It’s not uncommon to see huge club organizations that cross state lines and have dozens, if not hundreds of teams.
Then there are the programs that may have just one team, or just one squad per age group, such as the Texas Dirt Divas which surprised the travel ball world when it won the PGF 14U Premier National Championship last summer.
An up and coming program that is small, but talented, is the West Bay Warriors based in San Mateo, California and established less than three years ago by Ray McDonald.
The now-President of the Warriors select seven players—still with the organization—and had no idea that that initial small unit would evolve into an organization of 65 players today at the 16U, 14U and 12U age divisions and would already be fielding teams that are PGF and ASA qualified.
“With the many established organizations to choose from in Northern California,” explains his daughter Kelly, who coaches the 12U team, “the seven original Warriors have stood with Ray since Day 1, trusting the process of becoming an established travel ball program.”
The primary goal of the Warriors, according to its President, “is to develop strong and confident student-athletes into national contenders who will win a national title.”
The results have been impressive: since its inception in 2015, the program qualified for PGF in 2016, just 13 months after the first practice with those original core seven and in 2017 the Warriors finished 7th at PGF Nationals in only its second summer of having a 12U team.
Recently, the organization announced its first Pac-12 commit when 2022 catcher/shortstop Megan Grant committed to UCLA.
“There will be many more to come by this summer,” adds Ray.
So what is it that has allowed the program to have had significant success in just a few years of existence?
“The attraction to our program is an extremely experienced coaching staff,” begins the President. “Our philosophy is to have zero parent coaches. The practice pace and the proven track record of kids getting better under our coaching staff drive a lot of kids to the Warriors.”
“We don’t have players that come from the powerhouse organizations, almost every girl we have is right out of rec ball. We have huge amounts of field availability during the week to work on defense that make for a pitcher’s dream.”
“Our organization also includes a strength and conditioning program with Heart and Hustle Boxing and a hitting facility available to the girls seven days a week. Aside from Ray and Harry Mullins, the coaches are all in their early to mid-20’s so we really have role models for these young women on and off the field.”
It’s not just about winning on the field, however; McDonald stresses the growth off the field is equally important.
“We pride ourselves on instilling self-confidence and helping the players understand how much more there is to life when they’re done with softball. Between the five female coaches, they all have their own softball journeys and a personal story behind how they've gotten to where they are now.”
“They are really good about identifying similarities with themselves and the girls they’re coaching, whether it be the mental aspect or the physical skill set and share what they’ve learned now that they’re done playing.”
The founder’s daughter says the culture is one where those who come through want to return and help the program that got them started.
“It’s a combination of competitiveness and that family support,” Ray continues. “We train them to play with grit and the underdog mentality. The girls show up to beat each other out every single day and then off the field are really each other’s closest friends. We don’t set strict boundaries on teams nor set specific coaches for team practices, so every girl in the program has the opportunity to practice and build relationships with girls on all teams and be coached by all of the coaches.”
Also key to the quick growth of the Warriors, all feel, is the quality of coaches that have been assembled.
Adds Kelly, “Ray and Harry Mullins coached the 10U, 12U and 14U West Bay Nuggets when IRaven (Harry’s daughter), Maia (Purdue), Ali (Sonoma State) I (UC Santa Barbara) played, finishing in the top 10 at ASA Nationals 4 years in a row.”
“The group of girls have been best friends since they were seven years old, we went to high school together, and now make up the Warriors coaching staff alongside with Ray and Harry."
"This fall, we also added baseball players Mickey McDonald, who currently plays in the A’s minor league system, and Chris Lewis, who was an All-American at Sac St and who Ray refers to as one of the best guys he has ever coached. Chris and Mickey led the 16’s to a 40 win fall. ”
Here’s a rundown of each of the current teams and key players to watch for with comments from Ray McDonald:
WEST BAY WARRIORS 16U
The team is led by shortstop Maicie Levitt who embodies the loyalty and relentlessness that the program prides itself on. Maicie and the 16U battery--2019 pitchers Holly Fletcher and Kealani Kaufusi and 2019 catcher Brianna Santos—have led this original Warriors team to two PGF Nationals appearances and a fall 2017 record of 40-8-3.
As the team goes their separate ways for high school, they are ready for a big summer with the addition of two 2020 slappers who can also hit for power: Tayler Wise and Shannon Galliano.
Players to Watch:
SS Maicie Levitt (2019, uncommitted)
Maicie is the anchor of the West Bay Warriors program. Maicie is a very strong shortstop, known for her quick feet, soft hands and her strong arm. She offers a strong bat in the lineup hitting from the right side with home run power. She has a very high softball IQ with elite field awareness, always anticipating what can happen next. Maicie has been recruited by many D1 programs throughout the country and is waiting for the perfect high-level softball team to match a strong academic program.
P Holly Fletcher (2019, uncommitted)
Holly has an effective rise ball spin and can place her curve and screw wherever she wants on the corners. She also has control of her change-up allowing her to keep hitters off-balance.
P Kealani Kaufusi (2019, uncommitted)
Left handed, Kealani has home run power at the plate and can be our starting center field with incredible arm strength and speed, and then can roll out and pitch a complete game. She works in and out on batters very well with her high velocity and has an effective rise ball
C/OF Brianna Santos (2019, uncommitted)
Brianna is an athletic catcher with both a strong and accurate arm. She can hit and slap from the left side and is very smart on the bases. Brianna has a very high softball IQ that she can take with her as a 3rd baseman, 2nd baseman, and outfielder as needed.
LF Tayler Wise (2020, uncommitted)
Taylor holds the highest batting average in the Warriors program. She barrels up on the ball almost every at-bat with her quick hands. Tayler can hit for power to all fields with speed to match.
CF/2B Shannon Galliano (2020, uncommitted)
Shannon leads by example with her grit and intense competitiveness. She can drop a bunt wherever she wants, power slap or stationary hit from the left side. She will lay out for any ball in centerfield and throw a girl out on a dime with her arm strength. Shannon can also play middle infield when needed.
WEST BAY WARRIORS 14U
The 14U Warriors are primed to have a successful season after already being selected to play in the Colorado 4th of July Power Pool. They will be led by 2022 UCLA commit Megan Grant and 2022 catcher/outfielder Olivia Dinardo.
After a 7th place 12U PGF Nationals finish last summer, the pair competed at 14U ASA Nationals the next week and went on to play 16U in the Fall. They continuously cement their names at the top of all Warriors statistical categories, regardless of age group.
Warriors 2021 catcher/outfielder addition Haley Klemmer will make an immediate impact come summer with the help of power hitters 2021 Mika Chong and 2022 Alex Bunton.
Players to Watch:
C/SS Megan Grant (2022, UCLA)*
Megan takes her God-given athletic ability and strives to elevate it wherever she goes. She has incredible arm strength and range and hits for power from the left side with speed on the bases. Her physical skills combined with her demeanor, unwavering self-confidence and leadership ability started catching the eye of college coaches last July at 12U PGF Nationals.
C/CF Olivia Dinardo (2022, uncommitted)
Olivia is always within the top three hitters for batting average and hits. She has great discipline at the plate with home run power and has a strong presence on the field, leading her teammates from either behind the plate or center field. Her work ethic and athleticism caught the attention of many D1 coaches around the country playing 16U as a 13-year-old.
1B/P Alex Bunton (2022, uncommitted)
Power hitter and one of the most elite 1st baseman in the program. Alex is also a right-handed pitcher and one of our biggest leaders in the dugout keeping the energy level high throughout the entire game.
* comments by Ray McDonald
WEST BAY WARRIORS 12U
The 12U West Bay Warriors are coming off of a 7th place finish at the 2017 PGF Nationals led by 2023 pitcher Ava Conti. She had the most wins and innings pitched out of every 12U pitcher in Huntington Beach and can’t wait to get back and do it again this July.
The team already has a berth to 2018 PGF Nationals and are preparing for a rigorous spring/summer schedule traveling to Michigan, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Southern California.
Concludes Kelly, It was an unforgettable season because we had so many one-run games that we would torture ourselves and win in the last inning. A lot of the time, it felt that 2017 team was centered around knowing that three to four players were going to make something happen.
This season, I have a lineup where 1-9 can change the game with their at bats. Our offense will be the difference this year to go along with our incredible returning pitching staff."
Player to Watch
P Ava Conti (2023, uncommitted)
Ava led her 12U team to a 7th place finish at PGF Nationals as a first year 12. She is the complete package with an impressive rise ball, screw ball, curve ball, change up, drop ball and impeccable spin. She competed at the 14U level in the Fall and can also hit for power from the right side.
Follow the Warriors on the team’s website: www.westbaywarriors.com, on Instagram: @westbaywarriors_ and Twitter: @warriorsgirls1