Photo: Sarah Elliott, a sixth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, makes the catch at first during Wasco Diamonds 12U tryouts Aug. 7. Photo by Patti Wilk
Wasco softball outfit’s success tells story
WASCO—Early August at the Anderson Park fields off of Brown Road, north of Elburn, is tryout time for the Wasco Diamonds teams spanning six age groups.
It’s business as usual for the travel softball program, but their business is getting the most out of players, growing their skills and accumulating banners.
Since beginning as an outlet for area softball players in the mid-1990s, the Wasco Diamonds keep winning and keep getting exposure in local and national tournament exhibitions.
A program that has averaged six national tournament qualifications a season, taken two first places at the USSSA World Series, and sends handfuls of eligible college players to college programs every year has found a formula for success, namely coaches, staff and players performing at a high level.
With former Kaneland varsity players like Delani (Northern Illinois University) and Rilee Vest (Cornell College) and Lexi Roach (Youngstown State University), and current Lady Knights personnel like Morgan Sikon and Angie Morrow, the Diamonds have seen their share of local KHS talent.
The Diamonds are also the choice for athletes from schools like Burlington Central and Elgin.
Steve Cihlar, former coach with the Diamonds program and recently retired from Diamond dealings, feels it’s no mystery why the Wasco softball institution belongs to more than just the Route 64 area.
“The training is second to none,” Cihlar said. “We had the best training staff and coaches. Girls try to get college scholarships and be seen, but you’ve got to be able to play the game here.”
Cihlar, of St. Charles, has coached at the 16U and 18U levels and put two daughters through the Diamonds way of doing things, and always feels a sense of pride when players get signed to the next level, even when not directly coaching the player.
“I am proud of that, and that’s part of what building up the program is,” Cihlar said.
Playing anywhere from local fields to tournaments featuring 40 teams in other states under the USSSSA or ASA banner, Cihlar is just one of many Diamonds personnel who has seen the growth of the program.
“The most amazing thing to me about the Wasco Diamonds is seeing the growth firsthand. I remember going to some of these college exposure tournaments five or 10 years ago and now teams see the name and want to play us. That’s due to the people involved being incredibly dedicated,” Cihlar said.
Incoming Kaneland senior Angie Morrow has donned a Diamonds uniform through her pre-teen years, two high schools and a couple of May no-hitters, and knows the Diamonds program was instrumental in her skill elevation and signing with University of Wisconsin softball.
“It’s about the coaches and the players. We all try to play at a high level. We want to be good enough to keep playing these teams from California that never have to go inside,” Morrow said.
Morrow, who plans to once again suit up for the Wasco Diamonds at 18U competition, has seen her share of every result, but can point to one particular memory.
“When I was in 11U, we won the first World Series for the Diamonds in Missouri. To win a World Series was amazing,” Morrow said.
Taking over from Cihlar on the 18U front will be Steve’s co-coach and Angie’s father, Bill.
The elder Morrow has seen the Wasco crew become a definition of an area travel softball squad, with an eye on the future.
“We get kids from St. Charles North, St. Charles East, Batavia, Kaneland, Burlington, and even DeKalb and Jacobs. I mean, we get girls playing from all of Fox Valley. The philosophy of the Wasco Diamonds over the last five or so years has changed where we focus more on helping the kids get to college. Academically, we require a higher standard. If you’re good academically, it becomes easier for colleges to assist them financially with scholarships,” Morrow said. “This program is dedicated to helping these kids, and we go to the best tournaments in the country for recruiting. We have built a national name.”
Morrow, who has experience coaching baseball and softball, is one of many who have seen the influence of the Wasco Diamonds, and like others currently involved, continues to help it grow from just outside the chalk lines.
“Travel softball now has had a light put on it. It’s gone from an infield game with dink and dunk hits, but now there’s more power than ever before. There’s nothing like being around this and around the kids. There’s nothing better than having a kid you coached and now in college and see you and say ‘Hi.’”
Information on the Wasco Diamonds can be found at www.wascodiamonds.com.