After several years of success both on the field and in the classroom, the Three Rivers summer softball camps are experiencing growth in both demand and quality.
“They all sold out real fast. I think everybody was tired of being cooped up,” Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said. “I feel like the level of kids that we’ve gotten this year over the past couple of years has gone way up. I think, just a little interested in our program and with it doing well, I think it is starting to show.”
On Tuesday, Three Rivers had its fourth of six scheduled camps. Null said he had players from several hours away, including current Raider Kindi Puckett’s hometown of Poyen, Arkansas, a 4-hour drive from Poplar Bluff.
“This is awesome for us. When kids are coming here, they get to see our campus. We feel like we’ve got a nice setup here, and we’re getting to evaluate kids right here on our own field. It’s worked really well for us,” Null said.
“We’ve got them from all over, and a lot of places where we don’t usually get kids … In the softball world, everybody’s kind of figuring out where Three Rivers is. A lot of the up and coming kids are interested in us now. Hopefully, this keeps growing and snowballing for us and keeps getting better.”
The Lady Raiders were 11-2 with several wins against ranked teams before their season was canceled this spring.
They reached the NJCAA World Series for the first time in program history in 2018, Null’s second year with the program, and went 40-9 last season.
Summer Shockley, who won a state title at Van Buren and won 26 games for the Raiders in 2018 before signing with Missouri, has been helping with the pitchers during this year’s camps.
“Three Rivers is where it all started, so it’s really nice to be back and be able to give back,” Shockley said. “I just enjoy being able to give back and being able to give players a better opportunity.”
In the classroom, the softball team also had 10 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Academic All-Americans this year, including five players with a 4.0 GPA. Sophomore Lexi Campbell, of Malden, also graduated with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.
“It makes it easier on me. They are in here pulling 4.0s, it does the (recruiting) for you,” Null said. “(Poplar Bluff) is a good, safe, quiet place to come, focus on your academics, and play softball.”
While Null signed his entire class for 2021 back in the fall during a group ceremony, the camps still allow him to get a jump start on 2022 and 2023. There have been some players at the camps younger than that, as well.
“It’s good for them. They come out here in this situation, and they are all nervous,” Null said. “The more of these they can do, they get a little more comfortable and you kind of build a relationship with them. Then you get the best out of them in that second or third one.”
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic