Youth softball: Hammond team, with three returning players, qualifies for nationals
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent July 19, 2013 11:24PM
Updated: August 21, 2013 6:18AM
Rebuilding. In the sports world, that word can suggest an indefinite period of time — often lengthy — in which a club looks to lure talent for key positions while struggling to be competitive.
Before the start of the 2012-2013 season in the fall, the Hammond Rebels 16U softball team was down to three returning players. Yet tryouts were a success and transplanted local standout Lexie Eggert was soon leading a solid core of players toward goals familiar to seasoned teams.
The girls fastpitch players took on a grueling schedule and began to pick up the pace after the winter break. In June, the team went 7-1 in the ASA/USA regional qualifiers at the Center Grove complex in Greenwood.
The Rebels’ performance earned them a bid to the ASA national tournament, which is played in California.
“Any travel team that plays at the ASA level — which is what colleges play at — the intention is to win a berth at nationals,” Rebels manager Jeff Cummins said.
Though Cummins said the Rebels were thrilled to qualify for California, the reality of the new club’s financial struggles will keep them closer to home. The organization accepted a bid to participate in the Northern Nationals in Rochester, Minn., from Aug. 1 to 4.
Their work toward building a 34-23 record was made easier by the fact that the girls get along well. That could be the story of the season, according to coaches and players.
“The bonds that they’ve created on the field have carried with them off the field,” said Cummins, whose daughter Brooke Cummins is a utility player for the Rebels. “I think the friendships will last longer than the playtime will.”
Eggert, a versatile right-fielder, said it didn’t take long for the talented group of players to gel as a team.
“On the Rebels we (mostly) came in as strangers,” said the Wheatfield 17-year-old. “And we’ve all clicked so well, and we’ve been playing some good ball.”
Cummins described Eggert as a “phenomenal player.” He said she brings an enthusiasm to the game that is uncommon. Her ability to focus the team has helped them overcome the occasional bad inning.
Rebels ball has been characterized by the team getting on the board early and holding opponents. Eggert called that recipe “unstoppable.” When the Hammond team played the Indiana Shockwaves Black at Center Grove, the Rebels surprised them with a 10-5 victory. Until that meeting, the Indianapolis team had not allowed an opponent score more than five.
Saying she’s considered softball her favorite pastime since she was a little girl, Eggert reflected on her six years with the former Demotte Ice program. She and her father John Eggert, who was a manager, went on an online search for a new softball home after their program seemed to freeze over with many players going their separate ways.
It turned out that the Rebels club was in rebuilding mode. When Eggert made the team, her father came onboard as an assistant coach.
For more information about the Rebels, or to donate to their travel fund, call Cummins at 309-0632.