Sometime during the Tampa Mustangs' almost incomprehensible run of 12 straight wins to claim the 16U Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship a coach from the University of Georgia softball team sought out T.J. Goelz. The Mustangs head coach spent much of his week in Irvine, Calif., talking to college coaches about his players, all of whom will likely play either Division I or II, and the encounter with a Southeastern Conference coach reinforced just how important this tournament was.
"Whatever you're doing," the coach told him, "keep it going because we want that title to come back east and get out of California."
Tampa eventually toppled the Ohio-based Beverly Bandits DeMarini 1-0 in the championship game for the first 16U PGF title by a team outside of California and the performance is giving the players momentum heading into their junior and senior years.
Ten of the 14 players on the roster attend either Braden River High School or Lakewood Ranch High School -- the others go to Joe E. Newsome High School in Lithia -- and already eight players are committed to Division I schools and three more are Division II bound. In
the coming week, the three uncommitted players have visits set up with Duke University, Syracuse University, Stanford University and University of Utah.
Even his daughter, Avery Goelz, an eighth grader on the roster strictly to pinch run, has garnered some interest from college coaches.
"This is also why I drank the PGF Kool-Aid, if you will," T.J. Goelz said. "We had three kids who were uncommitted, and all three of them, after the PGF, have invites."
Goelz is also particularly happy with the way the Mustangs have been able to develop local talent within a relatively small radius.
Outfielder Kyra Klarkowski and third baseman Kaylee Misiti are both headed to the University of Central Florida from Lakewood Ranch. Outfielder Denali Schappacher and catcher Maddie Biggs are going from Ranch to Division II Palm Beach Atlantic University. Fellow Mustang Logan Newton will eventually pitch for James Madison University, and Goelz's other daughter, Kinsey Goelz, is committed to South Florida. First baseman Bethany Keen, who played with Goelz at Braden River before the shortstop transferred to Lakewood Ranch, also is committed to South Florida.
Pirate second baseman Myah Moy and third baseman Kylie Toler are two of the three uncommitted players.
When he looks at this list and his entire roster he takes a bit of extra pride. Everyone on the team lives within about 45 minutes of each other, and only three high schools are represented. In the championship game, Tampa's opponent had 14 players from 14 different high schools in seven different states.
"Not that there's anything wrong with that model," Goelz said, "but we also prove that you can still do it with a local model, with a local group."
Braden River Soccer Club's The Outreach Program for Soccer, knowns as TOPSoccer, provides an opportunity to play soccer to any boy or girls 4 and older with a mental or physical disability. Registration for this coming fall is now available online at bradenriversoccer.org. The program runs every Sunday from Sept. 20 to Nov. 15 with one week off on Oct. 11. Sessions are held at Braden River Soccer Club.
TOPSoccer is also looking for volunteer buddies who will assist athletes each week. Buddies, which are typically high school or middle school students, can earn community service hours.
David Wilson, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter @DBWilson2.