SAN DIEGO, Calif. — For some softball players the season begins in March and ends in May. But for others, like Maddie Justice, there is no such thing as an off-season. So, while other graduates are busy working on their tan at the beach, Justice, a recent Stephen Decatur High School graduate, has dedicated the majority of her summer to traveling from state to state playing softball with her travel team, the Vienna Stars. In fact, this has been her routine for the last eight years.
“I’ve played softball in every time zone,” Justice said. All kidding aside, the former SDHS standout has traveled many miles over the last several summers. She has played tournaments in North Dakota, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, North and South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. Her career began in 2003, playing for a team based out of Delaware. At just 10 years old, she had no idea about how many softball games awaited her.
“I’ve easily played hundreds of games over the last eight years,” she said. “If you don’t believe me, just look at my tan lines.”
The four time Bayside Conference First Team pitcher saw her almost decade-long travel ball career come to a close last week at the ASA 18 and Under Gold Fastpitch National Tournament held in San Diego. Justice, along with her family, flew over 2,300 miles across the country to compete in the prestigious tournament that featured the nation’s top teams.
Justice, whose team played in 10 games while in California, was a force at the plate batting .444 with four RBIs. She also earned the team’s only victory during official tournament play.
Despite their status as one of the East Coast’s premier travel fastpitch teams, some more experienced programs overpowered Vienna’s young squad. Nonetheless, the Stars’ 18U Gold team captured three other championships this season. Two of those victories secured the squad berths to a pair of national tournaments-ASA Gold Nationals and Premier Girls Fastpitch Nationals.
Despite qualifying for the Premier National Tournament, which begins this week, the Stars opted out. Although a tad disappointed that she will not be spending another week out on the West Coast, Justice will use her free time to get ready to leave for college.
“I haven’t bought anything yet,” she said. Fortunately, she will have a few more weeks before departing for Shippensburg University.
When asked how she felt about her travel ball days coming to an end, the three time NFCA All-American Scholar-Athlete described it as bittersweet.
“Travel ball gave me my softball roots,” she said. Although she is eligible by age to continue playing softball in the summer, ASA does not allow its college athletes to compete in the 18 and under division once they have played at the collegiate level. However, where one door closes another one opens.
For Justice, that door will open this fall when she takes the field as a Shippensburg Raider.
“I’m ready to start the next chapter in my softball career, and my life,” Justice said.
Maddie is the daughter of Lester and Kim Justice of Bishopville.