Local Legends advance

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, July 19, 2012

Members of the Virginia Legends 18U Gold softball team include: front row, from left, Kayla McNair, Koree Hill, Maddie Morris, Jennifer Genao, Savannah Warren and Steph Genao; and back row, from left, manager Barry Paul, Autumn Vick, Danielle Smith, Logan Walker, Kayla Baily, Gabby Bennett, coach Wayne Vick and coach James Spencer.

By Titus Mohler

Correspondent

The Virginia Legends 18U Gold softball team has qualified for the Premiere Girls Fastpitch National Tournament in California.

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“This is the most prestigious national tournament in the country,” Legends coach Wayne Vick said.

The Legends are the only Virginia team to qualify for PGF National tourney and only the second Legends team ever to make it. This year’s team includes King’s Fork High School’s Autumn Vick, who is batting over .400 and has a team-leading five homeruns.

After a strong showing at another high-level event, the Colorado Independent State Tournament, the Legends returned home and next participated in the Premiere qualifying event in New Jersey. They had to win four games to make it to California.

A 4-3 loss to the New Mexico Sundancers put the Legends in the losers bracket, pitting them in a must-win game against a chief rival.

“We ended up beating the Virginia Shamrocks, which has been an organization that (has) actually won the national tournament before, a very good organization,” Vick said. “They’ve been our nemesis for years, but we beat them 2-0 to qualify.”

Leading up to their qualification for the PGF National, the Legends have played all over the country, including, Texas, Minnesota, Florida and Atlanta.

“We try to put them in the most competitive tournaments to play the most competitive teams in the country,” Vick said.

In addition to the elite competition, Vick explained another challenge posed by the California tourney.

“The big thing with Premiere that’s different from most tournaments is there are no pool-play games, no games like that,” he said. “You could lose two games and go home.”

Vick was not surprised by his team’s success, though, emphasizing the status of the Legends program in Virginia.

“We put more kids in Division I programs than any other travel team,” he said. “Out of the 12 to 14 kids that are typically first-team all-selections, over half of them are typically Legends.”

Age and experience have definitely been a factor in helping this particular squad achieve this level of success.

“We have one senior and we are junior-laden and a few sophomores,” Vick said.

But the coach also felt the fundamentals the Legends program teaches were at the heart of the team’s success.

“We stress accountability, hard work,” he said. “We start at the 10U level and work all the way up to the (18-year-olds) teaching the exact same thing.”

The PGF National Tournament begins July 28 and runs through Aug. 4.