Hard to believe, but with the Women’s College World Series wrapping up this week and high school softball for most of the nation completed, it’s on full-speed to the travel ball season!
One of the top events of June is always the Tulsa Elite Invite which is almost a decade old and has elite players and teams coming from Coast to Coast, but especially in the Southwest and middle part of the nation.
The games this week featuring 96 teams will start Thursday at 8 am CST with the championship games being held on Sunday: 14U at 4 pm CST and 16U at 6 pm.
All games are at the Arrowhead Park located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
We caught up with Event Director Jeff Filali this week to get his thoughts of where the event had been and is today…
This is the 9th year of the Tulsa Elite Invite… when you look back on the event, what’s a key memory or two that stands out?
Most people don’t realize when we started the Invite the first two summers it was at a four-plex with only 21 and 24 teams, but we also had around 25-30 college coaches attend.
The very first year it we expanded to the 12-field complex, and had 100-plus college coaches, and the feedback from all the teams, and coaches, I knew we had something very special going. There’s been so many great memories of seeing players who were young uncommitted players attend, and seeing them develop each year, and many go on to play at the highest levels.
You have 96 teams ranging from California to Florida and really strong in the middle of the country with many of the best teams from Texas and Oklahoma, especially… what do you think is the big draw for elite teams to come to the Invite?
The guarantee of playing some of the best competition at the complex where all the college coaches are actually at. Our goal has always been to stick to our guns of only using one complex to maximize exposure for every team, and only accept the best teams that apply.
There are teams from 13 states coming… that’s impressive! What was the turning point, do you feel, in the Invite’s history that helped it become the outstanding event that it is?
The major turning point was definitely moving to Arrowhead Park after they added four additional new fields, giving us room to increase to 96 teams, but maintain the original vision of only using one complex with the best competition possible.
Who are some past players you remember coming through that have gone on to great success?
There’s several playing in the WCWS this week: Lynnsie Elam (Univ of Oklahoma/Oklahoma Twisters), Elissa Brown (Univ of Alabama/Birmingham Vipers), Claire Jenkins (Univ of Alabama/Germantown Red Devils), Sydney Pennington (Oklahoma State/Tulsa Elite), Madi Sue Montgomery (Oklahoma State/Texas Glory), Logan Simunek (Oklahoma State/OK Exclusive) and I’m sure there’s many more I’m not thinking of.
Interesting story on Elissa Brown, she was an uncommitted freshman at the time. She stood out so much I asked her and her parents where she wanted to go to college, and she said “Alabama.” So, I sent a text to the Allister’s (Derek and Joann)with OnDeck recommending they get her into their Jamboree, and I also sent a text to Coach (Patrick) Murphy with all her info and recommending he go watch her.
How about this year… who is a player or two you’re looking forward to seeing?
The West Bay Warriors have a 2022 shortstop named Megan Grant who’s committed to UCLA. Ed Naudin and the Texas Glory teams always bring some fun kids to watch. Our annual Elite vs Glory round of games has become a great annual tradition. Ryan Taylor always has some studs with the Aces out of Kansas City. Impact Gold won the 14U last year and has their top teams back loaded with talent.
Texas Blaze, Texas Bombers, Nebraska Gold, Iowa Premier, Team Mizuno all have some strong teams of players. The field of teams is so loaded, every field will have strong players and games.
We also have several 2021 and 2022 prospects with Tulsa Elite who I haven’t watched play since last summer and I’m looking forward to seeing their development: Sherri Mason, Aerin Talley, Celleste Wood, Gabbie Higbee, Brooklyn Reed, Delaney Mills, Emma Edwards, Sophia Depew, McGuire Estill, and Kasey Wood is a 2023 pitcher/infielder who was throwing 61 at this time last year.
For you, when do you start planning this event and what is the biggest time-consuming part of it?
We actually meet shortly after our July Wilson Invite Event (also 96 teams at same park, but has 18U division), and confirm the dates and go over any changes we need to consider for the following summer. Then we start accepting entries around September 1st so that teams can include their summer results, but we do not finalize the teams invited until Feb 1st so we can reach out to more teams and we always see teams in the fall that we hadn’t watched play before.
The biggest time-consuming part is the selection process, setting the schedule, and the organizing the roster book and camp book. I take great pride in providing the most accurate and complete information for the coaches and being very organized. Many hours go into preparing prior to the event, so that once the gates open, it’s a well-flowing event. I couldn’t do it without all the great people who work the event, it takes a big team.
How long have you been in softball yourself and how did you get started in the sport?
I played baseball growing up, was a pretty good shortstop/third baseman who hit 3-hole, and also was a closing pitcher. I threw very hard but never took formal lessons and ended up throwing my arm out when I was like 15.
All I knew about softball was slow-pitch, but I had a younger cousin who talked me into going and watching her play and it was the first time I watched fastpitch. I was hooked. As she moved from middle school into high school, I started researching to help her parents know how to get her positioned to be recruited for college, and as I helped her, I started helping other players and parents, then started helping coach a team.
In August 2007, I decided to step out and start my own 18U team, never intending on having an organization. My plan was one 18U team, have a tryout each year, and help more Oklahoma kids get recruited. A few years later, we added a 16U team, then a 14U team, and it just grew from people coming to us asking to start a team under the Elite name.
The one thing I’ve been very strict about is not allowing more then one team per birth year, even after adding additional regional markets (OKC, Wichita, NW Arkansas, and South/Central Arkansas), I still do not allow more then one team per birth year, per area. The only exception is OKC we have two 2002 16U teams in Walde and Wells, but both coaches asked for it and they’re both very strong teams.
Finally, with Oklahoma making the finals this week, Oklahoma State made the WCWS, and the DII, NAIA and NJCAA having strong Oklahoma representation, what about the state’s softball scene has gotten so much better in the last decade in your opinion?
One of the biggest changes in Oklahoma over the last ten years is the growth of organizations. It was primarily independent teams prior to that, other than a few organizations who were mainly just 18U & 16U.
Tulsa Elite was an 18U team started in 2008, then added a 16U team in 2010, and younger teams in 2011. The Maddens (Mike & Brian) started Athletics around the same time with one 18Uand expanded shortly after as well. And now there's dozens of other organizations also.
As we've all expanded all the way down to 8U, it really grew the instate competition and now you have all the organizations playing each other almost every weekend in every age group. The expectation of the Oklahoma teams to compete at a higher level is instilled in the kids at a much earlier age now. You can see it as we all travel; more and more Oklahoma teams are finishing high in every age group at high level events and nationals.
This year with Oklahoma, and also Oklahoma State both back at the WCWS, and the Univ of Tulsa losing by one run to OSU in the Stillwater Regional, it’s great for our sport statewide. It will help inspire even more young girls to have the dream of playing in the WCWS.
2019 Tulsa Elite Invite - Team Rosters
|16U||TULSA ELITE ARK 16U - (CAIN)||AR|
|16U||TULSA ELITE ARK 16U - (MURPHEE)||AR|
|16U||WEST BAY WARRIORS (MCDONALD)||CA|
|16U||COLORADO STARS (DETHOUARS)||CO|
|16U||FLORIDA POWER (KASER)||FL|
|16U||IOWA PREMIER GOLD (CHRISTENSEN)||IA|
|16U||MIDLAND MAGIC 16U (SHELTON)||IL|
|16U||SELECT FASTPITCH (JONES)||KS|
|16U||SELECT FASTPITCH (BROWN)||KS|
|16U||TEXAS GLORY KANSAS (WAY)||KS|
|16U||TULSA ELITE 316 16U - (DEPEW)||KS|
|16U||TULSA ELITE 316 16U - (PAXTON)||KS|
|16U||WICHITA MUSTANGS (ECK)||KS|
|16U||LOUISIANA BOMBERS (ALBERT)||LA|
|16U||DEMARINI ACES - BLACK (TAYLOR)||MO|
|16U||DEMARINI ACES - PURPLE (TAYLOR)||MO|
|16U||KC ELITE (GUTIEREZ)||MO|
|16U||KC ZEPHYRS (CRAIG)||MO|
|16U||MISSOURI STEALTH (WARD)||MO|
|16U||ORIGINALS 2021-2022 (MURPHY)||MO|
|16U||ORIGINALS KC 2022 (MCKINNEY)||MO|
|16U||PROSPECTS ELITE (THROCKMORTON)||MO|
|16U||SO CAL ATHLETICS (HEINLEIN)||MO|
|16U||ST LOUIS CHAOS (MOHAN)||MO|
|16U||TOP GUN ACADEMY (BOYET/PURVIS)||MO|
|16U||TOP GUN ACADEMY (TURNER)||MO|
|16U||MS BOMBERS 16U GOLD (KNIGHT)||MS|
|16U||FURY GOLD (ROBERTS)||NE|
|16U||MILLARD FURY GOLD 16U (SCHAEFER)||NE|
|16U||NEBRASKA GOLD (SINGLETON)||NE|
|16U||NEBRASKA GOLD (NUISMER)||NE|
|16U||NEBRASKA PREMIER (OLSON)||NE|
|16U||NEBRASKA QUAKES PRIME MIZUNO||NE|
|16U||NEBRASKA QUAKES PRIME PROSPECTS||NE|
|16U||ATHLETICS PREMIER 16U (MADDEN)||OK|
|16U||DIAMOND GIRLS (GALLIART)||OK|
|16U||IMPACT GOLD OKC PREMIER (LYON)||OK|
|16U||OK EXCLUSIVE 16U PREMIER (BAXTER)||OK|
|16U||OKLAHOMA BOMBERS (SHELDON)||OK|
|16U||OKLAHOMA ULTIMATE (CUMMINGS)||OK|
|16U||TULSA ELITE 16U (HOLDER)||OK|
|16U||TULSA ELITE 2021 (WOOD)||OK|
|16U||TULSA ELITE OKC 16U (WALDE)||OK|
|16U||TULSA ELITE OKC 16U (WELLS)||OK|
|16U||TULSA ELITE OKC 2021 (TALLEY)||OK|
|16U||AMERICAN FREEDOM GOLD 16U (BENTANCOURT)||TX|
|16U||CENTEX BUZZ GOLD 16U (HOLDBROOK)||TX|
|16U||FIRECRACKERS DFW 16U GOLD (MARTINEZ)||TX|
|16U||IMPACT GOLD (HERRERA)||TX|
|16U||IMPACT GOLD NATIONAL (JAZZ)||TX|
|16U||IMPACT GOLD NATIONAL (RODRIGUEZ)||TX|
|16U||PRO FORM 16U GOLD (PACHECO)||TX|
|16U||SNEAKY CLEATS 16U GOLD (MIZZEL)||TX|
|16U||TEAM MIZUNO IMPULSE (NICHOLSON)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS BLAZE 16U UNITED (PRINZO)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS BLAZE 16U (BONOLA)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS BOMBERS 16GOLD (RICHARDS)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS BOMBERS GOLD 16U FUTURES (BLEVINS)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS DIRT DIVAS 2021 (PRICHARD)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS FUSION GOLD (KELLEY)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS GLORY 16U RWB (STOKER)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS GLORY 16U (NAUDIN)||TX|
|16U||TEXAS RUTHLESS (TURNER)||TX|
|16U||VISION 16U GOLD (REDING)||TX|
|14U||TULSA ELITE ARK 14U (GOODWIN)||AR|
|14U||TULSA ELITE ARK 14U (JARAMILLO)||AR|
|14U||TULSA ELITE ARK 2023 (JERRY)||AR|
|14U||TULSA ELITE NWA 2023 (LACINA)||AR|
|14U||TULSA ELITE NWA 22/23 (STAFFORD)||AR|
|14U||WEST BAY WARRIORS 14U (MCDONALD)||CA|
|14U||COLORADO STARS 14U (BLAIR)||CO|
|14U||SELECT FASTPITCH 14U (JONES)||KS|
|14U||TULSA ELITE 316 14U (ESTERLY)||KS|
|14U||TULSA ELITE 316 14U (RARDIN)||KS|
|14U||DEMARINI ACES 14U (TAYLOR)||MO|
|14U||KC ZEPHYRS (BRUMLEY)||MO|
|14U||LOUISVILLE LADY SLUGGERS (STRANO)||MO|
|14U||ST LOUIS CHAOS (ABBOTT)||MO|
|14U||TOP GUN ACADEMY (BERRYMAN)||MO|
|14U||NEBRASKA GOLD 14U (BOYER)||NE|
|14U||NEBRASKA GOLD 14U (GROFF)||NE|
|14U||IMPACT GOLD OKC PREMIER (SYDNEY)||OK|
|14U||OKLAHOMA ATHLETICS 14U PREMIER (CHRONIC)||OK|
|14U||TULSA ELITE 2022 (ZIGLER)||OK|
|14U||TULSA ELITE 2023 (GALVAN)||OK|
|14U||TULSA ELITE OKC 2023 (WATSON)||OK|
|14U||DIAMOND SPORTS HOTSHOTS PREMIER (NELSON)||TX|
|14U||IMPACT GOLD NATIONAL (SAENZ)||TX|
|14U||TEAM MIZUNO IMPULSE (OWENS)||TX|
|14U||TEXAS BLAZE 14U UNITED (DAVIS)||TX|
|14U||TEXAS BLAZE ELITE (SANFORD)||TX|
|14U||TEXAS BOMBERS GOLD (JONES)||TX|
|14U||TEXAS BOMBERS GOLD 14U (TORRES)||TX|
|14U||TEXAS BOMBERS GOLD HTX (BURGESS)||TX|
|14U||TEXAS GLORY 14U (BROWN)||TX|
|14U||TEXAS GLORY 14U (NAUDIN)||TX|