By GREG MENGELT
NEW ALBANY —
The Indiana Diamonds 13-14-year-old travel softball team spent the past season seeking the best competition it could find.
After back-to-back 100-win seasons, including a 116-6 mark in 2011 and a 325-90 record over the past three seasons, the Diamonds looked to increase their schedule difficulty in 2012.
“It was paramount that the team be challenged constantly during the year,” Diamonds’ coach Dennie Jenkins said. “The coaching staff felt that if our girls were going to grow in the game, they would have to be pushed beyond their comfort zone by elevating the competition.”
The Diamonds kicked off their season in Birmingham, Ala., and traveled 9,000 miles, playing in 20 tournaments, many of which came against teams in higher age brackets.
The Diamonds went 105-42, playing softball in 20 tournaments in nine different states, winning nine of them and finishing second in the Thunderbolts Spring Opener.
Three times they came from the losers’ bracket to win titles and they outscored their opponents, 957-398.
“The Diamonds relied on a combination of exceptional pitching and defense to hold opponents in check while imposing relentless team speed to constantly pressure the opposition,” Jenkins said. “As the season progressed, the bats clicked.”
The Diamonds completed their season with a stretch of tougher competition at the 16-under and 18-under College Showcase Format in a series of four weekends in Columbus, Ohio, Decatur, Ill., Chattanooga, Tenn., and St. Louis. The Diamonds went 18-3 and won their last 13 games.
During the 13-game winning streak, the Diamonds “never trailed an inning,” Jenkins said.
The season ended in September with the Diamonds winning the Premier Qualifier in Indianapolis. The championship secured a berth in the Premier National in San Diego in the summer of 2013.
“The future of softball looks bright in Southern Indiana as these young ladies continue to push themselves to higher levels,” Jenkins said.
The Diamonds are comprised of five high school freshmen — Floyd Central’s Kennedy Wynn, Regan Hadley, Gabbi Jenkins and Kassie King and Louisville Collegiate’s Charlotte Happel.
Six eighth-graders round out the lineup. They are Taylor Castleberry, Jensen Striegel, Mackenzie Smith, Kendal Cline, Jenna Endris and Haley Shouse.