As I was researching the 2020 USA Women’s National Team for the Tokyo Olympics, I came across an article I published in July of 2013 while at Student Sports overseeing StudentSportsSoftball.com
It featured Mike Stith’s very, very talent-laden club team that would eventually produce four of the 29 players who attended this month’s USA Selection Trials in Oklahoma City and two of the 18 that would make the team!
Six years ago, Stith had his Team Mizuno 18U squad winning national tournaments and would ultimately reach the title game at PGF Nationals before losing 3-2 to another club juggernaut, So Cal A’s-Richardson (this was the fourth PGF 18U championship in a row for Bruce Richardson’s team).
Coach Stith would soon go on merge his team with Gary Haning’s OC Batbusters and win multiple national championships, including a pair of PGF Nationals the following two years (2014, 2015) as OC Batbusters Stith/Haning.
Today, he’s still producing All-American talent and winning titles as he oversees the OC Batbusters as one of the top club programs in the nation. Stith even coached the the USSSA Pride to an NPF championship last year while winning at the travel ball level, making this one of our Top 15 Stories of 2018.
Here’s the interview I did with Coach Stith in the summer of 2013; be sure to look at his roster below which is loaded with future All-Americans and Olympians!
-- Brentt Eads, Extra Inning Softball
18U Profile: Team Mizuno-Stith
Originally published July 31, 2013 on StudentSportsSoftball.com
In only two years, Team Mizuno-Stith has become of the elite programs in the 18U Gold level.
No surprise, though, as the team led by Head Coach Mike Stith was already a National Champion at the 16U level as an OC Batbusters’ team and has won championships this summer at Team New Jersey and in Colorado.
It hasn’t been a ride without a few bumps, however: the team has been forced to deal with several season-ending knee injuries including one to star pitcher Kaley Winegarner (2015, Stanford), yet because of the impressive depth and team cohesion continues to win.
We caught up with Coach Stith to get his insights into his talented team player-by-player… here’s what he had to say…
How long has the team been in existence?
Well this will be our second full season. We started about a year and a half ago in March of the previous year when I actually changed the name of the team from the Batbusters to team Mizuno.
So you took your 16U team and raised them up to Team Mizuno?
What are some of your team’s major accomplishments so far?
Well, I think that, what has happened, obviously winning the National Championship last year was a big deal, but this summer we lost Kaley Winegarner, and instead of us whining that we lost a great pitcher, they changed, and they just decided they’re going to take it upon their selves to make something happen. We had a real endurance contest through the New Jersey and Colorado tournaments. They just blossomed, they changed, and they fought them selves a little bit. They got tired, worn out and got them selves through the tournaments and then in Colorado everything just clicked. They’ve been playing well. They’ve had a great summer.
So it sounds like when a key player leaves everyone elevates their game. Is that what you’re saying happened?
I think what really happened was that when Kaley Winegarner and Andie Formby went down, instead of having that role where there is always someone to bail them out now have taken it upon their selves to do this. They have a done great job, really matured, and taken advantage of having those spots missing.
So you won Colorado, you won New Jersey, have you won anywhere else that I’m missing?
No because those are really the only tournaments we have played where we have been at full strength. We played really well last fall when we had several injuries, in fact you’ll see a couple kids sitting here in tennis shoes who are injured. We have had a rash of knee injuries, and the last time we were whole as a team was in November in Orlando and we played phenomenal there. And throughout the spring and into the summer we haven’t really been healthy but the kids just took it upon their selves to play better and they have matured. This year as opposed to the last I have seniors and the seniors that I have really have done a great job of letting everyone else grow up around them.
What do you enjoy about coaching these girls?
I think because I am an intense person, I have always believed that players play how their coaches coach and I think that has rubbed off. All of them are driven and when you come to these tournaments you just know they are going to step up and it’s just fun to watch it happen. Coaching some of them since they were 12 and 13 it has fun to see them grow and reach beyond their selves.
Here's a player-by-player look at Team Mizuno-Stith with comments on each player by Coach Stith...
Editor's Note: the players on the roster below who tried out for the 2020 Olympic team are designated with an asterix (*). Those who made the 18-player roster are designated with **
P Kaylee Carlson (2014, North Carolina)
Kaylee has taken on the leadership role in the circle. She has had very good high school seasons, but had yet to reach that pinnacle point where she got a club team over the top and she did that in Colorado, she really did well.
SS Hannah Flippen (2013, Utah)**
Hannah is one of the best softball players I have ever coached. Her attitude, mentality, and overall passion for the game is something I’ll just miss forever and ever. She’s a great kid.
C Morganne Flores (2015, Washington)
Morganne, one of our catchers, has come on to be one of the better hitters around. She is a catcher, she is committed to Washington and very quiet. She has been with me now since the beginning; she is one of our original players from the 14U team.
P Andie Formby (2014, Virginia)
Andie, like Kaley, took it upon herself to get better. She had a long recruiting process. She didn’t get picked up as early as some of the other kids and it ended up being the best thing in the world for because she had to fight and make herself a lot better and it showed this summer.
OF Vanessa Hernandez (2014, Fresno State)
Vanessa is just now coming back from a knee injury. She’s just now able to swing a bat, but she still can’t run much. She’s had kind of a quiet summer, but she’s fought herself back to swinging the bat and she’ll be back for the fall.
2B Madison Labshere (2013, uncommitted)
Madison was new to our team in January. She came to us from San Diego and has done a wonderful job for us. We got her committed and she really grew as a player. It was a really great opportunity for her and she really took advantage of it.
OF Taylor Lockwood (2014, LSU)
Taylor’s from Louisiana, she came out here to get a little bit better and find out what it’s like to play at a different level and she has done that, she has responded well. It has been a bit of a tough transition, we went through some long weeks, but she has really figured things out and had a great Colorado tournament.
OF Amanda Lorenz (2015, Florida)*
Amanda is one of those once in a lifetime players that every time she is on the field you realize that something big can happen. She is one of the most powerful players I have been around. My term for her is she plays with her foot on the gas at all times. She’s quite the player.
OF Justine McLean (2013, Florida)
Justine is one of my seniors and has had the summer of a lifetime. She is going to Florida and they are going to expect her to do well. She has had a great summer putting the ball into play; she is extremely fast and has done well all summer
C Sashel Palacios (2013, ASU)
Sashel, another senior, just took off this summer. She is going to ASU next year and I think is becoming a big time player. I think she realized it’s time and she has really grown into that spot.
OF Alyssa Palomino (2015, Arizona)*
Alyssa is one of the most pleasant kids to have around. She is one of those people who gets along with everyone and has no enemies. She has a mentality of a 10-year-old at times in that she loves to joke around, but has the physical ability of a 30-year-old. She can just flat out hit and is just a strong presence in the batters box for us. That’s why she set the home run record this past season for Orange County.
SS Sophia Reynoso (2015, Florida)
Sophia, another one of our injured players, has a torn ACL and is committed to Florida. We probably wont see her back on the field until around January or February.
SS Delaney Spaulding (2013, UCLA)**
Delaney is another one of our seniors. She came to me from the Batbusters; I have coached her since she was 12. She has matured and grown beyond belief into a leadership role and they are going to expect that from her next year at UCLA. There has just been a magical change in her and she has a done a great job for us overall.
3B Taylor Swearingen (2014, Michigan)
Taylor came from the Batbusters as well and has had a great summer. She had a tough go through the high school season and has just stayed tuned and stayed focus for us and because of that has had a great summer. She plays first base for us, hits in the middle of the lineup and has been great.
2B Kwynn Warner (2015, uncommitted)
Kwynn also has a knee injury. We won’t see her until January. She had a great fall for us and then got hurt in her first game of her high school season.
C Janell Wheaton (2014, Florida)
Janell is one our most mature, leadership players. If there was a way to put a leadership on anybody, it’s her. She has been the quiet, mature leader of our team and has been that way since 14U. She is committed to Florida and will be quite the player there. She has done a great job for us.
P Kaley Winegarner (2015, Stanford)
Kaley, obviously has always done the bulk of the pitching for us, but in March blew out her knee and we probably won’t get her back until January or February as well.
P Arianna Jarvis (2015, uncommitted)
We picked Ari up off of our 16U team because of the loss of Kaley. She struggled early on in the summer, had a couple tough outings, but she has progressed and matured through it. On Monday she shut out Tony Rico’s team so she’s starting to figure it out.
* = participated in the 2020 Olympic Team Selection Trials held Oct. 2019
** = made the 2020 USA Olympic Softball Team