TAYLOR COUNTY— Two years ago, Grafton locals Gary Chambers, Joe Mauller and Mark Moats took the initiative to create the Base Invaders, a 16U softball league in the county that gives young girls the opportunity to learn the sport before entering play at the high school level.
While the trio knew the interest was there, Mauller reported that he was pleasantly surprised by just how much interest there actually was.
“We did our first sign ups two years ago, and after the first day we had 21 girls signed up and added another seven after that. So, 28 girls and two 16U teams the first year with not just all the Taylor County talent but Preston County, as well with Emily Pritt and Bridgeport talent like Cheyenne Martin, Rachel Mason and Kaitlyn Archer-Lewis,” he explained. “We knew after the first year that softball in Taylor County could and would be very successful.”
While there has always been softball available to Taylor County girls, the league was limited to in-county play and saw dwindling numbers of participants each passing year.
According to Mauller, the league had such a low number of partakers that there were only two teams with an age range of six to 13, making it difficult to properly coach or have meaningful, competitive games to teach the girls growth and improvement.
After their successful run with the 16U teams, the Base Invaders decided, this year, to gauge the interest of the area’s younger athletes in the hopes of being able to create teams for those in younger divisions, as they believe that learning the sport at a young age and not waiting until middle school to catch up is very important, not just to raise the caliber of athlete one has but also to raise the middle school and high school expectations of softball players, as well.
Once again, when signups were held, the group was surprised to see that there were 25 girls take an interest in playing for the Base Invaders, 11 for 8U and 14 for 10U.
“I do however want to say that there were more girls that wanted to play, but due to time frames and advertising, basically by word of mouth, they were not able to get signed up, so I look for that number to grow next year,” Mauller added.
The 2021 Base Invaders 8U team is being coached by Jennifer Eskridge, John Jacobs and Miranda Bartsch, while the 10U team will be led by coaches Julie (Bolyard) Dowdy and Jay Taylor.
Taylor shared that his motivation behind coaching came from seeing his own daughter, Reagan, grow as an athlete noting that he found out about the desire of Mauller and Chambers to create a league for the younger girls, and he decided to do whatever he could to help them get the idea off the ground.
“We have complete faith in these coaches and young girls. We feel like we are getting the right people in the right places to keep the Base Invaders blasting off for years to come,” Mauller expressed.
Because the Base Invaders play in a North Central Rec. League, this gives them the ability to play teams from surrounding cities and areas such as, Bridgeport, Clarksburg, Shinnston and Fairmont, along with teams from Tucker, Lewis and Barbour Counties.
“So to know now that these young girls can challenge themselves by playing girls from other counties is very exciting. We feel that adding the group of young girls will increase the success of both programs in the future. The sport of softball itself is on the rise,” Mauller commented.
The Base Invaders 8U kicked off their season on Tuesday, April 6 against Bridgeport, and the 10U ladies will get their season underway on Saturday, April 10 against Tucker County at home, at 5:30 p.m., with the Honor Guard and singing of the National Anthem.
“I would just like to add how much I personally, and we as a community appreciate the work, time and effort Joe and his family have put into this,” Chambers disclosed. “He and I are constantly in conversation about the all work he had been doing behind the scenes. People are starting to notice girls softball in Taylor County!”