The 26th Kissimmee Klassic, considered by many as the top high school softball tournament in the nation, kicks off Thursday in Kissimmee, Florida and is so loaded this year that 29 of the 32 participating teams have been nationally ranked this year.
One of those is Oakleaf High in Clay County, Florida, which has been ranked as high as #3 in the nation, and is the defending Klassic champ as well as the defending state 8A champion.
Leading the way for the Knights is 2019 pitcher Madisyn Davis, who over the last two years has gone 34-1 with a collective 0.78 ERA and has been named All-State and been ranked as one of the nation’s top recruits.
The 5-foot-9 junior will be one to watch this week and is a success tale on and off the field, but it hasn’t been easy as she committed early and then had to make the difficult decision of telling a university that was decommitting and going to another program.
Why? Read about Madi and her recruiting journey as she prepares this week to lead Oakleaf into action…
It’s easy to see why any college would want Madysn Davis.
Well coached as her father, Addison, has for years led the Jacksonville Storm and sent players to major colleges to Power 5 conferences like the SEC, Madi showed early on that she would be one of the top arms in the 2019 class.
Her ability to throw in the low 60s, change to four different speeds, spin the ball and have pinpoint precise location allowed her to beat some of the nation’s most dominant club teams, high profile names like the So Cal Choppers, Firecrackers, Beverly Bandits, Birmingham Thunderbolts, Georgia Impact, and Tampa Mustangs.
Coaches like how she’d eat up innings with the ability to go back-to-back in games and seemingly get stronger the more she pitched.
“I get better and better the more that I pitch and work to find a rhythm,” Madysn believes. “This is when I am my best.”
It didn’t hurt either that she is so strong in the classroom that she’s currently taking dual-credit college courses.
This year in high school ball alone, Madisyn has thrown against the #6 team in the country, and five Top 10 state-ranked teams in the 9A, 7A and 5A classes and led Oakleaf to a 13-2 record after the Knights went 30-2 last year
As one coach said, “She has continued to demonstrate her ability to change speeds, paint corners, and frustrate batters.”
From Madysn’s point of view, it’s been one particular pitch that has given her the ability to win state titles and earn the opportunity to pitch at the next level.
“Definitely my change-up,” she replies when asked what her out pitch is. “I can throw it at any count and it’s like it’s on demand. Whether it’s 0-0, 2-0, 3-0 or 3-2, that pitch is always there for me.”
It was no surprise then that the young Florida pitcher was coveted by top teams around the nation and she certainly did her recruiting homework, taking unofficials to college programs around the South like Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Central Florida, Troy, South Florida, Georgia Southern, Duke, South Alabama and Florida with opportunities to visit other programs such as Tennessee, Syracuse, Florida State and more.
As has been the case for an increasing number of young, talented softball players, Madi committed early—in the 9th grade (which seems, well, “old” any more)—and she admits that pressure was felt to make a decision when she did.
“All of my friends were committing around me in the 9th grade,” she explains. “I honestly felt outside pressure to commit and Troy gave me an unbelievable offer. The facility was one of the best and coaching staff was great. While I had many offers, a few really good players and I agreed to commit to Troy and make a run. Now looking back, I would have waited in this process and focused on becoming better instead of bragging about my commitment.”
With offers ranging from SEC, ACC, and multiple Sun Belt schools, the Sunshine State hurler thought that Troy University would be good place to compete daily.
However, after leading Oakleaf High to an 8A state title with a 12-0 record and 0.74 ERA last year and growing even more her sophomore summer playing for her father’s Jacksonville Storm 16U team, Madi’s development took off and she became recognized as a Greg Maddox-style pitcher where her accuracy and control helped her win.
Not surprisingly, despite her commitment to Troy, more offers came in during her transition from her sophomore to junior year and, after reflecting on which scenario would be best, Madisyn decided to decomitt from Troy and relaunch her recruiting efforts.
It wasn’t an easy decision, nor was the phone call easy when she had to tell the coaches she was going in a different direction.
“It was really hard for me as I loved their coaches and school,” the pitcher states. “It was also hard in my family. We spent many days and nights taking and praying about this decision. Knowing that I wanted to stay closer to home, I had to open up my recruiting process to stay in Florida. My parents made me contact the staff at Troy to tell them and I must say, this was one of hardest call that I have ever had to make.”
“But I am a better person for being honest with them and appreciative of their faith in me. While not easy, I am thankful for their understanding.”
After weighing her options, she found an opportunity that was the perfect fit 2 and ½ hours from home as she fell in love with Central Florida and, ironically, will go from being a high school “Knight” to a college one.
“I have learned that God works with you even when you don’t think He is,” she believes. “In my case, He guided me to my dream school and this is what I found in UCF. They have an amazing staff and culture that I am excited to be around.”
“When I was in the 8th grade, I pitched on the UCF field during an event and knew this was one the best places to be and Coach G (Renee Luers-Gillispie) was amazing. In the end, it all worked out which is about faith.”
So what advice would she give others going through the process and what would she do the same and differently?
“To all of the uncommitted athletes out there, I would say to please don’t get frustrated if certain softball programs have not offered you out of the gate,” Madi begins. “Each school has certain needs and just because today your dream school doesn’t offer you, doesn’t mean they are not interested.”
“Relax and take your time and don’t stress about finding a school to call your home. There are plenty of colleges and universities out there looking for great players. Do your homework and find a school that values you as a player, person, and supports your major.”
As for what helped her, Madsyn said the campus trips were valuable.
“I learned more and more about myself during each visit,” she continues. “What I liked, where I saw myself and how I felt about each offering at each school. I focused on philosophy of coaches and tried to dig deep to see who would make me a better player and person in the end and UCF was my fit.”
Having a strong support system was also key she feels.
“In the recruiting the process, I trusted my travel ball coaching staff, high school coaching staff, and pitching coach to help pursue my dreams of becoming a DI player. They helped me understand to work hard during practice and take every game seriously as you never know who is watching.”
As to what she’d change if given the opportunity again…
“Differently, I wouldn’t rush the process and jump on the early offers. Allow your skills to develop and find the best fit and know if you work hard, everything will work out.”
MORE FROM MADI…
What’s it like having a dad who’s also your club coach?
It’s a blessing as God has allowed me to be with my father through hard times and good times. He is hard me on me for sure and sometimes it’s difficult, but my Mom (Natalie) is my balance. Not many people know, but my Mom is a coach as well as she controls the game and calls my pitches with Bryan Jeyvak during all travel ball games. She has been the one since I was 8 years old that has and continues to catch me so both of parents are involved which can be stressful, but I love them and being around them so it all works out.
You travel six hours round trip almost every Wednesday to work with pitching coach Jodi Bayles… that’s impressive! How has that helped develop your game?
I have to tell you that’s its grind every week, but when you have a coach like Jodi who continues to help me get better on and off the mound, I would drive even further! She knows the game and three years ago was recommended by Coach (Tim) Walton (Univ. of Florida). But she is the best and helps me with my mechanics and always assigns me weekly homework with the focus of getting better. She is calm and focused every week and is a partner in my development. I really care and respect her.
HER PARENTS’ PERSPECTIVE…
What are you most proud of when it comes to Madysn?
Natalie and I are most proud of the person Madisyn has become off the field. While she works extremely hard as an athlete, Madisyn understands the core values of integrity, honesty, genuine fellowship, hard work, and self excellence. Her development as a softball player is directly linked to her commitment and hard work when no one is looking! Through her weekly trips to Orlando, weekly workouts with her trainer, and pitching garage work with her mother, Madisyn has grown to compete and we are proud of her accomplishments and inspired by her future on and off the field.
What’s she like off the field?
Madisyn is a really cool kid and enjoys fellowship with everyone. She always carries herself with a smile and constantly leads respect and care for others. Madisyn is an unselfish kid that brings laughter to all and is extremely fun to be around. One of her greatest strengths is her belief and commitment to her faith as God continues to be a driver of her life!
Any dirt you can dish on Madi?
Madisyn spends the bulk of her time with her best friend, Baylee Goddard (Florida commit). They have been best friends for 10 years since Baylee’s father passed away. To date, the only problem that I have with Madisyn is that she honesty believes she is a DI basketball player and I cannot keep her off the courts! While she is 5-foot-9 and can shoot, her bread and butter is spinning it in the circle.