With multiple state champions and a long line of collegiate players, the Mahoning Valley has had a long history of success in softball over the years.
The talent pool is deep.
A local travel ball team, Valley Extreme, just added to that list, winning a national title in the USSSA Space Coast World Series, in Melbourne, Florida this past week. As a team, they hit for a .526 batting average, with a slugging percentage of .786, and ran a rotation of four pitchers who all thrived in the heat according to coach Joe Angelo.
“It was certainly all positive,” Angelo, who also coaches at Canfield High School, said. “The girls got to play in a great complex, and they performed exceptionally well. The defense was solid, pitching was solid and our batting and our offense was phenomenal. It was an exciting week, that’s for sure.”
The Valley Extreme 18U team features 12 girls from across northeast Ohio. Seven of the girls, Sammy Aey (Austintown Fitch), Madison Angelo (Canfield), Lauren Fife, Emma Gumont, Brooke Whitt (Champion), Desi Allen, and Aryana Hartman (LaBrae) all represent schools from the area.
Aey, who attended Lakeview this past year, will be attending Fitch this upcoming year.
The roster isn’t limited to Mahoning Valley players however as Andrews Osborne Academy, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Smithville and Uniontown Lake are also represented on the roster.
Despite the players being from all over northeast Ohio, the group couldn’t be closer according to Canfield junior Madison Angelo.
“Playing together is one thing, but then when we’re at the hotels and just not on the field, we’re like sisters, we’re best friends and we just have a bunch of fun,” Angelo said.
“We went to the beaches, we hung out, and we went to dinners. We just explored the town and tried new foods. Experiencing that with them was a really big deal.
“We all love each other on and off the field and that doesn’t change and it won’t change for the years to come.”
Gumont, Fife and Whitt, are no strangers to success in the softball realm. They all won two state titles with Champion and they now have a national title as well.
Travel ball provides plenty of differences from the high school game, but for Gumont, who is continuing her softball career at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, her and her teams just did what they do and it paid off.
“Honestly being in the heat and playing against teams that you’ve never even heard of,” she said about the unique challenges of travel ball. “We’ve played teams from Illinois, there was a team from Canada there, but no matter who the team is, we just go in there and do our thing. We kick butt everywhere we go and just pick each other up.”
The team was originally supposed to go to the tournament last season but they were unable due to COVID. That just lit an extra spark under the team as they stepped onto the field this year.
“We were already looking forward to going this summer,” Gumont said. “Because we’ve come so far, we were obviously like, ‘We have to win it, like we didn’t come all this way for nothing,’ and I really think that everybody came out every single day and gave it their all. I think that’s what really put us through.”
For Madison Angelo, a rising senior at Canfield, this summer has taught her to enjoy the ride because you don’t get to play with the same girls forever.
“I shouldn’t take one moment with them for granted because a lot of them are leaving and I won’t get to play with them ever again once the summer is up,” she said. “Just enjoying the moments we had together, the little victories here and there. It was just a really big moment for all of us. We were just living our lives and having fun with it.”
Thankfully for her, Valley Extreme still has a few more games left with two additional tournaments this month.
Next up, the team goes down to Columbus for the Fastpitch Showdown World Series July 16 through 18.