Later today (Spoiler Alert!), we’ll announce the Top 10 list for the Extra Elite Eighty 14U club rankings and one team that will probably make the cut is Nathan Nelson’s Diamond Sports Hotshots team out of Texas.
The Hotshots are loaded with outstanding 2022’s and 2023’s and by all accounts had a very successful season in 2018, finishing highly in top tournaments and nationals like Colorado Jr. Sparkler (7th), World Fastpitch Championship (5th) and PGF Nationals (3rd), but ask the coach the players and the season ended on a bit of a sour note.
It appeared that the day before the national broadcast of the PGF Championships, the Hotshots would make it to the finals, but lost twice in a row to a peaking Sorcerer – Shroll team and saw their summer come to, at least for them, an unexpectedly premature close.
That didn’t sit well especially with three outstanding 8th graders on the team—pitcher Ava Brown, middle infielder and Oklahoma commit Madyson Manning and outfielder/utility player Kasidi Pickering
The trio, who are each ranked in Top 25 of the 2023 Extra Elite 100, and their coach say they are using the losses as motivational fire to work hard this season and in this exclusive with Extra Inning Softball share their feelings of frustration about last season, their expectations for this year and more…
What’s the feeling you have after last year, you went very far and had a lot of great talent but was there a sense of “mission unaccomplished?”
Coach Nelson: It hurts to be so close but yet so far as a majority first year team. The burning feeling is still there today.
We were two outs away from advancing to the finals when the momentum changed. This season we add back (catcher and 2022 LSU commit) Maci Bergeron and get back a healthy (pitcher and 2022 LSU commit) Emma Strood.
How do you think the players feel about last year?
Coach Nelson: Defeat! This team has been so successful because they feel the defeat that others don’t. It’s burns them inside knowing they were so close but yet so far.
Last year, admittedly, didn't end the way you'd have liked... do you remember it fondly or is there some "business left undone" elements to your memories?
Kasidi: Not the ending in Cali we wanted and it hurt but we all learned from it cause we definitely don’t want it to happen again, if we were to win that game we all know the championship game against the (Corona) Angels would of been a good game. Also, it would of been nice to go back-to-back.
Madyson: I think there is always unfinished business which is what makes you try harder each time you take the field.
Ava: Anyone can say they wish they could go back and do things differently. But the way I see it is I wouldn't change anything because I learned a valuable lesson losing that game. The pain of that loss is something I will never ever forget. I don't ever want to feel that again. I will do whatever it takes to make sure of that. I hate losing more than I love winning.
Coach Nelson: is this feeling of falling short something you’re openly using as motivation for the players?
Absolutely. These girls feel they can win any event they enter regardless of age.
You have three standout players in Ava, Madyson and Kassidy… what does each player bring to the table?
They’re game-changers and can win games with one swing of the bat.
Players: describe what you think the other two brings to the field…
Madyson: Kasidi brings a lot of energy to the field. She always is having fun, and she always helps me when I am down. With Ava, you can always expect 100 percent no matter what that she is a game changer.
Ava: Kasidi brings leadership, motivation, and guidance to the field. As my teammate, I know I can go to her if I have a question about anything from pitching, hitting, or anything really, she will help me out and always knows what to say. As an opponent on the field, when I've played against her, I knew her as a stud. Kasidi does it all, and she does it well. Mady, to me, is so much more than just a few words can describe. She is the definition of humble because she doesn't know how truly good she is, (which to me, makes her even better). She is a top-shelf hitter with the best defensive hands I've ever seen. Mady Manning is the silent stud no one sees coming!
Kasidi: Ava is a great hitter and very hard to pitch too. Her voice on the field is always their and a great communicator, she also spins the ball very well when pitching. Mady is a great hitter with some speed! Her glove work at second makes her such a great infielder.
Talk about the team dynamics overall, what excites you about this year’s group?
Coach Nelson: We will add a lot of power in the middle of the lineup with our new additions. Last year we had to win games 1-0, 2-1 on pitching, defense, and manufacturing runs. This year we should be able to allow the pitchers to relax a little bit and pitch instead of trying to pitch perfect.
Regarding your “Terrific Trio” of ‘23’s, what drives them, do you think to be the elite players they are?
Coach Nelson: They are very good friends and push each other in anything they do. Winning is addicting. You can never get enough.
Players: each of you is considered one of the very best in the country in your class. If you could point to ONE thing about yourself that has gotten you to where you are, what would it be?
Madyson: Determination is what pushes me to be the best player that I can be and keeps me working hard to be better than I was last year.
Kasidi: My teammates for always pushing me and most definitely coach Nathan. His practices and working outside of practice.
Ava: My work ethic and drive have gotten me where I am. I work hard. I make a plan on where I want to go/be and I don't let any obstacles get in my way.
What does it mean to you to wear "Hotshots" on your jersey?
Ava: I feel honored to wear "Hotshots" on my jersey because I know how many girls would love to be in my position and given the opportunities I am given daily by this organization. I truly feel blessed to be included in this group of girls and coaches who want nothing but success for my future. When I see the name "Hotshots", I guess for me, it means the best. You know someone can play if they play for the Hotshots. "Hotshots" represents hard work, dedication, and talent.
Madyson: Having "Hotshots" across my chest is something I am very proud of and something that I know I have to prove I deserve to be a part of.
Kasidi: I’ve played for the Hotshots team for over five years and it’s definitely a great organization. Also wearing the jersey means there’s a target on your back and you can never slack off. And we got some pretty cute uniforms!