When her team won the National Softball Association “A” World Series for 12-and-under in Chattanooga, Tennessee, players rushed onto the field where pitcher Emma Summers had just struck out the final batter.
“As soon as we won, after the last out was made, it was pretty unreal,” she said. “There was a lot of hugging.”
“A few tears,” added her father, Troy Summers.
“There were several people that cried,” Emma agreed. “I was — I kept my sunglasses on just in case.”
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The Brown County eighth-grader had her first taste of a World Series-level win on July 25, and she’s eager to go back for more.
“I want to do it again next year,” she said. “I think we can.”
Going into the 14-and-under level, Emma said much of her team — with Indiana Shockwaves-Perry Fastpitch — will be on the young side next season. Still, she thinks they are going to be stronger.
The Indiana Shockwaves-Perry Fastpitch is a travel team based in McCordsville that includes girls from around central Indiana.
This season, the team took the 12-and-under and 14-and-under state titles and was undefeated in its pool.
“With a travel team, what you end up with is an extended family — a softball family,” said Emma’s mom, Mindy Summers.
On the road, the players and their families stay in the same hotels, swim together, eat together and even take field trips to local landmarks, Mindy Summers said. That builds a team cohesion.
“I think that I have one of the best defenses out there,” Emma said. “I’m not afraid to throw a strike and let them hit it, because I know they’ll get to it.”
That confidence came into play at the end of the title game against the Florida Gators at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Frost Stadium.
In extra innings, she was facing a runner on second and one out to win.
“A base hit could have scored her very easily, so knowing that I had that defense definitely helped,” Emma said.
Having that confidence in her team took some of the pressure off. “It definitely makes your job easier with a good defense behind you,” Troy Summers said.
Love of the game
As much as Emma enjoys her team, her real love is the game.
“Yeah, it doesn’t really matter what the team is or what the level is, I just like the sport,” she said.
“If someone calls to play on an off weekend, it doesn’t matter which team it is, she grabs her bag,” Mindy Summers said.
“She’s humble,” Mindy Summers said of her 13-year-old. “I don’t even think she realizes what she’s accomplishing.”
“She’s worked really hard to get where she’s at,” said Troy Summers. “In the beginning, I didn’t foresee it going to this level. But shortly after we started and the progression that she made and the dedication that she put into it, then it started showing,” he said. “I think she can do good things with this.”
Troy Summers took Emma to her first pitching clinic in Columbus when she was 8.
She had been playing coach-pitch in the parks and recreation league but was interested in advancing to kid-pitch, Troy Summer said.
She took to it quickly and hasn’t looked back.
“Ever since I started playing travel, pretty much, I’ve been a pitcher,” Emma said. “I like striking people out. It’s a good feeling.”
When the score is tight and one pitch can make the difference, she feels the pressure, she admitted. Yet, her response is straightforward. “Just, kind of have to take a deep breath and pitch through it,” she said.
She also played basketball and volleyball through sixth grade but decided to focus on softball in middle school.
“I’ve always liked the environment, I guess,” she said. “The other sports were in the gym, and it wasn’t very appealing to me.”
She said she can’t imagine her life without softball.
Emma’s 9-year-old sister, Katie, plays travel ball too, and she makes no attempt to conceal her admiration for her older sister, Mindy Summers said.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Emma said. “Sometimes it gets aggravating, because she copies everything I do, but then I realize what she’s actually doing.”
She helps her sister out, trying to give her pointers and work with her on her game. In a way, her work with her sister is simply passing on some of the the investment their parents have made.
“I don’t know how many hours we spent on a bucket and sitting and catching for her,” Troy Summers said with a smile.
But helping her with the game she loves isn’t the only investment her parents have made.
“We’ve always told her that the sports is a secondary,” Troy Summers said. “The academics’ll be there long after the sport is finished.”
“She’s a thinker,” Mindy Summers said. “She’s a straight-A student — very organized in her studies.”
On the hour-and-a-half ride to practice three times a week, Emma does homework, Mindy Summers said. On the trip back, she continues working, and if there is anything left when she gets home, she keeps working.
“In order to be successful at the sport, you work hard,” Troy Summers said. “And your academics right along the same lines.”
“It’s definitely something that I’ll never forget,” Emma said with a smile. “They never stop telling me.”
Yet, even as she shows a work ethic beyond her years, her parents don’t lose sight of how old their daughter actually is, Troy Summers said.
“You have to give ‘em their kid time, you know, that’s just a given,” he said. “They have to be able to still enjoy life and enjoy the game.”