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Twenty-four of the top softball players from across the Rio Grande Valley are in Dallas this weekend for the Independent Fastpitch Association-Virtual Tournament Director’s (IFA-VTD) World Series softball tournament; a tournament featuring as many as 64 softball travel teams from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri.
The Rio Grande Valley’s sole representatives in this fastpitch open tournament are actually two teams in one. The RGV Heat Blue team is made up of players up to 18 years of age and the RGV Heat team is for players 16 years of age and under.
Two of the girls that have made the cut to be on the elite blue team’s roster are Mission High School’s Gabrielle Castillo and Sharyland High School’s Savannah Rendon. These two Mission girls are both playing key roles this season as pitchers for the blue team.
“Gabby just came over this past fall,” explained blue team head coach Kevin Kanipe. “She used to play for another organization, but she wanted to play for us. She’s the main pitcher for the Mission Lady Eagles and they won their district this year. She’s a good pitcher and she has several pitches. She’ll also play a little at third, a little at first and in the outfield.”
“As for Savannah she’s mainly a pitcher,” added Kanipe. “That’s her position for Sharyland and she pitched most of the time over there and has for the past several years. She’s played with us since after her eighth grade year. She changes her speed and throws a real nice knuckle change-up and she’s a very good hitter that hits for power. She can also play at first base.”
The head coach explained how he and Jose Ortiz, the 16-and-under team’s head coach, first got involved in coaching these two teams.
“Basically we started 13 years ago when we got a team together to help make the girls better high school players,” shared Kanipe. “Then we saw a need for girls that wanted to play college ball so after our daughters graduated from high school we started getting girls from all over the Valley. Prior to that most of our girls were from the Edinburg area.”
While the two teams are based out of Edinburg, their rosters include girls from Mission, Sharyland, McAllen, PSJA, Edinburg, Donna, Weslaco, Mercedes, Harlingen, San Benito and one girl from Corpus Christi. With such a vast pool of players to choose from, Kanipe and Ortiz have the luxury of being extremely selective when it comes to filling their rosters.
“Most of our girls come to us as a result of word-of-mouth,” explained Kanipe. “Oftentimes they’re on a high school team and they find out about us from a teammate. Sometimes we have tryouts and sometimes we just have them come work out with us. Right now we have girls from 14 different high schools on our two teams.”
“We limit our rosters to 12 players per team so we have to turn some girls away,” added Kanipe. “That’s hard to do, but we look for need at each position and we are here to help those girls with the potential to play college ball so we have to be selective.”
Entering this weekend’s IFA-VTD World Series tournament, the Blue team has an 11-4 record, while the 16-and-under team has a 16-4 record. In their most recent action, both teams won championships in their divisions at a tournament in Taylor, Texas. The two teams’ combined records last year were 40-5-1.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.