Super Slugger: McLean High School Student Wins Women’s Softball World Cup
Riley Staats was crowned a world champion at an international tournament in Tokyo, Japan.
It’s a chilly morning on the softball field at McLean High School. The stands are empty — softball season for the Lady Highlanders is still months away — but one team member has already accomplished so much. Sitting in the dugout, looking over the field and beaming with pride, is sophomore Riley Staats.
In late October, the young athlete celebrated a big win on the world stage. Staats, along with 15 other girls comprising Team USA, claimed the inaugural WBSC U-15 Women’s Softball World Cup title at Ota Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. The team defeated Puerto Rico 3-0 in the final.
“When I found out I was going to play in Japan for Team USA, it didn't hit me at first,” said Staats. “It was a week before the actual trip when it hit me. I thought, ‘Wow, my gosh, I'm playing for the USA.’”
Staats plays third base for Team USA. Getting there was challenging. Staats went through several rounds of tryouts to be one of 16 girls out of around 2,000 chosen for the team.
“There were a bunch of important people there,” Staats recalled, noting some people in attendance were former Olympians. “I was a little bit nervous, and I only knew one person there, and that was my sister. So I had to make friends along the way, and the friends I made are now on Team USA.”
Both teams entered the final with an impressive seven wins each. While every member of Team USA contributed to their victory in the final, Staats widened USA’s lead to 3-0. At the bottom of the sixth inning, she hit a single down right field, allowing teammate Samantha Alekman to score.
“I hit the ball, and I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes, let’s go,’” Staats recalled. “I dove into the bag, and then I was called out, but I didn’t even know it because I felt like I had whiplash. I got up, ran to the dugout, and then sat down, and all I could hear was silence. It was so chaotic but calm at the same time.”
Staats said it felt like a dream when her team won the championship.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” she said. “If you were to win a medal or a World Cup trophy, how would you feel? It’s just like, ‘Wow, [the trophy] is right in front of me. I’m holding it.’ It was very breathtaking.”
Staats is among approximately 20,000 high school students participating in sports in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). She shared this advice for any student-athlete aiming to win:
“Don’t let anything hold you back,” she said. “Don’t let anything get in your way. Just be you. You have to be yourself to play how you want to. Don’t let other people discourage you or hold you back.”
Staats is already looking ahead to college — she hopes to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point or study marine biology or architecture.
No matter where she goes, Staats plans to keep playing softball.