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Thunder Travel Softball Program Prepares Girls For Next Level(s)



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Whether they have their sights set on playing varsity high school softball or even cracking a collegiate team lineup — or just want to have fun in a competitive environment — young softball players in town are getting tremendous experience on the field in the Newtown-based Connecticut Thunder Softball program. There are 12U, 14U, 16U, and 18U teams that compete in games, tournaments, and college showcase events throughout the year.

The program is led by President Jim Twitchell and Ian Thoesen runs the teams with the help of other coaches, including some former Newtown High School standouts.

“A lot of former players help out in the program,” Thoesen said.

One of them is Lauren Wilcox, a 2016 Newtown High School graduate and former Nighthawk pitcher, who coaches the U16s. Wilcox won two South-West Conference titles with the Nighthawks, in 2015 and 2016, before going on to play at Western Connecticut State University, then joining the Thunder coaching staff a few years ago.

“It’s awesome. I’ve been with the same group for three years. It’s great building relationships with the team members,” she said.

Wilcox’s former coach at West Conn, Heather Stone, came out to the field to speak to the Thunder players about the collegiate softball experience. The older players also get a taste of the college recruiting process at showcase events, which can have anywhere from 50 to 200 college program representatives from Division I, II, and III schools. The youth players travel to Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts around their regular game schedules. At the showcase events, they will play two or three games in a day in multi-day showcases.

“It’s a grind. You’ve got to enjoy being out there when it’s 95 degrees out,” Thoesen said. “It’s good to see some of these kids have aspirations for [playing at the collegiate level].”

This may all sound like serious business, and to some degree it is. But the bottom line is this is still a game and these are children, some entering into adulthood.

“I want to make it fun for the kids. You’ve got to enjoy it,” said Thoesen, adding that competitions around the standard practice drills help keep the players from getting burnt out. “You’re not going to play well if you aren’t loose in this game. They’re just great kids. They work hard; they give it their all, and it shows.”

Some of the Thunder players compete at other area high schools. “They play against each other in high school and they’re together in the summer,” Thoesen said.

The teams play about 5-7 tournaments each summer and another four or five tourneys in the fall. The U18 Thunder has had quite a summer as the squad won the Shock Tournament.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

The U16 Thunder lineup includes, from left: Sadie Edwards, Emma Roos, Gabby Ansman, Addy Cordova, Elena Burdo, Lila Accousti, Maddie O’Brien, Lily Nicolet, Bella Lombardi, Caroline Carr-Smith, and Alexa Lacomis.
The U18 Thunder captured the Shock Tournament championship. Pictured are, from left, front: Kaylee Hall, Kelcie Petrone, Vicki Ward, Aubrey Mancuso, and Olivia Lugo; and back: Brian Lugo, Maddie Thoesen, Sadie Klyver, Sophia Chnowski, Caroline Gardner, Alexa Smith, Madison Woods, Ian Thoesen, and Dan Mancuso.
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