In our ongoing series profiling top softball club programs across the country, we spotlight a relatively new team and organization that’s barely five years old.
Steven Locke almost saw his promising team dissolve three years ago when several top players left, but with the support of his remaining players and their parents, the team that today is Atlanta Premier Gold-Locke has emerged as a 16U team that’s on the move.
Here’s the story…
While much of the nation’s pre-college fastpitch student-athletes are playing high school softball over the next few months, players in Georgia have finished their 2019-2022 season, which took place in the fall, and are working out with their club teams.
In a state loaded with talent, an up-and-coming program that’s making national noise is the Atlanta Premier organization which includes the strong 16U team led by Steven Locke. Heavily experienced with 11 juniors—including four who made the recently-released 2021 Extra Elite 100—and four sophomores, the team is one to watch as the Summer of 2020 unfolds.
The AP Gold - Locke team came to be through some interesting and unexpected events and circumstances.
Originally, Jennifer Edwards, now an assistant coach for AP Gold, started a team in the Fall of 2014 under the Georgia Select umbrella. Locke’s daughter Avery tried out and was offered a spot on that team in the Spring of 2015.
Through difficult circumstances, Edwards left the team and Avery went on to join another team after that season.
“That team was coached by a good friend and an excellent softball coach in Eric Bourrie,” Locke said of Bourrie, who currently is the head coach of the Atlanta Premier 03 team. “I joined as an assistant coach with that team and, as fate would have it, Eric Bourrie’s team merged with the Georgia Select team in the Spring of 2016.”
With Burrie as head coach and Locke and Bryan Gilbert as assistant coaches, this was the beginning of what Locke says would become a “special team.”
“Only one ingredient was missing: Jennifer Edwards,” he continues. “Jennifer was convinced to come join the new Georgia Select team as the pitching coach and the stage was set.”
That season the team went on to finish in the Top 10 at ASA Nationals. However, yet again, another coaching change occurred and that is when Locke says he prayed about it and decided to put his name in the hat to be a head coach.
“I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into,” Locke admits. “All I knew was that this team was very talented and could reach amazing heights if given the opportunity.”
At the time, the Georgia Select organization was led by Ron Berkhiser who, Locke felt, “was the best coach around, in my opinion.”
“I’ve seen him in practices, games and off the field and he is the best coach I’ve seen lead a team. I look up to him as a coach and admire him so much.”
When Berkhiser gave his approval for Locke to coach the “uber-talented team,” he says the support gave him the confidence he needed.
“Ron told me the key to coaching a team of talented girls like this is to earn their trust,” the then newly-appointed 16U coach recalls. “You can only do that by truly caring for them as people, not just as players. If you only care for them for their abilities to make your team better, then you won’t keep them long. You will have to make the hardest decisions you can imagine as the team succeeds, but just do what you believe is the best for the team and kids.”
With a new coach at the helm, the team faced another transition as the Georgia-heavy squad followed Berkhiser to a more nationally known organization in Glory Adkins based out of Texas.
The End of the Road?
In the first calendar year, Glory Adkins - Locke went 94-24-3, winning several big local tournaments including a fall World Series and finishing Top 10 at ASA Nationals. Just as things were really rolling for the team, more adversity struck. The team lost four key players including the top two pitchers and a pair of middle-of-the-lineup hitters
“I don’t care what team it is, when you lose that production at one time, it is hard to recover,” Locke stated. “The team was all but done. I didn’t take it personally at all as I’ve come to learn that it happens every season to just about every team. I just felt bad for the rest of the players, because we were all so excited about what was happening with the team.”
The coach informed his staff and the team parents what was happening and basically said to them to be looking for a new team to play for. Not surprisingly, as word got out, the players were already being contacted by several other teams to come join them.
Just as it looked the team would be dissolving, Locke got a call from a couple of the parents.
“They told me that they aren’t giving up,” he remembers. “They said, ‘You are the head coach and part of your job is to replenish players. Go get us pitching and let’s continue this journey. Our girls don’t want to play for anyone else.’”
“That really touched my heart and I figured we must be doing something right,” he smiled. “It would have been so easy for them to just go join another one of the many elite teams in this area, but they were willing to stick it out and see what we could do.”
Instead of disbanding, the Glory Adkins – Locke team got stronger.
Glory Adkins Locke picked up four pitchers for the next season and the team went on and didn’t miss a beat. In the Spring of 2018, Glory Adkins Locke began what would become another successful season going 70-20-5. The Georgia team finished in the Top 10 at ASA Nationals and Triple Crown Nationals and as the #30-ranked team in the country according to Extra Innings Softball.
Success breeds success and each season the team added more and more talented players.
“That’s what happens when you win and do things the right way,” the head coach stated. “People see it and want to a part of it. We have been very fortunate to acquire difference-making players through the last few seasons. All the credit goes to the players and families of this team in not giving up when things looked bleak and trusted us coaches and each other to continue.”
“This has been a true team effort including the players, coaches and parents,” Locke stressed. “You have to have all three of these components to ensure a team on the same page. Many teams have one or two of the three, but when all three are present, the sky is the limit. I believe that’s what sets our team apart. We truly love and care for each other on and off the field.”
Last year, Glory Adkins - Locke continued its upward ascent going 88-15-4 and finished 2nd at TCS Nationals and in the top five at USA Gold Nationals. The team finished the season ranked #10 in the US Club rankings.
The Move to Atlanta Premier
In the Fall of 2019, the team decided to join the new Gold program in the Atlanta Premier organization led by Jon Stewart, who had impressive success in the Georgia Impact program, and Tory Acheson. The duo had started the AP Gold program in his final season with his 18U team last year and Stewart contacted Locke early in the season to discuss coming over to join the upstart program in Georgia.
“When Jon called me and asked me to be a part of something he was involved in,” Locke explains, “I was certainly going to listen. He has led one of the most successful teams in the country since way back in the 8U ages. They finished third in the US Club rankings in their final year together as the first AP Gold team. The AP Gold program only takes one team per age group so when he asked us to be the team to follow up his team and validate the program, it was very humbling.”
Heading into 2020, the AP Gold 16U Locke appears to be one of the best teams in the country at that age division. All players on the team have a 2003 birthday with 11 being current juniors and being sophomores. Eight of the 2021 players are committed to D1 schools like Clemson, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Southern Miss and Virginia and one is committed to a D2 school.
One 2022 player is also committed to a D1 school with one of the 2021 pitchers being expected to decide between five D1 schools in the next few weeks. Of the committed players, many of them have full rides. The three 2022 players are also being heavily recruited by D1 and Power 5 schools.
Coach Locke says he knew this team was special a long time ago, but last summer at Triple Crown Nationals confirmed it. After losing the first bracket game in ITB, the AP Gold – Locke team went on to win eight games in a row, including avenging the loss of the first bracket game.
The semi-final game was said to be the longest game in TCS history and the Atlanta Premier team had to go straight into the next game, the national championship game before losing 2-0.
“It was simply amazing,” the coach remembers. “I knew we had an uphill battle to make it to the end, but I also knew we had the team to do it. But gosh, every time we won a game, we looked up and saw we were playing another nationally ranked team (most of them being 02 teams). There certainly isn’t any shame in losing to a great team like East Cobb Bullets - Biele/Heath. We know them well and played several games against them through the years. We tipped our cap to them for winning the big one that counted. They were just an awesome team. The further you get in tournaments, the worse it hurts when you lose, but I seriously couldn’t have been prouder of the girls that week. With the road we had to take, it was nothing short of amazing.”
Poised for a Big 2020
Today, the Atlanta Premier Gold 16U team is eagerly looking forward to the 2020 season. Coaches Locke, Edwards and Davis have added Kristin Davenport, the former Virginia Tech and Jacksonville State player, as well as Joel Davenport to the coaching staff.
The team just recently qualified to play in PGF Premier Nationals in Southern California this coming summer and Locke says the program is excited to show the club world how talented his team is.
“It all starts and ends with the girls,” he adds. “We have had to fight, scratch and claw our way to earning where we are today. We haven’t been in the ‘biggest organizations’ to help create recognition for our girls, but we believe the team is made up of the girls in the jerseys, not the jerseys on the girls. With AP Gold, we have just tried to win and lose with class and get better along the way. We have lost some players and gained some players. Every team does, and every player that has ever worn one of our jerseys deserves a lot of credit to helping this team develop.”
The coach proudly states that he loves where the program is right now.
“As we stand now, I couldn’t ask for a better group of families to go into competition with. There are so many great teams and organizations in this region and we believe we are one of them. We have a lot of work to do to achieve our ultimate goals, but we plan to do just that: work! We believe we have everything we need between players, coaches, parents and facilities to compete for a national championship. We may or may not achieve that goal, but it won’t be without 100 percent effort. Only one team gets to win their last game of the season and there are so many elite teams across the country. It is going to be fun to see what we can do this year.”
Here’s a player-by-player look at the AP Gold – Locke 16U team with comments from Coach Locke. Players are listed alphabetically.
*** Scroll down to read more, including the bios of each of the 15 members on the AP Gold – Locke 16U team!
SS Nadia Barbary (2022, Mississippi State)
Nadia is the best shortstop of any player in any age group. She has been described in the past like that she plays the position like a boy. Nadia has the softest and quickest hands and release of any player I’ve seen. She committed early before the recruiting rules changed and had heavy interest from all of the major power 5 D1 schools in the ACC and SEC, among other conferences. What makes Nadia even more special is that she works as if she hasn’t accomplished anything. She is a special player and a fantastic kid from a great family. She is committed to play with at Mississippi State University and as a sophomore was the Region 5A Player of the Year with a .500 batting average with eight home runs. She was previously ranked #33 in the 2022 Extra Elite 100.
OF Jamison Brockenbrough (2022, uncommitted)
“Jam” is an athletic freak. She has elite speed on the bases and in the outfield and has heavy interest from several power 5 D1 schools. One of the coaches in a showcase asked me to “get her off the field” as she was showing out with drag bunts and home runs against a D1 committed pitcher in the same game. The coach didn’t want the other 15-20 schools seeing her perform at such an elite level. By this time next year, I expect Jam to be committed to one of the several power 5 D1 schools of her choice. There aren’t many players with her God-given skill set. She’s a special talent! Jam is from Locust Grove, Georgia and is a two-time GHSA state champion. She hit .409 to earn 1st Team All-State honors and hit .389 with 32 steals for our team.
P Sarah Currie (2021, uncommitted)
Sarah is a phenomenal pitcher who throws in the ‘60s with movement and an awesome change-up. She was a new addition to our team this fall and pitched in two showcases against 18U Gold power pool division teams and had a 1.27 ERA with 26 Ks and only three walks. Sarah is from Dacula, Georgia and was a state champ at Class 7A. She was named the GA Dugout Club 7A Player of the Year and for Mountain View High went 18-4 with a 1.56 ERA, 154 K’s in 133 innings. Sarah went 8-0 in the state tournament striking out 36 in 29 innings while batting .359 with 18 RBIs. She has several full-ride offers from D1 schools and looks to be committing sometime in the next month or two.
OF Emma Davis (2022, uncommitted)
Emma is one of the best pure outfield talents anywhere. She led our team in hitting in 2018 with a .467 average and has above average speed going 16-for-18 stolen bases. What sets Emma apart is her instincts. In the outfield, she is the best at reading the ball off the bat and at tracking a ball down in the gap. Offensively, she can lay a bunt down with best of the them or drive a gap for average. Emma has full ownership of what she does at the plate depending on how she sees the defense is set up. Emma has heavy interest form several D1 schools. She played for the Georgia 7A state runner-up and went 7-for-15 in the state tournament. Emma is also a track letterman.
C/UT Jordy Green (2021, uncommitted)
Jordyn is an awesome teammate and another player that could easily go play a lot more at another top travel team. She is a true utility player who can play every position on the field except pitcher. Jordyn has heavy interest from multiple Ivy League schools and just received an offer to play at Army West Point. She has a 4.0 unweighted GPA also. A player like Jordyn is vital to teams that want to win at the highest level because she is so unselfish and just does what she is asked to do on the field and does it at the highest level. Being able to plug a player like Jordyn into basically any position on the field and not lose a beat is a great advantage to have as a coach.
OF Anyce Harvey (2021, Middle Tennessee State)
Anyce is a physical specimen. She is so athletic and can really play anywhere on the field. She even pitched one other high-level travel teams. Anyce, who is from Trussville, Alabama, asked to predominantly play outfield for AP Gold. She can hit anywhere from leadoff to ninth in the order. She has elite speed on the bases and hits for average and power. She is also a very good basketball player. Her high school team in Alabama finished 2nd in the 7A state championship and she hit .373 with 64 steals and 11 home runs. Off the field, Anyce volunteers at the YMCA and Life Church Children’s Ministry. Our team has had several opportunities to add out elite of state players over the last couple of years, but with different school schedules, it’s difficult to manage. Anyce is the exception. She is worth waiting for every summer to make our team better and that is exactly what she does. She is committed to play at Middle Tennessee State University.
MIF Kendall Huelsman (2021, North Georgia)
Kendall is an all-around softball player. Her career goal is to coach a team in the Women’s College World Series and she shows it in her enthusiasm in her on and off field performances. Kendall is consistently in the upper .300 batting average range and hits for power along with clutch contact. Defensively, she is as good as anyone I’ve seen at the second base position, where she predominantly plays for AP Gold; however, Kendall can play any position on the left side of the infield too. At the high school level she was 2nd Team All-State after leading her region with a .496 batting average with only two K’s in 104 at-bats. She is committed to the University of North Georgia.
3B/C Sadye Johnson (2021, uncommitted)
What makes Sadye great is her clutch at-bats. She is a great powerful hitter, too, but she really has a knack for coming with big hits at big moments. Sadye hit a home run in the last inning with two outs in this year’s Triple Crown Nationals to tie the game and it was off of a D1 Power 5 committed pitcher. All of Sadye’s big hits seem to come against the best pitchers we face. She is very athletic at third base and has a cannon for an arm as a catcher. Sadye is a three-time All-County player and hit .516 with seven home runs for her high school—she’s from Adairsville, Georgia—and batted .349 with nine home runs on the club side. She has a full ride offer from a D2 school and has interest from several D1 schools.
OF Kailyn Jones (2021, Virginia)
“KJ” is a prototypical lead off center fielder that is a true triple threat (bunt, slap, hit for power). She has a strong arm with several put outs from outfield position. Ranked #23 in the 2021 Extra Elite 100, KJ was 1st Team All-State as she batted .495 with a .544 on-base percentage and for AP Locke hit .435 with 121 hits, 93 runs scored and 47 steals. KJ was described by Complete Game’s Rob Crews as a “left -handed offensive weapon.” Kailyn is a commit to the University of Virginia.
P Jana Lee (2021, Southern Miss)
Jana is a stud! She is a true offensive AND defensive machine. Her pitching speed is in the range of 63-66 mph and she has an elite bat speed of 73 mph. Jana pitched against several of the top teams in the country this past season with a 1.99 era, .422 batting average, 19 home runs and 88 RBI. She was instrumental in our team finishing 1st in the Gold Cup 18U division, 1st at PGF A State (Georgia), 1st in the Scenic City Super Pool, 1st at the Eastern Elite Showcase, 2nd at Triple Crown Nationals, and 5th at USA Softball Gold Nationals. Jana is a true difference maker and delivers in crunch times. From Dougherty, Georgia, she led her high school this year to 18-6 record (best in school history) and Top 10 ranking in the 4A class. Jana had a 0.48 ERA, best in the state, as was her 221 strikeouts, an average of 2.15 per inning. She also hit .700 and had 39 RBIs and 31 steals. In travel play, she was an All-Star selection at the Colorado Sparkler and was the MVP of the game. Academically, Jana has a 4.1 GPA in all AP classes. She is committed to play for Southern Miss and was listed by Extra Inning Softball at #67 in the 2021 Extra Elite 100.
P Brooke McCubbin (2021, Clemson)
Brooke is the alpha stud-type pitcher. Her pitching speed is in the mid-‘60s with nasty movement and change of speeds. Twice she’s been the Georgia 4-AAAAA Picher of the Year and was the 2019 GACA State Player of the Year. Brooke is also a three-time Georgia state champion and in 2019 went 23-1 with a 0.65 ERA and had 178 K’s in 140 innings pitched (a single-season school record). On offense, she hit .412 with 12 home runs and a school-record 50 RBIs. Brooke is also a powerful hitter and one of the most humble, coachable kids I’ve ever seen. She is committed to Clemson University and was ranked #13 in the recently-released 2021 Extra Elite 100.
C Marisa Miller (2022, uncommitted)
Marisa is a physical beast. She is big, tall and athletic and has the perfect catcher’s body type to go along with a big arm behind the plate. She hits for average and lots of power. Marisa is versatile with her athleticism to play 3B or 1B as well. She is a basketball varsity lettermen starter for her high school and many of the college coaches interested in her can’t believe how tall she is for a younger player to go along with the athleticism. One coach said she was looking eye-to-eye with her a camp and was thinking “my goodness she is only a sophomore”. Marisa has heavy interest from several schools including power 5 D1 colleges. She is going to be a special player at the next level and was 2nd Team All-State with a .435 average, 36 RBIs and seven home runs.
1B Emma Strickland (2021, Georgia Southern)
Emma is a great teammate and could easily go to another top travel team and be in the Top 3 pitcher rotation. She plays primarily first base for us and is a clutch hitter with lots of power for such a small frame. Emma is from Colbert, Georgia and was the Region 8-AAAA Pitcher of the year and was a GHSA 2nd team All-State selection. Emma had 17 wins for her high school team with a 1.32 ERA with only 26 earned runs allowed while hitting .351. She is a commit to Georgia Southern University.
P Sophia Voyles (2021, Georgia Tech)
Sophia is a deadly force on the mound due to her pinpoint accuracy and incredibly high spin rates. She can work all quadrants of the plate with several pitches at any time in the count. Sophia committed to Georgia Tech her freshman year. She was the All-Area Player of the Year with three no-hitters, eight shutouts and 208 K’s. For our team she had dominating performances against the top teams in the country week in and week out. 164 innings with 1.93 ERA and 209 strikeouts in 164 innings. Sophia was ranked #85 in the 2021 Extra Elite 100.
C Reign Williams (2021, Georgia Southern)
Reign is the kind of player that every coach wants because she is another coach on the field. She is so smart and into the game that she is sometimes ahead of what the coaches are thinking. Reign mainly catches for AP Gold; however, could play any other position besides pitcher if she had to and could get the job done. Out of Madison, Georgia, she hit .370 this year with no strikeouts for George Walton Academy and helped her team to 3rd place at state. Reign is committed to play for Georgia Southern University.