seasons coaching the core of the team. “That’s the main thing this year and hopefully they’re mature enough to remain calm.”
The tournament includes eight pools consisting of four teams each, then moves to a 32-team double elimination bracket, which will be seeded by pool-play standings and runs through July 31.
Along with Easton Elite, the other teams in the Sting’s pool are A Cut ABOVE from Chino, Calif., and the California Rage Gold out of Glendora, Calif.
The Sting’s roster is made up entirely of San Juan County players, most from Farmington, with one Bloomfield player and one player from Shiprock.
Playing in the national tournament will be the second such experience for about half of the roster after seven players were on the NM Sting's 10U team that qualified two years ago.
The girls who made the tournament at the 10U level said their previous experience at the national championship taught them what to expect this time around.
“It was a good experience because we were facing older girls with more experience. We learned a lot, and we’ve improved a lot, and I think this year we have a chance to take them on,” Madi Van Riper said.
One of the main differences for the 12U version of the Sting is maturity. Two years ago, the team thought it would roll into the tournament, beat everyone and bring a national title to Farmington. Now, after the experience of facing the best teams in the country, the girls are more humble and understand what to expect from the level of competition they’ll see next week.
It won’t be all softball for the Sting while on the West Coast. After pool play ends on Wednesday, July 27 the team is hoping to tour Universal Studios. The Sting will attend a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game when they host the Boston Red Sox on either Friday, July 29 or Saturday night, July 30.
All of the Sting’s players are excited about the prospect of a California vacation and the activities away from the softball field the trip will present. But most important to the Sting is the chance to see how good they really are in what is likely the last time they’ll all share a field.
“This is our last year as a team because a lot of us are moving up and going to different schools,” Nicole Brimhall said. “I think it will be fun for us to go out there as a team one last time.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.