FREDERICKTOWN — Fredericktown junior Aria Hoeflich recently returned from a trip overseas where she spent a week abroad competing in an international softball tournament on a team with players from across the country, with her team taking seventh out of 16 teams.
“I thought we did a really good job,” Hoeflich said. “I really enjoyed the girls on my team.”
Hoeflich played on the Impact United team from the United States and the team kicked off the tournament, which was held in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, with a 2-1 win over another American team and the Freddie scored one of her team’s two runs in the 2-1 victory.
Later in pool play, Hoeflich had two at-bats in a 2-2 tie against the Euro Stars from the Netherlands. The outfielder had a hit, a run and two stolen bases. Impact fell against a tough Roef team from the Netherlands that went on to win the tournament. Roef and many of the international teams had players older than the high school American players. On the next day of the tournament, Hoeflich’s team beat The Mix from Great Britain and she chipped in with two hits and a run in the 8-1 win.
“Aria is an excellent athlete,” Impact coach Tom Stroia said. “An excellent softball player as well, but just overall a phenomenal athlete. She’s very self-confident and you could see that in her skills. After watching her play, I can understand why she is an excellent softball player in all aspects, offensively and defensively.”
“We’re all like 16 or 17 and they’re like 35 and they play in the Olympics,” Hoeflich said. “To me, that was a great thing. We did a really good job.”
Hoeflich was selected from players across the country through her contact with Kurt Whiteside, who runs the Queen of Diamonds. Whiteside selected all of the American teams, with six teams participating from the United States and then the players were randomly assigned to the six teams, with positions being spread equally.
“I was very honored,” Hoeflich said of being selected “When I started playing softball, I never thought that I could do something like that and be a part of something like that. To be selected for this was a really amazing opportunity and I was so excited to play softball against people from other countries.”
Hoeflich was assigned to the Impact team with players from across the country. She had two other players from Ohio on her team, but then had players from New York, California and Georgia to name a few places. The team didn’t have a chance to even practice before the tournament, but that did not stop her team from developing a quick bond.
“We meshed together really well,” Hoeflich said. “We got along instantly. We just clicked. We didn’t really have an adjusting period.”
On the field, it is a matter of putting the pieces together quickly. Hoeflich has speed and batted second for Impact with a goal to get on base and then be batted around the bases by teammates deeper in the lineup who are power hitters.
“Over there, you’re managing the game and you’re managing the players and you’re trying to feel the players out a little bit to understand who fits well and where you can put them in the batting order,” Stroia said. “You’re kind of on an accelerated learning plan of your team and your team chemistry.”
Outside of three days of softball, Hoeflich and her team went to Amsterdam for a day and after the tournament, they visited Paris for two days before coming back to the United States. The trip was Hoeflich’s first time out of the country and it was mixed with softball and sight-seeing.
Hoeflich prepared for the tournament by working out at the gym, participating in workouts with the Freddies, going to hitting lessons in Columbus and practicing indoors with her travel team, Ohio Stingray. With the tournament in the rearview mirror, Hoeflich has her eyes turned toward her home diamond in Fredericktown. As a junior, she is also aiming toward playing collegiately and she said competing in The Cup in Rotterdam will help her get onto the next level.
Although it was only three days of competition, Hoeflich’s first time out of the country and playing international softball will leave a lasting impression on her.
“Getting to play in such a different place from here and meeting all those different kinds of people,” Hoeflich said of her biggest takeaway. “It’s just something that not a lot of people get to experience, so I’m really, really grateful that I got to experience it.”