OKLAHOMA CITY - When a bat is in her hands, look out.
Lydia Clubb can club a softball.
And last weekend the Wright City Middle School seventh-grader proved she can do it on a big stage while facing some of the best pitching her age group has to offer nationwide.
A dynamo at the dish, Clubb led the Region 7 Red team in hits at the All-American Games, held at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City.
The center fielder posted a .500 batting average in the four-game tournament that spanned June 8 – 10, cranking out four base knocks in eight at-bats with a double, two RBIs, two runs scored and three steals.
Clubb’s squad was a 12U Midwestern melting pot. In addition to Missouri, players call Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado home.
“This was a lot of fun,” Lydia said. “It was great competing against players from all over the United States. And my favorite part of the experience was that I made lots of new friends.”
But they were strangers who hadn’t been on the diamond as a collective before showing up in the Sooner State. Lydia’s father, Jason and mother, DeAnna said they were impressed at how strong a chemistry the new teammates created in such a short amount of time.
“They’d never practiced together or anything,” Jason said. “But it was amazing how the kids were able to come together. Watching them you would have thought they had played together for years.
“The games were intense and the talent all around was phenomenal. The fielding was pretty clean and the pitchers threw super hard and hit spots that normally just aren’t hit.”
Lydia’s biggest highlight was a run-scoring two bagger she belted to left field in the fourth inning of Region 7 Red’s tourney-opening 11-2 win over Region 8 Blue.
“It almost went out of the park,” Jason said. “She hit it all the way to the warning track. A couple more feet and the ball would have been over the fence.”
Lydia’s team finished with a 2-2 record and 12th of 24 teams. Region 3 Blue, which featured players from Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee went 7-0 to win the championship.
Each of the 10 USA Softball regions had two teams with 15 players each.
The USA Softball webpage calls the event a prestigious tournament that provides national exposure to elite athletes, designed to identify and highlight the best athletes from across the country.
To earn a spot on Region 7 Red, Lydia went through a series of tryouts, including regionals in Kanas City, where she was selected from a field of a hundred athletes.
“They tested you on all parts of the game – agility, fielding, hitting and baserunning skills,” Lydia said.
Jason said watching his daughter play in Oklahoma was a memory the family will never forget and that baseball/softball runs in the Clubb bloodlines. Before he was putting out flames for the Wright City Fire Department, he was throwing them on the mound as a pitcher and even attended tryouts for a handful of Major League organizations in the early 2000s, including the New York Yankees.
“I had goosebumps the whole time at the tournament,” he said. “The hairs on the back of my neck were standing because I was so thrilled (Lydia) was there. Ever since she was 2 years old all we’ve done is play catch, play ball. She’s adamant about it 24/7. That’s what she loves doing.”
Not even a full week before Lydia’s trip to OKC was over, UCLA was on the same field where the Bruins swept Oklahoma on a two-out walk-off hit to win the Women’s College World Series, their 13th national title.
She has dreams of one day winning an NCAA title, only she’s playing for Florida University in them.
Why the Gators?
“Just because,” she said. “It’s Florida. It’s a cool place.”