Local girls want to be part of new AAU softball team

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Aug. 15, 2011
A lot of ground balls were fielded during the recent try-outs. Photos by D. Coffey.
A lot of ground balls were fielded during the recent try-outs. Photos by D. Coffey.

Randy Ortiz hit grounders to seven girls trying out for the Connecticut Challengers AAU U14 fast-pitch softball team on Aug. 14. In spite of the drizzling rain, the girls were focused on the drills. Ortiz hit one grounder after another, as he had the girls do double play drills.

“We did pretty well for the day,” Ortiz said.

He had them practice backhand flips, sway throws, underhand flips and twist throws. “We didn't get everything in,” he said. “We ran out of time.”

It was a good sign, because he intends to spend much of his time coaching practices and games through the fall. Ortiz and Al Carpenter are the coaching and logistics one-two punch for the Challengers. This is the first year of the AAU team, and Ortiz says it won't be the last.

He will field tryouts for 13- and 14-year-old girls for the next two weekends at Killingly Intermediate School. The league is competitive and demanding, according to Ortiz. Double-headers are played every Sunday from Aug. 28 to Oct. 1 in Mount Hope, R.I.

Playing on an AAU team is a chance to bring a player's skill level up a notch, according to Ortiz. Lou Albert, who watched his daughter from the sidelines, agreed. “She's hoping to better herself,” he said. “That's what travel teams are about. It's taking their skills to the next level. They play better teams. They practice a lot, and all year round.”

Terry Screedon watched as her daughter ran through the drills in the rain. She had no question that if her daughter made the team, she would commit to the practices and the weekly double-headers. “It'll be nice to have something close,” Screedon said.

Until the Challengers, there wasn't a team close by for young softball players or their parents. Ortiz and his daughter traveled to Rhode Island last year so she could compete in an AAU team. It was a big gasoline and time commitment, with two hours commuting and two hours practicing each time they went. “My daughter would do her homework in the truck going home with the light on,” Ortiz said. “She loves to play ball.”

Tryouts will continue on Sunday, Aug. 21, and Sunday, Aug. 27, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Killingly Intermediate School ball field.

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