by Kyle Koso
AURORA, Colo. — For softball players hoping to set sail and land with a top college program someday, there’s logic in anchoring their skills to prepare for the trek.
Broadly speaking, that’s what drives two wildly popular offerings from Triple Crown Fastpitch ahead of game play at the Colorado 4th of July event. College Camp Sunday and Elite College Camp Monday in 2022 saw droves of athletes putting in their time in sessions lasting four hours or more at Aurora Sports Park, with college programs and their coaching staffs running the drills and sharing the thoughts designed to make players more prepared for a post-high school future in the sport.
On Monday, Notre Dame ran its camp, piloted by head coach Deanna Gumpf and her assistants. From high-tempo workouts to conversations about reaching and thriving in the college game, Gumpf’s group dug into the task of providing a valuable experience.
“We want them to have the opportunity to show us what they have; if there are fundamentals we feel we can help with, we absolutely say something. We also want to be encouraging,” said Gumpf, who has run the softball show in South Bend for 21 seasons. “The more they love the game, the better they play. When we set up this camp, it was all about seeing them in as many game situations, with some pressure, as possible. Lots of reps — these are kids who want to be recruited by us, so we want them to have the opportunity for us to see them in action. We got them as busy as possible, kept them working, and added a bit of pressure.”
Sharing space with an elite academic and athletic outfit like Notre Dame was a highlight moments for players such as Matea Muraoka and Sophia Peterson.
“What bright me out here today, Notre Dame is a high academic school and they had a phenomenal season this year — that caught my attention and is something I’d love to be a part of in the future,” said Muraoka, 15, who plays for the Batbusters 18 Gold and hails from Stockton, Calif. “So I came out hoping to get a little bit better than when I started. Today exceeded my expectations; it was run very professionally, quick pace, just how I like it.
“I just got moved up to the 18’s, so I’m trying to find consistency with my hitting, figure out the adjustments I need to make coming from a younger team. I use the girls as motivation; I don’t think I compare myself, but I want to make sure I have an edge playing along some the best girls in the country, and that will push me to work harder when I’m home, being the scenes, when no one else is there.”
Both Muraoka and Peterson hit long home runs during drills at the Notre Dame camp, and both were determined to leave the camp with no regrets.
“I want to play D-I; I want to be one of the best. I work very hard and want to show that,” said Peterson, 15, who plays for the Lady Hornets and lives in Ashland, VA. “I loved the camp — I thought it was well run, and I loved that you could showcase your defensive and offensive side, and pitching, which is my focus. It’s something I would do again.
“I want to play the best competition I can. You know, you come to these camps and you see girls that definitely have an edge athletically, so you want to showcase yourself and show you can compete.”
THE CASE FOR CAMPS — Gumpf stayed and talked with every player who lingered after the Notre Dame camp, posing for pictures and fulfilling the mission of connecting with those who’d taken the time and expense to jump into the mix.
“That’s why I love these camps in Colorado, and we were talking about this with the NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association), that this is a wonderful opportunity to continue growing the sport. The amount of people who are out here and want to get better, who want the opportunity, what Triple Crown has done here is amazing. We are huge fans. We’ve not only seen great talent, but we get to new out here and show what Notre Dame is all about. It’s a win-win. I’m so happy with how it’s gone, and it makes us want to come out here early. Good talent, you get to know the girls a little bit — you guys do it right.
“After COVID, there was a lot of frustration because people felt like their opportunities to get recruiting had tightened up a little, but I feel we are coming back around again. We’re on track, and we want to dig into these next (graduation) classes — hey, there are opportunities galore right now, so let’s go take them. The players (who got an extra year) just have one more, so let’s go.”