GRAFTON— As the local regular season of girls’ softball comes to a close the travel season is just beginning for the local Base Invaders squads, as well as one promising Grafton player that will play for the elite Black Diamond Express out of Morgantown.
Grafton native and Grafton High School Lady Bearcat standout Lillie Crimm plays for the latter who has just announced a wonderful opportunity for the 12 girls on the 14u Black Diamond Express (BDE) team.
The 14u BDE will be making the trek to Oklahoma City (OKC) soon to play in a single elimination pool play style tournament hosted and produced by the Triple Crown Sports organization (TC).
The Black Diamond Express 14u squad originated in Morgantown and will be the first team ever from West Virginia to make the journey to Oklahoma City for the TC OKC event, which is set for June 3-6.
And with 167 total teams from across the United States suiting up to participate in the tournament, the Black Diamond Ladies are preparing to take on some of there toughest competition yet, however, they first had to tackle some adversity.
Crossing half the country to play softball required an immense amount of fundraising efforts. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic the Black Diamond Express had to put their travel plans on hold, yet found a silver lining in having additional time to prepare for the trip and continue raising funds, providing the girls with the opportunity to learn through the process of the long-term fundraising.
Despite the pause, the team’s hard work and determination has paid off and they will finally get to experience their dream of competing at an elite level.
Not only will the team get the experience of playing against opponents from across the United States they will also get to watch the Women’s Softball College World Series, where they will possibly get to meet some of the players and coaches of the best teams in the nation.
“The girls are very excited about watching the Women’s Softball College World Series games and the possibility of meeting some of the players and coaches, but we are also coming out to compete against teams from all over the country,” said Express 14’s head coach Travis Masoner. “The team really wants to show everyone that we can play quality softball and compete against anyone, being we are the first team to participate from the state of West Virginia.”
Black Diamond Express was founded in 2011 by Eddie Campbell and currently fields 11 teams ranging from 8u-18u.
Masoner joined the organization in 2018 as a 10u coach. His current 14u team mostly hails from Morgantown.
When asked how he found this tournament for his girls, Coach Masoner shared that hewas watching the College World Series and caught images of youngsters sitting in the stands and enjoying the action, then he realized those kids were in game uniforms of their own.
“I saw some young ladies in the stands with their uniforms and signs, and that made me think what an awesome thing it would be to watch the best of the best play while also playing in a tournament,” he voiced. “As anyone would do these days, I searched the internet for youth tournaments and the first name that came up was Triple Crown and the OKC event.”
The Black Diamond Express will face teams from Tennessee, Texas and Washington in the first round at the TC OKC tourney on June 4-5, as part of the 14u B division.
“I am very lucky to have a great coach in Nikki Nuzum, who brings numerous years of experience, instruction and coaching skills to the team, which the girls thrive off of and really develop not only as softball players, but as young ladies,” Masoner added. “I am also fortunate to have such great families associated with our team, who are supportive in every step we take as a team. A great example is the group fundraising effort it took for us to get to OKC that was done over three years.”
The staff of the Mountain Stateman would like to wish Lillie Crimm and the entire 14u Black Diamond Express team the best of luck as they travel to represent the great state of West Virginia in the tournament.