The Xplosion traveling fast-pitch softball team is shown with the first place trophy they won at the Oklahoma City Challenge last Monday. Front, from left, are Sara Brock, Mallory Vance, Hannah Hall, Madalyn McMahon and Hannah Williams; second row, Coach Craig Martin, Peyton Lippert, Meg Martin, Ali Pike, Claire Winstead and Coach Max Vance.
The Xplosion traveling fast-pitch softball team is shown with the first place trophy they won at the Oklahoma City Challenge last Monday. Front, from left, are Sara Brock, Mallory Vance, Hannah Hall, Madalyn McMahon and Hannah Williams; second row, Coach Craig Martin, Peyton Lippert, Meg Martin, Ali Pike, Claire Winstead and Coach Max Vance.
The Xplosion traveling fast-pitch softball team earned some time in the national spotlight last week after going 8-0 and winning the Oklahoma City Challenge.

The national tournament was held in conjunction with the Women's College World Series. The Xplosion, based in Philadelphia, traveled to Oklahoma City to play in the 16-year-old division of the tournament while also attending the World Series. Last Monday, they played eight games in a one-day single elimination tournament and defeated teams from Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma and finally New Mexico to take home the first place trophy.

That feat did not go unnoticed.

"On Tuesday morning when I woke up, I had an email from the president of the USSSA," Coach Craig Martin said. "He invited us up to come and play in the USSSA World Series in Orlando later this summer. He also said our power rating after the tournament had us ranked No. 10 in the nation in the USSSA rankings."

Not bad for a team that started out several years ago when the players were playing in the park program.

"We started as a weekend traveling team playing out of the park program when the girls were seven years old," Martin recalled. "We still have four girls who were part of the original group - Madalyn McMahon, Meg Martin, Hannah Williams and Hannah Hall.

"Over the years, we have added players and players have stopped playing with us. We just love to go out and play softball. That's the truth. After a while, I added players from Neshoba Central because I wanted to help the program and help keep their girls competing during the summer. Now, the girls are getting older and are starting to think about college. Some want to play softball on the next level and we are trying to help them."

Martin explained that college coaches rarely scout individual games but instead attend college exposure tournaments that held over the summer. So, instead of playing for invitations to national World Series, his team spends its summer attending college exposure tournaments.

"Instead of going to see one player at a game, a coach can go to an exposure tournament and see hundreds play," Martin said.

Last summer, for example, Xplosion played in a college exposure tournament at the University of Tennessee, and they are going back this year.

"It was good to be invited to the USSSA World Series and we are going to talk about it," Martin said. "But it is an expensive tournament. We will be playing just about every weekend through July when it is time for the girls to start practicing for the slow-pitch season at the high school. We may just stay with that."

And, the USSSA World Series ends on the first day of the Neshoba County Fair. So...

Xplosion left and started a 10-hour drive to Oklahoma City on Thursday, June 5. They did some site seeing over the weekend and attended the Women's College World Series. But it was all business when they reported to the field at 7 a.m. on Monday morning.

Playing eight games in one day might sound like a lot but the players didn't seem to mind.

"I just looked forward to it," Hannah Williams said. "It was a long day and you do get tired. But after each game, you realize you were a little closer to winning the tournament championship."

Williams said she also enjoyed attending the Women's College World Series.

"I hope one day, I might get a chance to play in the College World Series. That is my goal," Williams said.

The trip, the games and the sites made for lift-time memories for Payton Lippert.

"I don't know if I will ever go back but I will never forget that weekend," Lippert said. "It was a long drive out there and back. But to go 8-0 was great. We had a lot of fun."