Southern California's High School Sports Blog

PGF Nationals Preview: 12U Premier Primer (7/19/18)

Alexa Rosales of Athletics-Mercado/Hovermale. Photo/Athletics-Mercado.

The 12U Premier Division is loaded with talented teams from all over the nation, but after a grueling summer season, two teams — Diamond Sports Hotshots Premier-Jones and Athletics-Mercado/Hovermale — have emerged as the teams to beat at the PGF Nationals July 21-27 in Orange County, CA.

“There are two teams that are 100 percent the teams to beat: Diamond Sports Hotshots and Athletics-Mercado 2023,” OC Firecrackers coach Ted Holcomb said. “They are at another level with pitching and top prospects.”

Kaylynn Jones of OC Firecrackers-Holcomb. Photo/OC Firecrackers.

The Athletics won the Colorado Sparkler 12U title and four Triple Crown events, which has put a big bullseye on their backs.

“All the hype all year about (who is the) No. 1 team, we don’t buy into that,” Athletics coach Rick Hovermale said. “We have had a successful year with a lot to be proud of, but if we fall short next week I know my girls will look at it differently. A lot of teams are just happy to be here, (but) we are here to win it … Period!”

The Athletics have one of the strongest pitching rotations in the nation with power pitcher Alexa Rosales, who has been clocked at 61 mph, lefty Pricilla Llammas, who throws 58 mph-plus, and Alyvia Hernandez. Karis Ford and Jasmyn Burns are two of the Athletics’ big bats.

“We are excited to get it underway,” Hovermale said. “These girls have worked there tails off and we have all the pieces. Our Pitching, defense and offense are all firing at the right time. The competition this year is pretty deep. A lot of quality teams will be there and we just need to make sure we do ‘US’ and not try and overthink or overplan as coaches and just let these girls do what they do. This is hands down the biggest event of the year for the 12U age group and as most know the draw (on) Saturday morning will have a lot to do with how we set our pitching rotations and game plans.”

The Diamond Sports Hotshots organization captured the PGF 12U Premier national title last year, but this is a totally different group under the direction of head coach Steve Jones, whose team picked up a number of Triple Crown titles before winning the WFC 12U championship a couple of weeks ago in Kansas City.

Moriah Polar of Diamond Sports Hotshots Premier-Jones. Photo/Diamond Sports Hotshots.

“The Hotshot brand is built on hard work, player development and family,” Jones said. “This is what our team embodies and we won’t be changing any of those things that have made us successful up to this point. What we need to do is believe in our preparation, in each other and in ourselves and I have no doubt these girls will represent our state and organization admirably. Confidence is more than half the battle in this game and knowing they’ve been properly prepared, believing in each other and having little fear of failure encourages confidence. We can’t wait to mix it up again with such great teams.”

The Hotshots are an agrressive team with a lot of team speed and athleticism that is fundamentally sound an tenacious on defense. Smooth-fielding SS Sa’Mya Jones hits for power and average and is one of the fastest players on the team, P/1B Ava Brown is one of the most prolific hitters in 12U and she’s an imposing figure inside the circle, OF Moriah Polar has tremendous range in CF and is an outstanding table-setter in the leadoff spot, Louisiana Lafayette-commit Mikaylah Williams is a “5-foot-11 stud in the outfield and at the plate,” C Paris Kimble has a big stick and 2B Maddox McKee gets on base and makes things happen.

“All of our players contribute to our success, but we have several standouts,” Jones said. “Two big-time standouts happen to be our two ace pitchers — Ava ‘Stick’ Brown and Sa’Mya ‘Money’ Jones. They are two of the best pitchers in this age group. They both throw in the 59-61 mph range, but great movement and location sets them apart. Just so happens they have two of the best sticks in this age group as well. We rode their arms to a championship in WFC.”

Toni Mascarenas guided the OC Batbusters to a PGF 12U Premier national championship in 2015 and the former Arizona standout has another solid Batbusters team that could challenge for the PGF title this year.

“Heading into Nationals we are loose,” Mascarenas said. “We had a two good days of practice this week. We feel good and know what we need to do in order to win. We need to get timely hitting and have good pitching. If we can put the ball in play and make teams play defense, we can win. We are a power team. We have some speed at the top of our lineup with (P/1B) Ella Parker and (IF/OF) Maya Bland. (3B) Giselle Alvarez has been a pretty consistent hitter for us these past weeks. As long as we swing at good pitches and hit the ball hard on the ground, we know we can be in any ball game.”

Florida-commit Ashtyn Danley of Tennessee Mojo. Photo/Tennessee Mojo.

Right-hander Makayla Huddleston, who has been clocked around 58 mph with an amazing change-up, and Florida State-commit Ashtyn Danley, who has been clocked at 60 mph with a very good drop, give Tennessee Mojo two of the top 12U pitchers in the nation. SS Rose Davis, 2B Jace Jackson and CF Ana Roman anchor the defense and Danley leads the offense. The Mojo are a team that relies on pitching and defense.

“The talent in 12U keeps getting better every tournament we attend,” Mojo coach Mike Danley said. “Traveling to Las Vegas, Kansas, Georgia, Ohio and final destination California, we have tried to chase great competition to prepare us for the best tournament in the country. For us to compete (at PGF Nationals), we have to swing the bat very well. I believe we have two of the best pitchers in the country with right-hander Makayla Huddleston and Florida State-commit Ashtyn Danley. These girls compliment each other extremely well by mixing in speed and power with very good off-speed.”

OC Firecrackers-Holcomb likes to bunt, slap and manufacture runs and they recently upset Tennessee Mojo to reach the WFC 12U finals.  The OC Firecrackers are strong up the middle with 2B Kaylynn Jones and SS Kaylin Garcia and they have Kanisha Anderson and Sophia Knight roaming the outfield. C Taryn Clements is one of the best behind the plate in 12U and is a big bat in the four spot.

“We manufacture runs and get crazy on the bases,” Holcomb said.

Kenleigh Cahalan of Birmingham Thunderbolts-Cahalan. Photo/Birmingham Thunderbolts.

On of the South’s top contenders is Birmingham Thunderbolts-Cahalan, which has some strong pitchers that can spin it well with Ramsey Montgomery and Makayla Coffield. SS Kenleigh Cahalan, C Ansley Armstrong and CF Jaylah Jarrell lead the team defensively and C/UT Maddie Terrell and 3B/IF Jaysoni Fowler are huge offensive threats “that have the ability to launch them out of the park.”

“Well, I think it is gonna come down to timely hitting, being stingy on defense and getting ahead of hitters,” Bolts coach Shane Cahalan said. “This tournament is filled with amazing talent and you can’t afford to give anyone anything. Getting our speed players on and allow our big guns to knock ’em in. I feel like we have a great mix of speed and power where we can play a fast game, but with power.”

Florida State-commit Alexia Carrasquillo of Georgia Impact-C. Lewis. Photo/Georgia Impact.

Like many of the top teams, Georgia Impact-C. Lewis isn’t coming to the PGF 12U Premier championships to make a good showing.

“Heading into PGF Nationals, we are compared to compete for the title,” Georgia Impact coach Chuck Lewis said. “While we reach the end of an incredibly successul season, this team is ready to make a statement for themselves. Throughout the process, we stress to our girls to take each game one inning at a time and one at-bat at a time. As long as we stay true to ourselves and continue to play our game with consistency, we should be a top contender.”

Georgia Impact’s top players are Auburn-committed 1B Kyla Stroud, Florida State-committed C Alexia Carasquillo, 3B Gracyn Tucker, SS Bella Morton and pitchers Ella Janish, Katelyn Flanders and Sydney Langdon.

“With talented pitching, power at the plate, speed on the bases and strong defense, our team is positioned to perform at a high level. The leadership on our team has helped set expectations nothing less than maximum effort.”

Sierra Daniel of Mizuno Storm-Appel. Photo/Mizuno Storm.

Unlike many of the top travel teams, which feature players from multiple states, 12 of the 13 players on Arizona-based Mizuno Storm-Appel have been together for at least the past two years since 10U.

“We don’t have kids from other states or four-plus hours away,” Mizuno Storm coach Steve Appel said.

The Mizuno Storm are led by the steady play of infielders Sierra Daniel, Kate Vance and Alexis Dellamonica. The offense features, Daniel, Krista Martinez and Jocelyn Briski.

“For us to be successful, we are going to have to continue to do what we do well; which is hit and play defense (and) our pitchers haveto bring their ‘A’ game to compete and limit the free passes to the competition. We have a lineup that can beat you with speed and then power … It’s going to be a great experience for everyone and the best will rise and be the last one standing.”

Mia McNulty of So Cal Athletics-Medina/Briggs. Photo/So Cal Athletics.

So Cal Athletics-Medina/Briggs is anoher solid team from So Cal that could do some damage with its good pitchingand solid defense.

“Pitchers Ava Tepesano and Joie Steinkamp almost always give us a chance to win,” So Cal A’s coach Ken Briggs said.
“Team defense has been strong, particularly coming into this tournament. Catcher Tehya Banks does an excellent job controlling the running game and our team outfield play, anchored by center fielder Paige Hayward, has been a key defensive strength. Offensively, we always look to put pressure on the defense by putting the ball in play, using the speed that we have, strong execution and timely hitting. Mia McNulty has been our top hitter all year long, but everyone has stepped up and contributed.

“To be successful at PGF, we will have to continue doing the little things well and avoid giving up big innings. If we can keep the games close, our ability to play well in late innings gives us a good chance at being successful.”

The Beverly Bandits organization is strong in everyage group and Beverly Bandits-Yates looks like the organization’s top contender in 12U.

“We have had a very successful year and want to continue to build on that,” Bandits coach Jim Yates said. “We need to stay fundamental and execute our game plan. Fundamental ball and execute in key situations. We have a good mixture of speed and power. We must focus on solid defense and allow our strong pitchers to attack the batters with a mixture of speed and movement. We try to stay well-rounded, and we’ll win if we stay team focused on our goals.”

Haley Ferguson and Ryleigh Thomas provide a strong pitching duo with a good blend of speed and movement. They are anchored by a catcher Alivia Boothe, who is a wall behind the plate. The Bandits have speed and power on ofense, led by Lauryn Swanson, Addie Martin, Addie DeLong and Haley Winans.

“Our team is built to be 12 strong,” Yates said, “and our success will be based on all 12 continuing to contribute and perform at a high level.”



18U Platinum Championship at Deanna Manning Stadium, Thursday, July 26, 7:30 p.m. (Streamed live on

12U Platinum Championship at Harvard Park, Thursday, July 26, 7:30 p.m. (Streamed live on

10U Premier Championship at Deanna Manning Stadium, Friday, July 27, 8:30 a.m. (Streamed live on

12U Premier Championship at Deanna Manning Stadium, Friday, July 27, 11 a.m. (Streamed live on and tape delayed on Fox Sports West Prime Ticket and Comcast)

18U Premier Championship at Deanna Manning Stadium, Friday, July 27, 4:30 p.m. (Live on ESPNU)

PGF High School All-American Game at Deanna Manning Stadium, Friday, July 27, 7:30 p.m. (Live on ESPNU)

Beverly Bandits-Conroy celebrates its 2-0 victory over Corona Angels-Tyson in the PGF 18U Premier national title game on Friday, July 28, 2017. Photo/Patrick Takkinen.





East def. West, 7-4


Beverly Bandits-Conroy def. Corona Angels-Tyson, 2-0


Salinas Storm-Heen def. Batbusters-Gomes/Clark, 5-4


Beverly Bandits-Ketelhut def. Athletics-Mercado/Smith, 10-1


Firecrackers UT-Rollin def. Birmingham Thunderbolts 01, 7-4


Texas Dirt Divas def. OC Batbusters-Campbell 03, 4-3


Firecrackers-Brashear/Oakes def. Birmingham Thunderbolts 2003, 8-1


Diamond Sports Hotshots Gold def. Georgia Impact-Langston, 5-1


Fury 2024 def. Birmingham Thunderbolts 06, 12-5



West def. East, 2-0


Firecrackers-Rico def. California Cruisers-Sievers, 2-0


Iowa Premier def. USA Athletics Gold, 2-0


Beverly Bandits-Conroy def. South Dakota Renegades, 3-2


Firecrackers-Brashear def. Midwest Speed, 3-2


So Cal Athletics-Mercado/Smith def. Corona Angels-Tyson, 6-0


Grapettes-Guevara def. Birmingham Thunderbolts-Dorsett, 2-0


Texas Sudden Impact def. Texas Impact Gold-Esparza, 6-1


Tennessee Mojo 2023 def. Intensity South TX, 11-3



OC Batbusters-Stith/Haning def. So Cal Athletics-Richardson, 7-0


Firecrackers-Pasco def. Iowa Premier Gold, 3-2


Tampa Mustangs-TJ def. Beverly Bandits/Team DeMarini, 1-0


Sparks Premier def. KC Peppers-Clinton, 5-3


OC Batbusters-Campbell def. Georgia Impact-Lewis, 7-4


Cal Nuggets Gold def. Nor Cal Dirt Dogs-Ybarra, 6-4


OC Batbusters-Mascarenas def. So Cal Choppers 02-Gibson, 2-1


Diamond Sports Hotshots Gold def. Texas Chaos, 8-5



OC Batbusters-Stith/Haning def. Corona Angels-Tyson, 3-0


OC Batbusters-Briggs def. Illinois Stars, 5-0


So Cal Athletics-Myers/McNee def. Beverly Bandits-Tyrrell, 2-1


California Cruisers-Evans def. OC Batbusters-Alvarez, 11-3


Corona Angels-Tyson def. So Cal Athletics-Quarles, 7-1


Courage-Weaver def. Cal Cruisers-Sievers, 9-1


So Cal Athletics-Mercado def. DirecTV Genies, 4-3



So Cal Athletics-Richardson def. Team Mizuno-Stith, 3-2


Strike Force-Guerra def. Central California Dirt Dogs, 10-0


Beverly Bandits-Tyrrell def. OC Batbusters-Myers, 2-0


Team Mizuno-Campbell def. OC Batbusters-McNee, 5-4


So Cal Athletics-Tidd/Ornelas def. AZ Suncats, 9-0



So Cal Athletics-Richardson def. Worth Firecrackers, 5-4


Team Mizuno-Stith def. Corona Angels-Knighten, 5-1


Atlanta Vipers def. So Cal Athletics-Marinacci, 3-2


Firecrackers-Quarles def. Firecrackers-Roman, 8-2



So Cal Athletics-Richardson def. Worth Firecrackers, 8-7


Firecrackers-Blanco def. Texas Glory-Naudin, 5-0


OC Batbusters-McNee def. Corona Angels-Knighten, 3-0



So Ca Athletics-Richardson def. Texas Impact Gold, 4-2


OC Batbusters-Myers def. Corona Angels-Howard, 6-4

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