One year remains before Akiya Thymes heads to college, but the Brusly senior spent the summer in a university-level study of softball.
Thymes, a LSU commitment, spent the summer with the Wichita Mustangs, a traveling softball team that gave the team a sample of what they should expect on the college level.
Thymes and other players from across America earned invitations to play on the 18-U team for the program, a non-profit select travel softball academy playing ASA, USSSA and other tournaments in many different age divisions.
“We compete in some of the most prestigious tournaments around the country to showcase our high school athletes to college coaches to earn collegiate scholarships,” according to the program’s website.
The program — which started in late May and ended earlier this month — exposed Thymes to a much more intense level of competition.
“It was totally different from the competition here,” she said. “It posed some of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had in softball.”
Unlike other travel programs, she didn’t travel with family members or stay in hotels.
“It was a college prep team, so we weren’t allowed to stay with parents and we weren’t allowed to have phones,” Thymes said. “We rode buses to the games and everyone stayed in dorms.’
The program was based out of Wichita, which was where the players stayed on off-days during the two-month program.
None of the games took place in Wichita. Instead, it sent players across as far west as California for tournament action.
“It was fun,” Thymes said. “There were beds on the bus for each player, so we just slept and played games. We had our own driver who drove us everywhere, and he was pretty cool. It gave me a good taste of college life.”
The competition itself was anything but relaxing, she said.
Thymes and other players battled teams with other college prospects, many of them from Division I schools.
“Fighting for spots wasn’t as easy as it is down here,” she said. “It was much faster-paced than what I was used to, so I had to choke up on the bat and get my timing better.
“The whole time I was there I was pretty much doing what I wanted, so I adjusted pretty quickly,” Thymes said. “I think playing in this program made me better and I experienced something other than Louisiana players. It’s the type of pitchers I’ll face in college softball.”
Thymes stole ever time she reached base and never got out, even against catchers who will attend SEC and other Division I colleges.
The program introduced her to some faces she may see again in the future, including one LSU signee whose father coached the Mustang team.
It also reunited her with two players from the Notre Dame-Crowley softball team that Brusly defeated for the 2013 Class 3A championship – Elise Lebeouf and Taylor Satchell.
“We talked about it, but they weren’t too up to discussing it,” Thymes said. “Of course, I was very happy to talk about it.”
From the competition to the travel, Thymes said the program provided her a summer unlike any others before.
“I had never been to California or Colorado, but this program made me appreciate my parents, my hometown and being so blessed to be a commitment at LSU,” Thymes said. “I enjoyed it – and I can’t wait to go back.”
Thymes finished the 2014 season with a .365 batting average and a .445 on-base percentage. She scored 38 runs and came through on 32-of-32 stolen base attempts. She also notched 12 RBIs.
She was a first-team All-District 7-3A honoree first-team All-Metro player. She also notched an honorable mention spot on the Class 3A All State roster.