August 13, 2013 8:54:45 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Maegen Ellis returned from California with one too many mementos.
Thankfully, the Oak Hill Academy senior will get to lose one of those souvenirs today when she goes to the doctor to have a cast on her right hand removed.
Ellis' hand had to be placed in a cast after she suffered a slight crack to the fourth metacarpal bone of her right hand when she slid into third base with a triple playing for the Mississippi Elite at the Amateur Softball Association 16-and-under Nationals in Sunnyvale, Calif.
"It did upset me that I did get injured because it was a great opportunity to go out there and play against some of the best players," Ellis said. "I feel like I played the best I could. I was pretty happy with my hitting and really happy with my fielding."
The triple helped Ellis cap a 6-for-9 showing at the tournament, which featured 129 teams from across the country. Mississippi Elite finished tied for 65th and had a chance to showcase its players for countless college coaches.
Ellis thought the Mississippi Elite, which was playing without two regulars, did pretty well and thought the team could have done better, but that it did pretty well for peoples' expectations. She said she realized her goal by having fun against some of the nation's top prospects. The only negative was suffering her first major injury. Initially, she thought she had just jammed her finger, but her hand was swollen by the time she went out to play defense in the next half inning. Fortunately, she didn't have make any plays with her throwing hand. She said she isn't sure how long the injury will keep her sidelined.
As for possibly missing out on more opportunities to catch the eyes of college coaches, Ellis said it always has been a dream of hers to play softball in college. She said the experience gave her confidence to know she can realize her dream.
"I don't want it to end after my senior year," said Ellis, who is a multi-sport athlete at Oak Hill Academy. "I just have to remember to give it all I have every play. I know I have the heart to do it. I have always loved softball from the day I started. I just have to continue working hard at it."
Mississippi Elite coach Danny Jones, added Ellis and her Mississippi Curve teammate Alexia Harmon, of Madison Central High School, to his team after the Curve couldn't go to the event. He said Ellis played great and then had to sit out the final two games that left his team with a final 3-2 record. He said Ellis hit from the lead-off spot and helped spark the team's offense.
"What the colleges are looking for and how the injury hurt her chances, I don't know," Jones said. " Maegen is a hustler, and I know she loves the game. We really don't know what the chances were for her to be seen because we really didn't get far enough into the tournament, but she did get seen. In every game we played there were college coaches. I wish I would have had her the whole season, but that's not the way it worked out."
Jones said Division I softball is different because many of the programs have completed their recruiting classes for next season, meaning players like Ellis, who plays at a small school in a state that is developing a tradition for the sport, can slip through the cracks. Still, Jones said Ellis still has a chance to be recruited by a school. He said it will be crucial for her and her family to be aggressive in finding the right school and then selling herself to that program. He also said she could go the junior college route and stay at that level for one or two years in an attempt to attract a top-notch Division I program.
"There were as many college coaches at the 14-and-under Nationals looking at kids in the classes of 2017 and 2018 as there were looking at our nationals," Jones said. "They're recruiting earlier and earlier and going after kids and putting them on their lists."
Even though Ellis hasn't received a lot of recruiting attention, Jones believes she can walk on to any squad she chooses, make the team, and earn a scholarship. He acknowledged it is going to be tough, though, because she probably will have to find the right school and hope that school has a spot or she can work her way onto the roster.
"If she gets seen by the right Division I school or the right Division II school I don't think it will be an issue," Jones said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.