The Carolina Xtreme 14-and-under team has come a long way since its inception four summers ago.
“All were basically very good athletes,” Xtreme Coach Jeff Matthews said in a recent interview. “They kept working at it.
“On all four [high school] teams they’re going to become some of the best players. From one to 10 they are going to be impact players on their varsity teams.”
The players will attend four different high schools either after the season is over or in the future - Elkin, West Stokes, Surry Central, and Forbush.
“They’re all unique,” Matthews said. “They play well together.”
They have played six tournaments this summer. They have compiled a record of 29-9 while winning three championships and finishing as the runner-up three times.
The last runner-up came in the “World Series” held in Charlotte this month. They were sent to the loser’s bracket by the undefeated and eventual champions - the Diamond Dusters from Huntington, West Virginia. They battled back before falling to the Diamond Dusters again in the championship game.
The Xtreme were seeded sixth in the three-day tourney. They beat the No. 1, 3, 4, and 5 teams along the way.
They survived elimination five times as well, running their record to 23-3 this summer in elimination games. “We do well when we have to win,” Xtreme Coach Jeff Matthews said.
The Xtreme compete against the highest competition they can find. They could play in lower classifications, but Matthews said “we wanted to play against the best teams.”
There were 115 teams from seven states in Charlotte and Concord for the World Series event. There were 23 in the Gold or highest classification where the Xtreme competed.
They still have showcase events to play in late September and October - a chance for the team to perform in front of college scouts.
Matthews, who had success coaching middle school and recreational league softball, was asked by Billy Palmer and Steve Shaw if he would be interested in coaching a 12-and-under team. “It worked out well,” he said.
Matthews is assisted by Kevin Via, a former college baseball player. Matthews said Via “helps the team a lot with his insight into the game.”
The team is part of the process that has led, for example, Elkin High School from two wins in 2012 to 15 this past season.
“The whole idea is to make the high school programs better,” Matthews said. “To get the girls playing at a higher level.
“The girls see Forbush’s success. Elkin’s starting to have success; East Wilkes’ success. They want to do that. It’s a matter of enabling it.”
The process has led to more than just success between the lines.
“It’s really enjoyable to go to the ballfield and see the kids at the practices,” Matthews said. “It’s like you have 10 daughters.
“When I tell them to do it, they do it. I respect them and they respect me.”
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-258-4052 or Twitter @elkinareasports.