GGC brings college atmosphere to Elite 80 camp

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Some of high school softball's top players just recently graduated and are now looking forward to continuing their playing careers in college.

So, high school and college coaches around Georgia are beginning their searches to identify the next generation of prep stars.

One of the vehicles to identifying those players made a stop at Georgia Gwinnett College for one of the Georgia Dugout Club's Elite 80 Showcase camps Tuesday.

The camp is one of nine such showcase events scheduled throughout the state over the next month and a half, from which 80 of the top players will be chosen to participate in the final camp July 17 in Woodstock.

"We had upwards of 20 kids out here (Tuesday)," said Mill Creek head coach Roger Parham, one of the event's directors. "And we're tickled to death for the level of talent out here."

While this is the fifth year the Elite 80 showcases, and Gwinnett locations have been a staple throughout that run, Tuesday marked the first time one of the camps came to GGC's new facility.

According to another of the program's directors, it marks a shift in the approach to execute the Georgia Dugout Club's strategy for the program -- namely, getting exposure for up-and-coming young players to college programs, and vice-versa.

"This is the first summer we're involving colleges around the state (as hosts)," said Kennesaw Mountain High School head coach Lisa Chapman. "Hopefully, it's going to be good exposure for the girls by getting schools like (GGC), Valdosta State, Columbus State, Chattahoochee (Tech) and Piedmont College involved."

GGC coach Kat Ihlenburg certainly relished the chance to have top players like the 20 involved in Tuesday's camp get a look at the fledgling NAIA progam's new facilities, some of which are still being completed, as well as other aspects of the program that may one day lure some of those players to play for the Grizzlies.

"It's only going to help us," said Ihlenburg, who guided the Grizzlies to an 18-26 mark in their inaugural season this spring. "Kids from around the area know what a great facility we've built. But If I get a young lady who's around 13 years old or so, and in four years, she sees what we've done here and hopefully lived up to our expectations, it's going to give us a (large pool) to recruit from."

While some players came from as far away as Woodstock and Cartersville to take part in Tuesday's came, a majority of the participants were from around Gwinnett County and Loganville.

Still, it was the first exposure many of the players had to GGC's facilities, even veterans like Peyton Glover, who made the final cut for the Elite 80 as a sophomore last year.

The rising Grayson junior said having the camp at GGC only added to what is a competitive, yet fun, atmosphere.

"It's nice having it at a college this year because (being recruited for college) is what we're trying to accomplish in the end," Glover said. "You've got to try and have fun with it. You can't be too nervous because that doesn't help you. You just have to be confident and come out here and do your best."