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No Vipers in ’24 for Oxford

The Smash It Sports Vipers before their WPF semifinal against the Texas Smoke last season. The team won’t operate in 2024. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Oxford, AL – Women’s Professional Fastpitch team that played in Oxford in 2023 will not operate in 2024, team and city announce.

By Joe Medley

The Smash It Sports Vipers, the Women’s Professional Fastpitch softball team that played in Oxford in 2023, will not return to Oxford for the 2024 season, the team and city announced today.

The Smash It Sports Vipers before their WPF semifinal against the Texas Smoke last season. The team won’t operate in 2024. (Photo by Joe Medley)

There remains the possibility that the team will return in 2025.

The Vipers’ not returning in 2024 continues an offseason of upheaval for the WPF. The Oklahoma City Spark left the league, going independent, and the USSSA Pride announced on April 3 that it will not operate in 2024.

That left the WPF with the Vipers and league champion Texas Smole. The WPF replaced the two lost teams with two teams from Mexico.

That left the Vipers with travel and logistical concerns too late in the league’s preseason calendar.

“The WPF has experienced many changes since the end of last season,” the Vipers and the city of Oxford said in an joint statement released Wednesday afternoon. “While there has been substantial progress during recent weeks, we are disappointed to tell our fans that the Vipers will not be participating in the 2024 season.”

The team and city have hopes for a return in 2025.

“”We are already in the planning process to bring our ladies back home to Choccolocco Park in 2025,” the statement read. “Our vision still lines up with the values the league has set in promoting the growth of women’s professional fastpitch softball.

“Our commitment to the athletes and the Oxford community will remain as we prepare to move forward. With a year to prepare, along with the continued support from the City of Oxford and our devoted fan base, we are certain we will return with a stellar team for next season.”

The Vipers finished 10-28 in their first and only season in Oxford.

First-year plan and first-year reality diverged almost immediately. Of seven Vipers draft picks, only first-round pick Ashley Rogers, fourth-round pick Smith and fifth-round pick Karly Heath played this season.

Rogers, recovering from a stress fracture on her right (pitching) forearm from the college season, didn’t pitch the first half of the season and didn’t hit full go until the final third.

Second-round pick Rachel Becker and third-round pick Kiley Naomi, both from Oklahoma State, likely would’ve been the Vipers’ middle infield. Naomi retired, and Becker chose Athletes Unlimited over the WPF.

Alabama pitcher Montana Fouts and catcher Ally Shipman were expected to be the team’s top draws. Fouts suffered a knee injury late in the college season, and Shipman suffered a surgical thumb injury in the College World Series.

The Vipers also lost pitcher Annie Willis to a midseason arm injury.

A largely young team soldiered on and suffered. Seventeen of their losses came by three or fewer runs, but they were 2-11 going into a the midseason break and finished 10-28. They scored a league-low 103 runs and gave up a league-high 153 during the regular season, and they had the league’s lone losing record.

“It was a long summer,” Vipers coach Gerry Glasco said after their season-ending loss to the Smoke in the WPF semifinals. “Any time you start a new league and a new team, and of course the draft was critically important the first year, and I think that we didn’t get Fouts here. We didn’t get Rogers here until the last couple of weeks of the season, and then we never did get Becker or Kiley Naomi here, the shortstop and second baseman that we drafted, and that just kind of put us behind.

“The kids that we did get here, and the kids that we asked to fill in, they played tremendous. Kids like Raina O’Neal took advantage of the opportunity and showed she can be an all-league type of player in this league. Jenna Kean showed how much talent she had. Kelsey Bennett filled in, Mikayla Allee. You’re talking about kids that we called up in June, and three or four days they’re here and giving us all they had the rest of the summer.”

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