It's called dedication – and Carthage eighth grader Mika Bolton's got it.
December is the only month of the year when Mika, 13, isn't throwing a softball or swinging a bat. This Carthage Junior High School student-athlete has played competitive softball since she was six years old, and currently is playing for the NWA Knockouts. Mika's mother, Sherri, says her daughter just can't get enough of the sport and anticipates a great high school career.
“I'm excited and nervous to have the chance to represent Carthage next year,” Mika said.
The Knockouts are a traveling fast-pitch softball team, comprised of players from across the region, and compete in various tournaments in Arkansas and other surrounding states. When these girls aren't playing in tournaments or other games, they're practicing. However, in order to be on the team, the student-athletes must maintain an A-B grade average.
“Nobody pressures these girls,” Sherri said. “They all want to be out there – they love it. You'd have to to play that much. We're lucky to have a team where their community, grades and attitudes are just as important as the sport.”
The first tournament for the Knockouts is set for this month, and the team won't break until late October. With three seasons of non-stop play, Sherri said they're always on the road.
“It's crazy,” Sherri said. “It's as expensive as her already going to college, but in that month when she's not playing, she's going crazy. She wants to play that much.”
Last year, Mika participated in the Jennie Finch Camp (USA Team) in Bentonville, Ark., and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ariz. The 2011-2012 season for the NWA Knockouts 12 and under team finished with an overall record of 92-25. In 117 games, the Knockouts had eight tournament championships, five runner-up finishes, and two additional third place finishes while playing against some of the top competitors in the region and nation. The Knockouts were runners-up at the 2011 USFA World Series in Panama City Beach, Fla., which had 106 teams competing in the division.
“We usually play over 100 games per year,” said Knockouts coach Jason Wildeman. “We play against some of the best competition out there.”
Mika normally plays third or shortstop, but has an arm for outfield. This versatile player has played for the following teams: Carthage Lady Tigers (2005); Jr. Lady Tigers (2006); Code Blue (2007); Code Blue & CHAOS (2008); Missouri Smash (2009-10). She has played for the Knockouts since 2011. Her coaches have been Jason Wildeman and Bruce Dean, NWA Knockouts; Doug Baugh, CHS batting, Vince Triplett, Missouri Smash; and Doug Baugh, CHAOS.
Mika is the daughter of John and Sherri Goodman, Carthage, and Michael and Michelle Bolton of Miami, Okla. Mika's support team at home also consists of a sister, Erin, 23, and little brother, Wesley, 10.
Page 2 of 2 - Mika's goals and dreams include attending college at either University of Nebraska (Lincoln) or Oklahoma University to become a dentist and play softball and try out for the USA Softball Team.