National team has local coaching flair

Accokeek residents Jill Callaway and her father, Tony Callaway, are heading to Oklahoma this week as coaches for the Region 2 Red 12U softball team that will be seeking a National Championship.

During their playing days, current softball coaches Jill Callaway, Erin King and Lauren Robison played at a very high level in high school and college. Now their youthful protege players on the American Softball Association 12U Region 2 Red team are headed to Oklahoma seeking a national championship.

Callaway, who played her high school days at Grace Brethren School in Clinton and then later the University of Maryland, oversees the 5-Star Athletics Softball program that has developed younger players for over 20 years. This will be the third straight year that Callaway has taken a team to Oklahoma, with her squads having finished third and fifth, respectively, in the previous two tournaments.

“Our region includes players from Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina and we probably had over 125 girls tryout for spots,” Callaway said. “The competition for spots was very, very tough. I thought we had a great system of grading all of the players for various pitching, hitting, fielding and base running skills.”

Robison, a Calvert High School graduate who will be heading into her fifth year — fourth season — as the Cavaliers softball coach in 2021, is also eager to see how the local squad will perform in Oklahoma. Robison was among the first group of players to come through the 5-Star Athletics program 20 years ago and now she is among the full-time coaches.

“When I started going to Jill’s camps she said I was going to be her first full-time employee and of course, I didn’t believe her,” Robison said. “But she brought me on board and this has been a great experience. The girls we had at tryouts were really, really good. It was very tough to get down to 15, but I think this is the best group that we’ve ever had going to Oklahoma.”

King, a Bowie High School graduate who later played for Dickinson College, has been among the 5-Star coaches for 12 years and also took part in several of the tryouts. King, however, will be unable to make the trip to Oklahoma this summer since she recently gave birth to her second child. But King is confident this group will perform well in Nationals even in her absence.

“The last tryout that I was able to attend in Delaware in February had a lot of really talented girls,” said King, a former Prince George’s County player of the year who now lives in Church Hill, Maryland. “Not only do these girls have talent, but this is definitely the biggest team that we have put together. We looked at what the other teams had that won out there and we tried to mirror this team to give us the best chance of winning.”

Heading to Oklahoma as part of the Region 2 Red team are Maryland residents Taylor Castle, Abbie Frsivold and Mackenzie Knight, Delaware resident Baylee Lynch, Virginia residents Meadow Coleman, Tegan Gabrielle, Marlee Gaskell, Tess Gray, Mazie Harmon, Deryn Johnson, Kaylee Lizardo and Rayne Wright and North Carolinians Morgan Donovant, Tamia Gwynn and Emma Salter.

Each of the teams in the National Tournament in Oklahoma are guaranteed four games, including at least one game in the main stadium. Each team will play three games at fields near the main complex and tournament bracket play will begin on Sunday.

Twitter: @tblacksomds1

Twitter: @tblacksomds1