Local players hone skills with travel ball
Success never comes by accident. It’s marked by hard work, dedication and an undeniable commitment — characteristics found within players whose devotion takes them on the road in travel ball.
This summer, like many before it, softball players dragged their parents across the state — and on some occasions up and down the East Coast — for tournaments not for the faint of heart, sometimes playing eight games in a single weekend.
Some are preparing for the next chapter in their athletic careers as collegiate softball players, while others are getting ready to lead their high school teams with hopes of playing at the college level someday.
“I’ve been playing travel ball since I was 9 years old,” said former Woodland softball captain Cameron Caswell, an All-NVL shortstop for the Hawks who will go on to play for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. as a freshman. “Travel ball has taught me how to be mentally and physically tough. It also taught me that you need to have a short memory to succeed in this game and you can’t focus on every little mistake.”
Caswell went out in style with hit a two-run homer and a grand slam in her final game of travel ball for the Xtreme Chaos. It was the exposure playing for the Chaos that got her recruited to play in college.
Caswell’s fellow captain and classmate at Woodland Samantha Buzgo started her senior year as an All-Brass Division first baseman for the Hawks and has been a key player for the Cheshire Flames this summer.
“Playing travel ball has helped me to achieve my biggest goal of playing in college,” said Buzgo, who will head to Becker College this fall as a nursing major. “This summer was not about wins and losses. It was all about preparing me for the next stage of my career.”
Then there are players where the wins have always outnumbered the losses, like former Naugatuck High captain Jackie Aronin, an All-NVL and All-State centerfielder for the Greyhounds.
Playing in her second year with the Southington Lightning, Aronin also got a little experience behind the plate as a catcher, which will serve her well in college. The Lightning won the 18U USSSA State Championship tournament in East Hartford this summer and finished second in the Summer Slam the following week.
“I’m beginning to realize my time in Connecticut is winding down,” said Aronin, who will be off to play for the Utica Pioneers in the fall. “I’m going through the incoming freshman nerves but so excited to start this next chapter in my life. It’s always been a dream of mine to play softball in college and it’s so surreal that in a short few weeks I will be putting on a college uniform.”
Pitching at the college ranks brings on a whole new level of anxiety as there is rarely a weak hitter in the lineup. Former Naugatuck pitcher Jessica Conover, who is coming off a senior season in which she had 11 wins with 76 strikeouts and just four walks, will have little to worry about as her game doesn’t get her in trouble.
After four seasons playing for the Watertown Rapids, Conover played for the Connecticut Titans this year. The competition was intense as the team played in the World Fast Pitch tournament for a week in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“The competition in travel ball will certainly have me ready to face the talent at the college level,” said Conover, who will play for Wells College in Aurora, N.Y. and major in psychology. “Playing against different teams from different states almost every team has a bunch of college players in their lineup.”
For rising seniors Maddie Hupprich and Alexandra Langhans, the summer circuit offers them the opportunity to sharpen their skills as players and leaders for Woodland and Naugatuck, respectively.
Hupprich earned All-Brass Division honors as a junior and her all-around play makes her a natural leader for the Hawks.
The Cheshire Wildcats had a successful 24-10 record this summer and Hupprich was an integral part of that success playing second base and right field.
“We consistently play high caliber teams that provide good experience,” Hupprich said. “I think playing against such good competition helps to make you a better player and I’m really looking forward to having a successful senior year.”
The thought of playing at the next level in college has proved to be an additional motivating factor for a lot of players entering their senior year of high school. For Langhans, the Greyhounds’ catcher, her experience as a junior really opened the door.
Langhans earned All-Copper Division honors and was chosen for the Junior Select College Showcase game. Playing for the Connecticut Knights, this summer her team won four of eight games in Virginia at the Nationals.
“I have been playing travel ball for six years now,” Langhans said. “The competition has definitely helped me to become a better player and has prepared me for my senior year.”