SYCAMORE – Jill Carpenter’s 14U Sycamore Flash softball players have heard about Storm Dayz for a number of years.
The Flash program began play last season. This year, having a more experienced team, Carpenter decided to take her 14U and 12U teams to the competitive event at Sycamore Park, which features 76 teams in five divisions that compete on 12 different fields.
“It’s nice to play close to home, and the kids have grown up knowing about this tournament,” Carpenter said. “So, to actually be a part of it, I think it’s a cool experience for them.”
The 14U Flash lost both of their games on the first day of Storm Dayz competition, falling 7-6 to the Belvidere Blasters and 11-0 to the Roselle Rampage.
Yet, Carpenter has seen a different club than the one she coached during the Flash’s inaugural summer. Last season, Sycamore won just two games, but the Flash already have seven wins in 2012.
Carpenter also increased the team’s schedule, playing in seven tournaments as opposed to five. She wanted her team to play in a couple of more difficult tourneys, including this weekend’s Storm Dayz event. The Flash also added a 16U team for 2012.
The main reason the Flash program formed was because Carpenter, the softball coach at Sycamore High School, and the rest of the Spartans’ staff wanted to get incoming players some experience on the travel circuit.
“I think, for us, if we’re going to put this much time into something, we would like for it to reward kids that are going into our program,” Carpenter said. “So, the whole idea behind it was to get more kids experience with playing a higher level of softball.”
Instead of being made up of players from cities around the DeKalb County area, the Flash is a team consisting of children exclusively from Sycamore. Ten of Carpenter’s 14U players will be freshmen at Sycamore next season.
With the Flash, players have gotten the chance to work with other kids who will eventually be prep teammates.
“I think it’s going to help us a lot,” said Flash 14U player Izzy Odom, who will be a freshman at Sycamore next season. “We’ll know how to work as a team.”
Members of the Flash have also gotten to experience the Spartans’ coaching staff. Sycamore varsity assistant Vern Hjelmberg and freshman coach Cris Zakosek also help out with the 14U team.
With the Flash, players are taught the way they will be taught in high school, something that will help when they step foot on the Sycamore campus.
“Coach likes everything done a specific way,” said Flash 14U player Morgan Brons, who will be a freshman next year. “I think, being with them – coach Carpenter, coach [Zakosek] – helps us see how to do it. How to do everything the right way.”
Though the Flash may take their lumps at times, Carpenter gets to see future Spartans benefit from the experience of summer ball. This season, she’s seen her team get better opportunities due to being able to put the ball in play at a higher rate and get on base more, where as in 2011 her players were more going through the motions.
“I’ve been impressed. They’ve been wanting to learn, and they listen for the most part,” Carpenter said. “And I think that they all want to get better, and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”