Perfect Game College Softball- Behind the Scenes

About a month ago I embarked on a new journey with a good friend and broadcast colleague of mine, Daron Sutton, on Sirius XM ESPNU.  Perfect Game has hosted a college baseball show for several years now and the thought of creating a show dedicated to softball just made sense!

In just the nine shows Perfect Game College Softball has hosted so far this season we have featured many of the absolute best in the game including:

Lonni Alameda- 2018 National Champion Florida State head coach; Patrick Murphy- University of Alabama head coach; Heather Tarr- University of Washington head coach / USA Junior National Team coach; Kenny Gajewski- Oklahoma State University head coach; Mike Candrea- University of Arizona head coach / 2004 & 2008 USA Olympic Team head coach; Rachel Lawson- University of Kentucky head coach; Jessica Allister- Stanford head coach; Marissa Young- Duke head coach; Rachel Garcia- Reigning 2018 National Player of the Year and UCLA standout; And many more!

Tonight's broadcast airing at 11:00 PM EST/8:00 PM PST on Sirius channel 84 will feature University of Louisiana head coach, Gerry Glasco, University of South Carolina head coach, Beverly Smith, and James Madison University head coach, Loren LaPorte.

The extreme willingness of these elite coaches to talk openly about their programs and the "journey" is priceless for both the athlete who dreams of one day playing on the collegiate stage, and the coaches trying to help guide them there. Tune in to hear coaches like Alabama's Patrick Murphy give us real insight into what it takes to win at the highest level but then also letting us in on the one single defining question he asks all recruits in order to build that championship culture.

There are only a few weeks left in collegiate regular season play so tune in to watch your favorite teams on TV and then listen in for a recap Monday evenings!

SIRIUS XM ESPNU Channel 84
8:00 PM PST/ 11:00 PM EST

-Amanda Freed Katchka

 

 


Firecracker and Batbuster Cousins With a Common Goal- Family.

A few weeks ago I sat within the stands of a high profile fall game showcasing the Batbusters and the Firecrackers. It’s pretty rare to see a game like this, especially this time of year, but what’s even more unique is seeing four members of the same family, competing together on the same field. Two on one side, two on the other.  Thessa Malau’ulu and Myah Iakopo for the Firecrackers, and Tiare Jennings and Zaida Puni for the Batbusters. Their interactions were playful and competitive but you had the sense that it was more meaningful, and it really is.

In the Polynesian culture, the family isn't just last names and tree branches, there is a deep sense of love and loyalty. Thessa, Tiare, Zaida, and Myah’s families lived close to each other but ironically their worlds collided on the rec ball field at about 5 years old. They connected through the “fun” of the game but the most impactful experience the girls faced together, was the unexpected passing of Tiare’s 5-month old brother, Kalaea, to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in 2007. Tiare and the girls were 6 years old at the time. The families came together in support of the Jennings family and through yearly Kalaea Christopher Jennings memorial festivities benefiting First Candle, an organization that honors babies lost to SIDS, the cousins began to form lifelong memories and a special bond resembling sisterhood.

A few short years later when Myah, Thessa, Tiare, and Zaida were almost 10 years old, the families saw some very obvious athletic potential in their little softballers and decided to test the travel waters. That year they joined their first 10u Firecracker team that would go on to win ASA Western Nationals and ASA Nationals in Kentucky. “The rest is history,” sounds like it could be an appropriate transition at this point but this story is far from reaching an end. Although it was apparent at a very young age that these ladies had a future in softball, if that’s the route they chose, the foundation of family-first was laid early and remained at the center of their very driven and successful journeys.

Myah, who was a year ahead of the others, had joined the older 10u Firecracker team for her first travel experience but after the year decided to hang up her cleats “for good.” Looking back she said, “Being the second youngest of seven children helped guide me with time management and my main focuses being God, Family and my education. Softball is just an extra-curricular activity that I so happened to love and enjoy.” However, Myah would eventually return to the field to re-join her older sister, Mary (at the time en-route to Oregon) where they would go on to win a high school championship together. Seeing the hard work and dedication Mary, her older brother, London (Louisville Football), and her parents, inspires Myah as she anxiously looks forward to new opportunities that will inevitably come her way in softball and life.

Following that one special 10u Firecracker season, Thessa decided to take a year off softball to pursue soccer full time. She returned the following year, joined a 12u Firecracker team, and remained committed to softball from then on. She currently plays on Firecrackers Rico/Weil along with Myah and says her hard work and dedication is a product of those she surrounds herself with, including her siblings and cousins. “My motivation is that there is always someone out there working harder/better than me. I use that mentality in the classroom as well.” This strong work ethic and dedication to family has been in her blood for a very long as Thessa’s father, George, started the Aiga Foundation and leads the long-standing Polynesian Football All-American Bowl as well as the Polynesian All-American Girls Softball camp which will be held this December 28-29 in Southern California. Giving back has been a staple in Thessa’s life and has kept her humble and grounded. Although she had several D1 offers has decided to stay close to home giving her verbal commitment to UCLA.

Zaida and Tiare went fast and steady down the softball track remaining Firecrackers for one more season before joining the Batbusters organization where they have been ever since. The young stars made waves early contending for championships year after year. One of Tiare’s fondest softball memories was winning six straight elimination games in the 2018 PGF Nationals to make it to the Championships. “Playing six games, with my best-friends was absolutely the best day of my life. I remember clearly each and every game we played that day and all the memories will hold a special place in my heart.” This incredible mindset also helps Zaida and Tiare pave the way for their younger sisters who are in the Batbusters organization (Mark Campbell), and both agree, their sisters are better at that age than they ever were. Talented, mature, and poised, Tiare gives all the praise to her family saying, “Without my family, I would be nowhere near who I am today. Each and every family member has shaped me into who I am today and always supported me through everything. I can’t thank them enough for all that they do for me.” Despite several persuasive offers, Tiare and Zaida have both committed to the University of Oklahoma.

With this amount of talent in one family, you should expect to be “regulars” at the biggest games in town, but watching six of your loved ones win a championship in one day? It happened. Two years ago Tiare, Zaida, Thessa, and Thessa’s older sister Chloe (now at Mississippi State) won the CIF Division 6 Championships with St. Anthony’s High School just hours before Myah and Mary won the CIF Division 1 Championship with Los Alamitos High School. This unforgettable experience is one of the most memorable to date but only one on a long list of past and future events that will no doubt bless this family with lifelong memories.

Over dinner, it didn’t take long to sense how special this family was. Four unique journeys running parallel but always finding ways to bring it back home. The way the girls are able to articulate the support they feel as they looked to each other to finish answers or share stories about growing up, high school life, future aspirations, and family dynamics is refreshing. They are truly a special group. Their love for one another is so authentic you’d almost forget they’re as good as it gets on the field as well. Now, that Tony Rico and Mike Stith have created BBFC Events, there is yet opportunity for these cousins to work alongside each other to share their love of the game to young Firecrackers and Batbusters. Different uniforms but the same team.

 

Fun Fact: Wondering how they’re related? Here is how Thessa describes the relationship to each of her cousins:

Zaida- We are related through our Tuiolosaga side (Grandma Lama). From the island of Olosega, Manu’a (Tutuila, American Samoa)

Myah- We are related through our Malau’ulu side (Grandpa Lai) from Fitiuta, Tau, American Samoa)

Tiare- We are related through marriage. Our Salima side to Tiare’s grandma (Uncle Nacio’s mom).

 


Allee Bunker: Freshman Life as an Oregon Duck

I had the pleasure of catching up with one of my favorite Firecracker alumnae, and new Oregon Duck, Allee Bunker.  Allee spent six years in the Firecracker organization under coach Mike Lutterloh (3 years), Sean Brashear (1 year), and Tony Rico (2 years). Allee committed to the University of Oregon as a sophomore and at that time becoming a Duck was, and still is, one of the hottest tickets in the country.  She arrived on campus just a few months ago and through dynamics of the coaching change and the demands of her new student-athlete life, Bunker remains on top of her game and thriving.

You found out that the Oregon coaching staff would be leaving just months before heading up to Eugene. What was your initial reaction to the news and how did you process through it?

Allee:  The day Mike White announced he was leaving Oregon, I had travelled up to Colorado for the summer tournament, and I saw the texts as soon as I got off the plane. Never once did I consider transferring after I heard the news, but I was very worried about the team’s reaction. My biggest fear was that we would lose a majority of the team once a new coach was named, but I was still committed to going to Oregon 100%. Honestly, I lost some sleep the first week because I still couldn’t believe that I was losing my coach after years of picturing myself playing for him. My teammates stayed in touch constantly reassuring everyone that the University would get the best possible person for the job, and this helped me get through the shock.

What was your feeling when you met your new coaching staff and what was the overall message to the team?

Allee:  Throughout the time where our softball program was coachless, we had been communicating through conference calls with various people from the University who were in charge of hiring a replacement. They kept telling us that it was a long process, but they would do everything in their power to get the best coach possible. I was very excited when I first heard that Coach Lombardi was going to be our coach because I knew that she has one of the best resumes and track records in softball. I knew that she had come to my travel games constantly because she knew the Firecrackers and Tony Rico very well. It was exciting to know that I had a new coach that wasn’t unknown to me. I met Coach Lombardi over the summer during PGF and immediately loved her, and when I came to school in late August I met the rest of the staff as well. It was reassuring that three out of four of my coaches are familiar with the Firecracker organization, and I have really enjoyed playing for them. 

The overall message to the team initially was that the coaches knew how unexpected the change was to the upperclassmen and expressed that we need to trust each other in order to be successful. The coaching staff has been very patient with us and reassured us that they knew it was going to take time to adjust to the change. 

Oregon has been in the top of the polls and WCWS contenders for the past several years, what is your mentality going into a program like that? (In terms of expectations for the season, competing for a spot, etc.)

Allee:  Before coming to Oregon, I had always been nervous to play on the team because the program has very high expectations. Though I was also excited, I always knew that it would be a mentally and physically tough environment. I knew then and now that I needed to show 100% effort every time I stepped on the field, and that they would not take it easy on me just because I was a freshman. The new coaching staff made the transition a little easier than I thought because everyone was in the same situation I was as a freshman. Everyone had to adapt to a different practice and game environment, and this transition was smoother than I expected. 

For the most part, the team is very young, but we have very good experience from our upperclassmen. My teammates have made it very clear that despite how young our team is, we will not show it during season. We have the highest expectations for the program and know that the only thing standing in our way is ourselves. 

How have you been able to balance your school/softball load?

Allee:  Balancing school and softball has been very difficult, but it feels like it gets easier as the weeks go by. The toughest part for me about softball would be waking up for 6 or 6:30 workouts almost every week day. It is hard to pay full attention in class because of how tiring it is in the mornings, but it is not impossible to get through. 

 What has been the toughest adjustment for you?

Allee:  I think the toughest adjustment for me so far has been the amount of practice every day. It is tough to wake up at 5:30 every morning and have a three-hour practice in the afternoon. My body has been very tired, but the coaches are good about giving us rest time when we need it. The work load for school is pretty big, but it has not been too difficult to keep up with. I have been told that our preseason and season schedules are very busy, and that the fall should be the easiest part of the school year. I am excited for season and ready to face any challenges thrown at me whether in school or softball. 

Can you give us a glimpse into a typical day in the life of Allee Bunker?

Allee:  A typical day for me would start by getting up in the morning for workouts, where we would do conditioning or weights or both. Then, I get breakfast at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex which is a building next to the weight room and football stadium. If I have time, I will get a ride back to the dorms and change into clothes for class. My classes go 8:30-12:50 almost every day, and I will go grab lunch and head to the fields for practice. I have tutoring in the evenings after practice at different times every day. The rest of the night, I eat and finish my homework. 

How did your family (parents) help prepare you for life away from home?

Allee:  My parents have been a huge part of what helped me transition to college. They always let me be pretty independent ever since I got my driver’s license. I was able to drive myself to school, practice, and games for the past two years. Also, I have travelled alone to many out of state softball tournaments, and this has helped me learn how to be on my own in an unfamiliar environment. I believe the morals and values that I have grown up with my whole life has helped me create new friendships and transition well into college life.

 You've been on campus now for a few months, what advice would you give incoming freshmen on making the transition?

Allee:  If I could give advice to incoming freshman, I would tell them many things for both school and for softball. For school, staying on top of work and doing assignments in advance is very important. You never want to wait until the last night to do something because it will be hard to stay motivated to do a good job on the assignment when you’re up late. There are many pieces of advice I could give for the softball side, but I believe the most important is to listen and to take in as much as you can. Freshmen are constantly told to do “freshmen duties,” and though this is annoying at times, make sure to always do it with a good attitude. Your coaches and teammates will notice your hard work and take it into consideration when writing the lineup. Also, it will be overwhelming to learn so much in such a short time, so take it in and do the best you can to learn new ways of playing the game. One of the best qualities you can have as an athlete is being coachable, and your coaches will respect you because of the effort you make to learn what they teach you. 

 

Written By: Amanda Freed Katchka
@amandafreed7

 

 


College Spotlight: Candace Abrams and West Texas A&M University

If you keep your eyes and mind open to all possibilities, you may just find a diamond in the rough. For West Texas A&M University head coach, and former Firecracker, Candace Abrams, her road to Canyon, Texas was long but purposeful and her Lady Buffs team is reaping all the rewards.

West Texas A&M University softball has been a story of progress and excellence since the program began in 2006. The Lady Buffs have won four Lone Star Conference Titles, produced 15 All-Americans, made seven NCAA Regional Appearances, won two Regional Championships, and brought home the 2014 NCAA Division 2 National Championship. With more than half the season behind them, the Lady Buffs are currently 12-3 in Lone Star Conference play and 29-5 overall. They’re also holding the #13 national ranking in the NFCA DII Top 25 Coaches Poll. To follow the Lady Buffs in the DII national poll click here.

About West Texas A&M Head Coach Candace Abrams:

Candace played for the Firecrackers in the late 90’s under head coach and founder Gary Wardein. She was in the first of many generations of players who made the journey from Arizona to play for the Southern California based team. Candace continued her playing career at the University of Arizona where she was a member of the 2001 NCAA National Championship team and hasn’t left the dirt since.

Following her Wildcat playing career, Candace accepted several assistant coaching opportunities including stints at Pima Community College and her alma mater, Arizona, before landing the head coaching position at Colorado Mesa where she spent two successful seasons at the helm. In the summer of 2014 Abrams accepted the assistant position at West Texas A&M and helped lead the team to two Lone Star Conference Championships during the past three years. Her success as assistant coach made her the easy choice when it came to filling the head coach position prior to the 2018 season. To read more about Candace Abrams and her Lady Buffs program click here.

About West Texas A&M University:
Established: 1910
Enrollment: 10,169 (59 undergraduate degree programs)
Nickname: Buffaloes or Buffs
Conference: Lone Star Conference
Location: Canyon, Texas (population 14,600) – about 15 miles south of Amarillo

For more information on West Texas A&M University you can visit their website at https://www.wtamu.edu or click here.

 

 


College Spotlight: Geoff Hirai and Seattle University

When we initially set out on this series highlighting colleges across the country the idea was to encourage you to take a closer look at a variety of opportunities available from small campus life to the hustle of big city living. Taking a deeper look into the softball program, we’ve run into the coaches responsible for setting the tone of the culture; some have been there for several years and others for a short time. Each of these coaches has a deep level of belief in the education their school provides and their ability to take their program to the next level.

This week we are heading up to the northwest but we’re not talking about the Dawgs, we’re talking Redhawks. Seattle University is tucked inside downtown Seattle only about 10 minutes from the University of Washington, and for Head Coach Geoff Hirai, it’s home.

About Seattle University and Coach Geoff Hirai:
Geoff Hirai is in his third year at the helm of the Seattle U program after building his resumé at multiple D1 programs including the University of Washington and University of Virginia. Prior to taking the position at Seattle University, Coach Hirai spent four years as Assistant Coach and Associate Head Coach at Oregon State University. During his time with the Beavers, Hirai was the driving force behind the recruitment and commitment of Firecracker outfielder, Chance Burden, now an impact freshman at OSU.

Shortly after his arrival into Seattle, coach Hirai set his sights on longtime Firecracker Kenzie Madokoro. Kenzie, now in her eighth season as a Firecracker, visited the Seattle University campus, got to know Coach Hirai, and decided it was the perfect fit for her. Kenzie had this to say about her decision to become a Redhawk beginning the fall of 2018:

“After hearing about Coach Hirai and his plan for me, I knew right away this was the right coach for me. When we would speak over the phone, two words stuck out to me, “triple threat,” and those words have motivated me every day to become a better player. I then did further research about the school and its excellent academics and environment. After visiting for the first time I fell in love with the city and campus domain. With this, it gave me the confidence to commit to play for him and the school. Seeing how well the team is doing right now makes me very excited and motivated to go next year and make a positive impact.”

The Redhawks continue to improve each year under Hirai and last season were within three outs of the program’s first WAC championship. In the middle of a tough pre-season schedule, Seattle University is currently 9-6 with a month remaining before WAC conference play begins. To learn more about the softball program and Coach Geoff Hirai click here


About Seattle University:

-Founded: 1891 (Jesuit Catholic University)
-Location: On fifty acres on Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood 
-Mascot: Redhawks
-Softball Stadium: Logan Field
-Total Enrollment: 7,405 (Undergraduate, Graduate, and Law)
-Average class size: eighteen students

To learn more about Seattle University visit their website https://www.seattleu.edu or click here.


College Spotlight: Courtney Deifel and the Razorbacks

In 2017, for the first time in conference history, the SEC sent all 13 teams to the NCAA tournament. 8 of the 13 earned national seeds while the remaining 5 were awarded a spot based on a combination of their overall record and strength of schedule. Year after year the handful at the top of the SEC continue to fight for national rankings while the middle bunch throw off order mid-season with unsuspecting upsets. The difference in the SEC this past season was the strong performances by a few in the “bottom” half that included strong pre-seasons, upsets mid-season, and strong showings in the SEC tournament.  

A very obvious view of this was Ole Miss (10-14 during SEC regular season) running the field to take the SEC tournament championship. The less obvious storylines come from teams like Arkansas who, under the leadership of then 2nd-year head coach Courtney Deifel, have taken significant strides over the past few years climbing their way to their seventh NCAA tournament invite in program history and more importantly, earning the respect of their SEC and national opponents.  


About the Razorbacks and Head Coach Courtney Deifel: 

In June of 2015 the University of Arkansas announced that Courtney Deifel would become the fourth head coach in Razorback softball history. Prior to entering the coaching ranks, Courtney Deifel (Courntey Scott) was an NCAA All-American and 2002 National Champion behind the plate at Cal and also spent time playing professionally both in the United States and in Japan. Deifel spent 4 years as an assistant coach at Louisville before accepting the head coaching job at Maryland for the 2015 season. One year later the opportunity to jump into the SEC at Arkansas was presented and as Deifel prepares for season 3, the Razorbacks are climbing rapidly. Read Deifel's full bio here.

During 2015, the year prior to Deifel’s arrival, the Razorbacks went 1-23 in the SEC and 16-37 overall. During Deifel’s first season (2016) the team remained steady with an almost identical record of 1-23 in the SEC and 17-39 overall but the culture was changing internally. In 2017 Deifel and the Razorbacks took an incredible leap in their SEC record going 7-17 and even more so in their overall record of 31-24. Although the Razorbacks, who rolled through their pre-season schedule going 19-1, finished second from the bottom in the SEC, they managed 6 more wins than each of their previous 2 seasons which made a huge impact on their overall record ultimately building their case for the NCAA tournament. 


2017 Highlights Under Deifel:
- Lowered pitching ERA by 4 runs from 2016 to 2017 (6.98 to 2.92)
- Increased batting average by over 20 points from 2016 to 2017 (.260 to .284)
- Led the SEC with 59 HRS (Tied for 17th in NCAA)
- 15 more total wins than previous season (6 more in SEC) 


About the University of Arkansas:
- Founded: 1871
- Mascot: Razorbacks
- Softball Stadium: Bogle Park
- Location: Fayetteville, AR (Overlooking Ozark Mountains)
- Total Enrollment: 2017 record 27,558 

For more information on the University of Arkansas you can visit the website at www.uark.edu or click here.


Inaugural Season for Marissa Young and the Duke Blue Devils

The beginning of the new year marks the long-awaited inaugural season for Duke softball. Duke is one of the most prestigious universities around and, in the athletics world, is most known for their dominance on the basketball court thanks to Coach K. Duke’s announcement of the addition of softball is only further evidence that our sport continues to grow at rapid pace and the attention that collegiate softball receives during the spring season cannot be ignored. The Blue Devils think they can ruffle some feathers in NCAA softball and I think they’re right.

BLUE DEVIL SOFTBALL TIMELINE

December 16, 2013 - Director of Athletics, Dr. Ken White, announced that softball would be added to Duke’s athletics roster as the University’s 27th sport (14th women’s sport) and would be set to compete in the 2017-2018 season.

July 29, 2015 - Former University of Michigan All-American and University of North Carolina assistant coach, Marissa Young, was tabbed Duke’s first ever head softball coach.

May 23, 2016 - The university broke ground on the new Duke Softball Stadium.

September 16, 2017 – The Blue Devils held their first official full team practice.

September 30, 2017 – The team played in their first official fall game at Duke Softball Stadium versus North Carolina State.


DUKE’S FIRST HEAD COACH – MARISSA YOUNG

Marissa Young was a University of Michigan standout from 2000-2003 where she was a 3-time All-American and Big 10 Player of the Year. Following her playing career Marissa worked her way up the coaching ladder spending time as head coach at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, then as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan University, and most recently as an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina, just a short drive from Duke. When the announcement of a future Duke softball program was made and it was time to seek out a new head coach, Young applied and was awarded the position. In an interview following her hiring Young said this:

“First and foremost I want to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity. I am honored by Dr. White's belief in me and entrusting me to start the softball program at Duke. Starting a program is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but to do it at one of the nation's most prestigious schools academically and athletically is a dream come true. Success is not a single event but a process. After meeting with Dr. White, I was confident in his visionary leadership and commitment to the process of making Duke Softball successful. The excitement on campus and within the athletic department about the start of our program has been astounding. I look forward to building this program from the ground up and to carry on the successful tradition of Duke athletics both on and off the field.”

Throughout Young's career she played for and learned from several of the best in the sport and was then mentored by a few of the finest our sport has to offer. Carol Hutchins has spent 33 years as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines and is currently the winningest coach in NCAA history. Donna Papa has spent 32 years as head coach of the UNC Tarheels, where Young assisted prior to taking the position at Duke, and is 11th on the list of winningest coaches in NCAA history. To say Young’s wealth of knowledge is full would be an understatement.

Click here to read Marissa Young's full bio. 

Fun fact for our community, Marissa spent a good amount of time in and around the Firecracker family! Not only did the Santa Ana, California native compete as a Firecracker but her father, Robert Young, was a coach in the organization and even won a National Championship at the 12u level. He continued coaching for several years at the youth level before he and his wife, Marcella, who is also a standout softball mom and coach's wife, followed their daughter out to the east coast where Robert is now a volunteer assistant at Duke.

Starting a program from the ground up cannot be easy with the logistics of recruiting and overall lack of momentum but I think Young and the Blue Devils have the ability to stair-step up the ACC ladder and into post-season contention within the next 5 years. If you keep the “big-picture” in mind, with Duke’s academic and athletic excellence, who wouldn’t want to be a Blue Devil? A few top-notch recruits and a couple of confidence-building seasons and they're there.

 

DUKE BLUE DEVIL STATS

 Founded in 1838

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Total Undergraduate Enrollment – 6,500-7,000

Student to Faculty ratio is 8 to 1

70% of classes have fewer than 19 students

To learn more about Duke University visit their website www.duke.edu.  To go directly to the athletics site visit www.goduke.com

 


College Spotlight: Stanford University

Let’s move this College-Spotlight journey out west to one of the most prestigious institutions in the country, Stanford University.  Stanford holds a special place in my heart for being my “runner-up” school and hardest phone call I’ve had to make prior to committing to UCLA. They were an incredibly respectable opponent in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) and then head coach, John Rittman, was an assistant coach for Team USA during my entire run with the National Team, including the 2004 Olympic Games. Although I was not a Cardinal, I am a big fan.

Not too long ago, the Pac-12 was the premier conference to play in from top to bottom. California was pumping out the talent and everyone wanted to stay on the west coast. Stanford was highly competitive in the Pac-10 and across the country. The Cardinal began their softball program in 1994, joined the Pac-10 in 1995 and hired Coach Rittman in 1997. In the 18 years Coach Rittman lead the Cardinal, Stanford recorded 18 consecutive winning-seasons, 16 Regional appearances, 5 Super-Regional appearances since its beginning in 2005), and 2 trips to the Women’s College World Series. The end of this streak dated back to roughly only 3 years ago! My point? The softball tides are changing so rapidly today and, in my opinion, Stanford is one of the schools that has ridden the softball waves of the past decade the hardest.

It’s no secret that now the softball talent is spread far across the country and over the last decade or so the Pac-12 took a hit losing some of the best in their backyard to other Power 5 conferences.  Then, for Stanford, there’s losing athletes to early-recruiting.  Because of Stanford’s academic requirements they aren’t able to fully commit to the early-recruiting trend like most other schools. Before cell phones, the emergence of travel team “recruiting coordinators” and social media, coaches could not contact you until July 1st AFTER your junior year. This really leveled the playing field, especially for institutions like Stanford who needed more concrete information before committing to an athlete. They were essentially pulling from the same elite pool of athletes as UCLA, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, and because this was the summer prior to senior year, both Stanford admissions and the athlete knew where they stood so there was no waiting and wondering, and no significant amount of time to get nervous and go a different direction.

Considering the shake-up of our culture, Stanford was holding on pretty well.  Then the sudden and extremely controversial dismissal of 18-year head coach, Rittman, after the 2014 season really packed a punch that the Cardinal is still trying to recover from.  We’ve seen this more frequently lately than ever where a coach leaves and it really drives a wrench through the team. I believe Rachel Hanson, Rittman’s replacement, was a fantastic coach who was put into a situation of just trying to keep the team’s head above water.  She dealt with transfers, athlete anger, and few who decided to quit mid-season. She spent 3 years trying to get the Cardinal back on track before her sudden departure this past summer.

So, sounds like a pretty sad story right? Well, Stanford may have just written their happy ending by hiring University of Minnesota head coach and Stanford softball alumnus, Jessica Allister.

About Head Coach Jessica Allister:
Allister was a 4-year starting catcher and All-American for the Cardinal and was a part of their two Women’s World Series appearances. She began building her coaching resume as an assistant at Georgia, Stanford, and Oregon, before jumping into the head coaching role at Minnesota where she spent the past 7 years building the Gopher’s program. In 2017 Allister registered the best season in Gopher history posting a 56-5 record and earning the program’s first ever #1 National Ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll.  For more on Allister read here.

More than hiring one of the most qualified coaches around, Stanford has really brought a sense excitement back to The Farm by reconnecting the alumni and the traditions that made the program successful for so long. Allister was a Cardinal and knows what it takes to be a successful student-athlete at Stanford. She has a history of success at each step she’s taken and knows how to develop athletes at the highest level. I’m sure Allister feels a great deal of pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations and fulfill the level of excitement surrounding her, but to me, this is already a win. “If you build it they will come.” If you ask me, the foundation is complete.


Stanford University opened in 1891
Location: Palo Alto, CA (approx. 45 min south of San Francisco) 
Enrollment: 16,000+ (7,000 Undergraduate)
Admissions: Approximately 5% acceptance rate

 

For more complete information on Stanford University visit their website https://www.stanford.edu

Written by: Amanda Freed Katchka
Photo credit: www.GoStanford.com


College Spotlight: Gerry Glasco Lands in Lafayette

The past few months we have seen several changing of the softball guards, from the abrupt departure of Auburn head coach, Clint Myers, to the more recent controversial release of 16-year ULL head coach, Michael Lotief. Whenever these huge opportunities open up everyone seems to hold their breath waiting for the next big move.

The dust has now begun to settle and we have a pretty good idea of what the 2018 season will present. So, how did we get to where we are now? Here’s a long story made short. When Clint Myers unexpectedly resigned as head coach of Auburn University in late August, the University had to scramble. Fortunately for them, during Myers 4 years at Auburn he catapulted the softball program up the national ranks making the Tigers position highly sought after.

After 5 very successful seasons at JMU, head coach, Mickey Dean, applied and was awarded the position at Auburn. Dean then began to put the pieces of the staff together, one of those being the announcement of Gerry Glasco, former Associate Head Coach at Texas A&M, as Auburn’s new associate head coach. All seemed settled in the SEC. That is until the sudden firing of long time ULL head coach, Michael Lotief.

Michael Lotief had spent 16 seasons putting the Ragin Cajuns on the national map with their very unique split-grip and torque type swing. Coming out of the Sun Belt Conference, the Ragin’ Cajuns have seen the post season in 24 of the past 25 seasons. They are the type of team that should see post season every year and can run deep into the tournament each year. For these reasons, the position availability sparked a lot of interest. Who applied? More candidates than we’d probably think. So who snagged the gig? Gerry Glasco of course. Definitely an interesting turn of events but not surprising. Sometimes opportunities come at inopportune times and if the door closes it may never open again, so Glasco goes to ULL.

So that’s where we stand right now. Now you might be wondering, “Who is this Gerry Glasco?”

A high school baseball player, Coach Glasco got his start in softball with his 3 daughters. A coach at Johnston City High School for 7 years he started the Illinois Southern Force organization where he was the head coach of the gold team from 2001-2008. It was from there that Glasco got picked up by the University of Georgia and began is 6 year run as assistant coach and associate head coach of the Bulldogs. In the fall of 2014 he accepted the associate head coach position at Texas A&M where he spent 3 years before the Auburn and Louisiana Lafayette juggle.

His resume is impressive but what he has been able to accomplish along the way with the athletes he has worked with is even more so. Coach Glasco has the ability to drastically change an offense in a single season. He has proven that time and time again. For a University of Louisiana Lafayette team who is understandably confused and in transition, yet oozing with potential, finding a coach like Gerry Glasco should be bright light in an otherwise cloudy situation. To read more on the hiring of Gerry Glasco and his bio please read here.

Founded: 1898 (as Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute)
Location: Lafayette, Louisiana (About 1 hour from LSU and approximately 2 ½ hour drive to New Orleans)
Total Fall 2017 enrollment: 19,000+ 

 For more on the University of Louisiana, Lafayette you can visit their website at www.louisiana.edu

 

 


College Spotlight - Clemson University

The last few months have really sparked excitement in our world. Several of you have recently played in tournaments where college coaches flooded the fields and many of you participated in showcase camps. Maybe you're just beginning your travel ball career or maybe you're finishing up, signed your letter of intent, and are anxiously awaiting this time next fall when you will begin the next phase of your softball career.  The coaches are concluding their recruiting ventures and returning home to their respective campuses where they will enjoy a short holiday break before the real work for the Spring 2018 season begins.

With Duke on the verge of their inaugural season and the very recent announcement of the impending addition of Clemson University, we are seeing some exciting expansion in our sport.  Participation is at an all-time high and television coverage and viewership is soaring because the athletes are fun to watch!

Although we will not be seeing the Tigers this upcoming season, let's get to know Clemson University and their new head coach, John Rittman!

In March of 2017, Clemson University announced plans to introduce softball into its athletics program beginning the Fall of 2019 with its first NCAA season set for the Spring of 2020.

If you’re wondering how serious you should take the arrival of Clemson into the NCAA mix, my answer would be… very serious. I’m thinking post-season-year-one serious.  Why? Clemson already has the reputation for being an athletic powerhouse in the ACC so will essentially recruit for itself. To top it off, the Power 5 Conference school has just named one of the most decorated coaches around, John Rittman, as leader of the charge! I had the privilege of playing for Coach Rittman during our run through the 2004 Athen Olympics and played against him during his time at Stanford. I can confidently say he has all the tools necessary to bring in and develop top-level talent and can take this team to the top very quickly.  I'm excited to watch Coach Rittman and the Clemson Tigers make waves across the nation. 

Quick Facts about Clemson

  • Founded: 1889
  • Location: Clemson, South Carolina (located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains surrounded by a lake and its own forest.)
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 18,000+
  • Over 80 majors and over 80 minors
  • Average SAT 1302

About Head Coach John Rittman

  • 18 year Head Coach at Stanford University – Recorded 18 consecutive winning-seasons including 13 40-win seasons. Produced at least one All-American in 15 of those seasons.
  • USA National Team Coach 2002-2008 and 2016-present – Helped coach Team USA to the Gold in Athens in 2004 and Silver in Beijing in 2008. Is currently a part of the Women's National Team coaching pool.

 

For more complete information on Clemson, its athletic department, and Coach Rittman, visit the Clemson University website www.clemsontigers.com