BUCKHANNON - Some of central West Virginia's best softball players are taking their swings this summer for Team Rampage.
The 18-and-under fastpitch team consists of girls from Elkins, Buckhannon and Clarksburg. Throughout the summer, the girls will be playing in several tournaments and competing against some of the best teams and talent from many different states.
Team Rampage was founded by team manager Dave Harper, whose goal was to build a squad consisting of the best players from the region. The team practices at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.
Members of Team Rampage from left are Larel Teter (Elkins High), Ginny Suder (Buckhannon-Upshur), Jordan Hart (Elkins High), Alyssa Harper (Elkins High), Mariah Zickefoose (Buckhannon-Upshur), Kelsi Trippett (West Virginia Wesleyan), Taylor Pingley (Elkins High), Kelsey Lantz (Robert C. Byrd), Shadie Suder (Buckhannon-Upshur), Sara Burky (Elkins High), Kaitlyn Slaughter (Buckhannon-Upshur) and Amelia Preusch (Elkins High). Not pictured is Mecca Henderson (Glenville State).
"These are girls that never put their gloves away," Harper said. "They practice and play year round. Most have personal trainers, and private coaching during the off season. This team begins the summer season immediately after the high school softball season ends. We then will play fall ball in Morgantown, followed by several indoor tournaments during the winter."
Harper recruited coaches Michelle (Tetrick) Dean and Vickie Rohr, both with extensive softball backgrounds. Harper said they will be preparing the girls for the highest level of play.
"I wanted to find coaches who could help these girls take their game to the next level," Harper said. "They're both very talented and know the game of softball. I know they will give 100 percent dedication."
Dean has more than 20 years of softball experience, both playing and coaching. She is a certified level 1 ASA coach, and has not had a losing season in the past decade.
Rohr played for WVU Tech as a pitcher for three seasons, where she earned top honors and was named Co-Player of the Year in the conference her senior season.
Top players on the team include pitchers Mecca Henderson and Alyssa Harper, along with third baseman Katie Slaughter and utility player Jordan Hart.
Henderson, who also plays for Glenville State College, is the oldest player on the squad. According to Dave Harper, she is the team's leader.
"Since she's playing at the college level, she shares her experience with the other girls," Harper said. "All the other girls really look up to her. She's very dedicated to the game. She's earned multiple softball awards and achievements."
Alyssa Harper, 15, is one of the youngest players on the team. However, she's got the skills to compete with the best of the best.
"Alyssa worked her way into the starting pitcher role for Elkins High School as a freshman," Dave Harper said. "She plays a big role on our team. She's a very talented player and competes on a very high level."
Slaughter anchors the hot corner. Dave Harper says both her defensive prowess and her offensive ability make her standout.
"(Katie) plays an amazing third base, and her power is awesome," Dave Harper said. "She's a fierce competitor. We can always count on her. She's knows what to do and does it well."
Hart, who has made a verbal commitment to West Liberty University, plays a variety of positions for Team Rampage, including second base, shortstop and outfield.
"Jordan can play anywhere on the field," Dave Harper said. "She's very reliable in the field and swings the bat well. She often hits in the clean up spot and we depend on her to help generate runs."
Throughout the summer, the team will play nearly 40 games, spread across the state. Coach Harper said the girls have to pay their own expenses including travel, lodging and insurance. To help with the costs, he said they host several fundraisers throughout the year.
"Being on the team takes a huge amount of commitment," Dave Harper said. "Aside from playing the game, these girls have to raise money to fund their trips. They've done chicken barbecues, waited tables and hosted yard sales to help out. Several businesses have also stepped forward with donations. We've had an overwhelming amount of support. It's great to see the community is so supportive of this program."
For more information and schedules, visit www.wvrampage.com or the Facebook page Elkins Fastpitch Softball. The website includes individual profiles of each player, along with photos, bios and achievements.
Team Rampage is scheduled to play Saturday and Sunday in a tournament in Barboursville. Games are set to begin at 8 a.m. both days.