Some consider Tony Rico a Jedi Knight-like figure in the softball realm.
He makes wise and thoughtful observations and has coached many great players through his Firecrackers organization. He is not prone to random compliments or undue praise.
So when Rico compares 2021 catcher Sophia Nugent to an all-time great Firecracker/Oklahoma Sooner, it carries loads of weight.
"What makes Sophia unique is her raw power to all fields," Rico opined. "Her home runs definitely remind me of Lauren Chamberlain's. She is developing her mental approach and should have an exciting future. Defensively, she is a good receiver with a strong arm."
The strong-armed backstop with explosive power from Los Alamitos High, California, will follow in Chamberlain's footsteps after verbally committing to Oklahoma, the four-time NCAA national champion, on Sunday.
"I was looking for a strong academic institution, a highly-competitive softball program, a small-town feel, somewhere I felt I could call home," Nugent said, "and teammates that would push me to be the best person and player I could be."
Nugent will play a major role as Los Alamitos High goes after a CIF-SS Division 1 title in the spring and Firecrackers-Rico/Weil contend for a PGF 18U Premier national title next summer.
"Soph is an absolute stud," said UCLA-committed 2020 third baseman Thessa Malau'ulu of Firecrackers-Rico/Weil.
"Anytime she is up to bat, I know she's going to either put the ball out or drive it into the gap somewhere. She is one of our veterans that has taken up a leadership role on our team. She is an all-around great athlete and person. Soph is so sound behind the plate as well. She has the best arm and is able to throw out anyone on any day. One thing that makes Soph unique from other catchers is how professional she plays. You couldn't tell if she's just played the best game or worst game of her life because of how amazing her attitude and behavior is on the field. It's an honor to play with Soph and I can't wait to play against her in the future."
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