Times Sports Editor
Long gone are the days when an athlete simply stepped on to the field during their particular sports season and immediately excelled.
These days athletes train nearly year round and compete on travel and AAU teams in different sports to keep their skills honed.
Northview and Clay City High School's softball program have been on the rise as they've seen a large rise in players participating in those travel teams, which regularly gives players a chance to play against the top teams in the state as well as the nation in many tourneys.
With so many younger players already committed to playing for travel teams during the summer, Northview coach Bethany Jones helped arrange a middle school league based out of Terre Haute's Miss Softball America complex.
The teams involved included: North Clay, Clay City, Owen Valley, Woodrow Wilson, Honey Creek and South Putnam.
The goal of the league is to give the athletes a chance to get more experience in the sport as well as learn to play their various positions versus having to begin teaching players from scratch at the high school level.
The feeder system would benefit each school in raising the level of play so that once they reach the high school level, the learning curve is much less difficult and the transition to varsity play much smoother.
The inaugural season was completed early in May with a second place finish by North Clay, who finished the league with a 6-6 record.
Injuries played a key factor as injuries to pitchers Taylor Carter and Sarah Phillips forced the Knights to make changes on the fly.
Alyssa Conrad stepped into the circle and performed admirably during her stint there.
North Clay's team consisted of four eighth graders, four seventh graders and five sixth graders
Ashley Hughes, Hope Torbert, Jamie Warner and Haven Eder all got the chance to get experience behind the plate.
Owen Valley defeated the Knights twice during the regular season, 4-2 and 7-6 in extra innings. However, North Clay bounced back in the post-season tourney to down the Patriots by a 6-2 score and defeated Clay City 10-0.
Honey Creek was the eventual winner of the tourney as the Knights finished as the runners-up.