A trio of Madison County softball players will be playing against the very best teams in the country when the Premier Girls Fastpitch (PGF) National Tournament gets started this weekend in Huntington, Calif.
Jonathan Alder seniors Maddy Johnston and Taylor Gaerke along with West Jefferson graduate and Ohio University signee Taylor Bowman are all members of Lady Lasers Black 18U Gold team that is playing in the prestigious national tournament.
“Unfortunately we haven’t played as much this season due to the weather,” manager Glen Widner said. “We’ve kind of been on the upswing and have been playing pretty well here lately.”
A sign that Widner’s team is peaking at the right time is the fact that the squad recently knocked off the Lady Lasers Blue team that won the ASA/USA National Championship a year ago.
“It seems like we’re going in the right direction,” the coach said.
Widner, along with help from his daughter Heather (Widner) coach the team filled with many Central Ohio players. The younger Widner is also an assistant on the Jonathan Alder High School varsity team and an elementary teacher in the district.
The coaches have worked with the two Alder athletes on the team for years. Gaerke and Johnston play critical roles on this team and have grown as players throughout the high-level travel softball experience.
Gaerke, a middle infielder, has turned herself into a Division I college softball athlete. Long known as a defensive wizard, she’s made tremendous strides with her bat and is gaining increased attention from college coaches.
“Taylor is just phenomenal on defense,” Glen Widner said. “She makes play after play and routinely is taking runs away from the other team. Offensively I’d say she’s fourth or fifth on the team in hitting. That’s something we told her she needed to work on and she’s really done a good job.”
Johnston, a Mount Vernon Nazarene University commit, had an injury early in the summer, but since she’s been 100 percent she’s brought something unique to the table for Lasers Black.
“Maddy is the ultimate No. 2 hitter,” Widner said. “She moves runners, gets on base and gives us that speed factor. She had a big day against Lasers Blue. She’s improved so much on her arm and defense. She has the best arm in our outfield.”
Of the 12 players on the Lasers Black roster, 10 have committed to play softball in college. One of the non-committed players is Gaerke, who has options with more possibly coming her way and the other is Hilliard Darby sophomore Ceryn Siemer who likely will have offers coming in the years to come.
West Jefferson graduate Taylor Bowman, who was a first-team All-Ohio selection this past spring and is signed to play at Ohio University, has given the Black squad a tremendous catcher who has the ability to play other places.
“Taylor has been with us for 2-3 years now,” Widner said. “She has a great arm, can play either corner infield spot and has a pretty good bat. She’s a nice all-around player for us.”
The Lasers Black team will open pool play in the PGF Tournament Saturday, July 25, against OC Batbusters of California, one of the country’s premier travel softball organizations.
“The disadvantage we’ve had is the weather has come at the plate,” Widner said. “We haven’t gotten as many reps as some of the other teams. It’s a little bit easier to simulate things with pitching. Hopefully we can score a few runs and continue to get good pitching.”
The PGF National Tournament will start on Saturday and continue through Aug. 31.
Chris Miles can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.
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