NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The Mankato Peppers wrapped up their annual Peppers Classic tournament Saturday.
We had a chance to talk to team about the tournament and talk about how their season is going overall as well.
Over 90 teams from the United States, Canada and Australia competed at Caswell Park during the Peppers Classic.
The Mankato Peppers had the honor of hosting the event and it’s something they look forward to every year.
“I just think the Mankato tournament is a really fun one that we don’t have to travel anywhere and we have lots of good teams and good competition right here and it’s a fun tournament,” said Kelsey Goettl, Mankato Peppers infielder.
“It’s just a really great tournament to be in, there’s lots of games you get in, you’re guaranteed quite a few so you don’t have to worry about guaranteed only two and then lose out,” said Emma Young, Mankato Peppers infielder.
As excited as the team is for this tournament, they’re pretty much old pros by now as the squad has played close to 30 games this summer already.
“The season has been great. We have a really good group of girls who just work really hard and come out and play the best they can. We’ve had some really tough tournaments where we’re playing against the best in the world, against Australia, against Canada, and then some teams that are really good from Minnesota - so really proud of this group. They work hard, we’ve been hurt with some injuries to our pitchers, which is always really hard because you need pitching for softball, but they’ve come through. They’ve played in 100 degree weather, they’ve played in the rain and the storm and they keep doing it,” said Ashley Hanley, Mankato Peppers head coach.
“It’s really fun. It’s going by fast kind of. It’s been a good time, but it’s been hard because our pitchers have been injured so we’re constantly pulling up other players from different towns that we don’t really know and we don’t really know what to expect from them. But it’s still been really fun and we’re trying to make the best out of it,” said Tiffany Danay, Mankato Peppers infielder.
“The seasons been going really good. We might not always win all our games, but we’re always putting our best effort and we’re always improving every game - which is good in the summer to work up your skills that you might not get to work on during the school season - then you work on it over Peppers and you’re ready to go,” Goettl said.
Many of these girls have known each other since they started playing softball. This makes the fact that they are cross–town rivals during their school season not as intense as one may think.
“I think it’s weirder to play against them during the school year because we’ve been playing with them since we were in 10 and under, that we’ve kind of grown together up until now, and then all of the sudden we’re against them in school ball, but we still get to come together in Peppers,” Goettl said.
“It’s a lot of fun because you know how they play because you’ve been playing with them and so you kind of know how to work them,” said Ana Christofferson, Mankato Peppers infielder.
“During the school season it’s kind of hard to compete against your best friends but when you get together you just kind of mesh right away and you don’t have to worry about all the inconveniences about it,” Young said.
“I think what always impresses me about Peppers is that you get girls who are playing for East and West and all over the place, but yet they come together to play as one and it’s really fun to see that - see how they bond together and see how they build that team chemistry and then still are competitive and still do really well against some of these really tough teams,” Hanley said.
Not only does this team have the chance to play with their best friends, they now have the pleasure of being able to share a home park with National Pro Fastpitch’s Aussie Peppers.
“It’s really nice to have them here because all the little girls look up to them and think ‘oh I can do this’ and if they work hard and put the effort in, they can do it,” Young said.
“It’s really cool how they play right here in North Mankato because we can always go to a game if we want. It’s always super fun and we know [Mankato native and current pitcher for the Aussie Peppers] Coley [Ries] really well, so that’s always awesome to go watch her play,” Danay said.
“It’s just so neat that they were able to bring them here, of all the places they could have picked to play, that they come play right in our backyard. To get to see such a high level of softball, to get to see the fans get excited, to get to see the girls see that hey if you work hard, you play hard, you can do anything with softball and I think that’s really cool to see, especially for girls and especially for the game of softball just to see how much it’s grown and it’s growing right here where we get front row seats to see it,” Hanley said.
“Yeah, it’s really cool to get to see them and see that softball isn’t just a Minnesota thing, that it’s nation wild, that everyone gets together and gets excited about softball and that we get to see them right here,” Goettl said.
“I think it’s a really cool opportunity for everyone in town to go see them and to learn new stuff and to see professional people play and how they do it. It’s just a cool way to grow your experience in softball,” Christofferson said.
With the sport expanding rapidly, these young women are growing the sport of softball one strike–out, home run and win at a time.