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Extreme 18U team set for nationals

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The Collinsville Extreme 18-and-under softball team will be doing a lot of traveling in the next two weeks.

The Extreme will play in the USFA (United States Fastpitch Association) National Tournament on July 19-25 at Panama City, Fla. They left for Florida on Friday.

Then, the Extreme will participate in the ASA (Amateur Softball Association) Northern Nationals on July 29-Aug. 2 at Bloomington, Ind. They will leave for Indiana on July 28.

"It should be a lot of fun because everybody is really close here, so we're all like family," Extreme pitcher Hayley Woszczynski said. "It will be like a family vacation with softball involved."

Extreme coach Brett Swip said his team is looking forward to playing in two national tournaments in a span of two weeks.

"It's sort of the first introduction of college level ball for the kids," Swip said. "They have to kind of keeping their heads on straight, eating right while they're on the road and keeping healthy. It will be a good test for the kids. They're really excited. It will be a culmination of a great season and we'll take it for there."

In the USFA Nationals, each team is guaranteed five games. The tournament has a double-elimination format.

"It's going to show these kids what they'll be facing in college," Swip said. "College is not a local thing. Ashley DePew is going to William Woods and William Woods is pulling kids from Kansas City, Central Missouri and Chicago. They're going to travel and play teams from all over the country, so she's going to get that national feel. Kate Meyer is going to Upper Iowa and playing a lot of teams up in the northern part of the nation. This is their first realization that softball does expand out of the little city in Collinsville and expands nationwide. So it's going to a prep session for them as well as understanding that there a lot of good teams out there."

In the ASA Northern Nationals, the Extreme will be playing teams from Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana.

"It's more of a regional nationals, but it's a great opportunity to play teams from up north," Swip said. "It's a very high caliber tournament. It's a draw-type of tournament, so it's purely based on our skill level. We have two weeks of a lot of softball in front of us."

Out of the 13 players on the Extreme 18-and-under roster, eight of them will be playing softball in college next year. They are Caitlyn Ashcraft (Lindenwood), Chelsi Heflin (Rend Lake), Elizabeth Hess (McKendree), Kate Meyer (Upper Iowa), Ashley DePew (William Woods), Anna Hartman (Millikin), Brianna Nadler (Murray State) and Katie Bruins (Illinois Wesleyan).

Woszczynski, Lauren Popov, Cheryl Orlando, Hannah Wessels and Tayler Gibbs round out the team.

Woszczynksi, who is from Alton, is playing her first season with the Extreme and is one of the team's top pitchers.

"Hayley is a young player," Swip said. "She's actually young enough to play 16 and under. She has gotten some great experience over at Alton and (Alton) coach (Dan) Carter has done a really good job in helping her succeed. She's been kind of a role player for us and we challenge her to come in and close some games for us and kind of be a relief pitcher. Last weekend, we were up at the state tournament and she pitched a game against the Quad City Firebirds and she pitched a two-hitter and we beat them 2-1. She hadn't started a game in a while, so she came out kind of rusty. Her confidence level was outstanding."

Swip is pleased with the way Heflin and Ashcraft are performing. Both girls are from Collinsville.

"Chelsi Heflin has solidified as our No. 2 batter," Swip said. "Ashley DePew leads off for us, so she gets on base quite often. So we need somebody behind her who could hit and run and execute some bunts and do some small game stuff. We put Chelsi in that role and she's kind of taken into that role. She also has some good power in her bat, too. So she can get a double when we needed.

"One of the things Caitlyn brings to our team is she's kind of our glue. She kind of keeps us together. Caitlyn doesn't have the gaudy numbers, she's not a big home run hitter or a big RBI producer. Caitlyn is consistent and brings the same level of energy every single game."

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