Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Where Are They Now: Alex Casals

Who is she? Alexandra Casals, a former outfielder for the Florida International Panthers.

Photo via FIU Athletics
What is she known for? Casals was a member of the Panthers for four seasons, with her finest statistical season coming in her junior year of 2012 when she posted a .308 batting average with thirty-seven hits, including four for extra bases. That same season, Casals made just two errors in the field and stole three bases.

Here's something interesting... At FIU, Casals played her first season for head coach Beth Torina and assistant Lindsay Leftwich, a pair of coaches that are now better known as holding the same positions at LSU.

Quotable quote: 

“Just because you made it on a college team does not mean that you have nothing else to work on or nothing else to learn. Everything in life is a lesson and the softball field is no exception. When I started playing college softball, the biggest reality check for me was that I no longer was the best player or star on the team. In high school and travel ball, I was used to being one of the top players, so I played all the time or I played multiple positions. However, at FIU, I was surrounded by twenty-five other girls who were also the star players on their team. I was surrounded by veterans who knew so much more than me and who were so much better than me. It is very easy to let that discourage you — do not allow it. Ask questions and work to improve yourself every day. When you are struggling with something, practice to get better.”

What's she up to now? After graduating with a criminal justice degree (as well as two minors, including psychology), Alex elected against pursuing law enforcement and instead headed to law school. She graduated in May in the top 6% of her class; during her schooling, she served on the Editorial Board of the Florida Coastal Law Review, a program where the top students of the school edit & publish law journals discussing various aspects of the law. She took the bar exam in July and earlier this week found out that she passed; she now moves on with the ambition of joining the State of Florida as a prosecutor.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Kate Dickman Steps Into Justin's World

The Utah Utes have battled, with considerable effort since joining the sport's historically-top conference, to assume a place of relevance in the crowded Pac-12 softball scene. Head coach Amy Hogue has slowly but surely brought her squad up to a parallel presence with some of the nation's biggest powerhouses.

One of the players who can claim and be highly credited with the program's rise over the last several seasons is the class of 2015's own Kate Dickman. A three-time all-conference selection and a recipient of all-PAC freshman honors in her inaugural season, Dickman also earned all-region honors in her final season as a Ute.

Helping led her squad from the conference's newcomers to, quickly, a title contender, Dickman was one of a half-dozen players to earn all-PAC recognition in 2015, the same year the Utes reached the NCAA tournament for the first time as a Pac-12 program.

Kate and I chatted about a host of issues and topics, including:

  • Why she chose Utah
  • Her sister Ally, an up-and-coming Utes star in her own right
  • Her thoughts on the SEC vs. Pac-12 superiority debate
  • and much more, including the JWOS-patented deserted island question (where I failed to put the usual parameters on things!)

Justin’s World: How did you get your start playing softball?
Kate Dickman: I have been playing softball ever since I can remember. My parents put me in t-ball when I was 5 (my first team was the Lil’ Wahines) and I’ve been playing ever since. I’ve never even tried another sport.

Justin’s World: What brought you to Utah as your place to go to school and play ball?
Kate Dickman: When I was in high school, I was being recruited by “Coach A”. I took an unoffical visit the fall of my junior year and loved the campus and coaching staff. Utah is beautiful; I would be able to get to experience all four seasons, and it was still not too far from home. Around the same time I was deciding on committing, I learned that Utah was joining the Pac 12 and that sealed the deal.

 Justin’s World: You were part of the Utes team as they really began to make their mark and join the PAC-12’s top tier. Tell me what that was like, to be part of the team when they began showing they could hang with the historical “big dogs”.
Kate Dickman: Well, my freshman year at Utah was Utah’s first year in the Pac 12. That season, we won two Pac 12 games all season. In my senior year, we finished 4th in the Pac 12, our record was 12-11 in conference, and we also went to regionals for the first time since 2006. We ‘started from the bottom’ and it was an honor to be a part of that. Every day we had to prove ourselves to others; that we deserved to be part of the Pac 12 and that just made me work even harder. Knowing that not everyone believed we could hang with the big dogs in the beginning made me, and the rest of the teammates I played with, want it even more. My entire four years at Utah, my team, coaches and myself always believed that we could not only ‘hang with the big dogs’ but be better than the big dogs. Having to earn the right to be respected in the Pac 12 is something I am very grateful for. I believe that having to prove myself and having to help my team prove ourselves, that we could be a ‘big dog’ team, gave me a special work ethic that drove me to want to improve every year, which is what we did. Although I wish I was able to play in the post-season every year, I am able to say that I was a part of Utah making its mark in the Pac 12 and that I helped build the program to the ‘big dog’ team that they are now.

Justin’s World: Tell me about your sister, Ally, following in your footsteps as a Utes softball player.
Kate Dickman: When Ally decided to commit to Utah, I was so happy because I knew she would be able to get an amazing college softball experience like I did. The coaches, staff, teammates, friends, and family I made in Utah was something that I was really glad Ally and I would be able to share. I think it’s really cool that she decided to play at Utah, but I don’t necessarily want her to follow in my footsteps. I want her to make her own footsteps and have her own experience and story to tell. Everyone always asks if I think Ally will be able to live up to what I did, but I believe she will do far greater things than me; she already has! She won Pac 12 Freshman of the Week twice already, an award I never won! Every week, she makes me more and more proud to be her big sis. Seeing the passion she has makes me miss playing a lot but I’m so glad that I get to stick around the program for four more years since she’s there. I love watching her play and not only to see the great things she’s doing, but also to try and help her improve her game as well.

Justin’s World: Who was the toughest opponent you faced during your career, either an individual or team?
Kate Dickman: This is a tough question since I faced so many great teams and players throughout my four years at Utah. The toughest pitcher I faced would have to be either Jessica Moore or Ally Carda. The toughest team I faced was Oregon. I hate admitting this, but I never beat the Ducks while I was at Utah.

Justin’s World: What is the proudest moment of your career?
Kate Dickman: The proudest moment of my career is hands down the night of the selection show my senior year. The whole team was together and when we heard our name called, it was the best feeling I had in all four years at Utah. We worked so hard for that one moment and I will remember everything about that night forever. Hitting a walk-off against our rival, BYU, my junior year was pretty cool too.

Justin’s World: Give me your thoughts on the debate about the sport’s top conference, whether it’s the PAC-12 or the SEC.
Kate Dickman: Playing in the Pac 12 and the level of competition I faced every single game, I would have to say that the sport’s top conference is definitely the Pac 12.

Justin’s World: Is coaching an avenue you have thought about pursuing or might go down at some point? What other kind of plans do you have for the future?
Kate Dickman: While I was playing, I never really thought coaching was an avenue I wanted to pursue, but I am currently helping coach a travel ball team and I have learned that I love coaching. Teaching other people about the game and things I’ve learned from playing is so fun to me and I think it would be really cool to coach at the college level someday.

Justin’s World: Let’s set a scene here. Say you were stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time. No boats, no phones, but anything else tangible goes. What would you take?
Kate Dickman: I would take a speaker to play music, a lifetime supply of Mr. Pibb and my Bible. Probably some sunscreen and sunglasses too. And my dog. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Pete D'Amour Named Kennesaw State Head Coach

Former Missouri associate head coach Pete D'Amour has agreed to become the full-time head coach at Kennesaw State.

D'Amour spent a decade at Mizzou as Ehren Earleywine's top assistant, including the last two seasons in the position of Associate Head Coach and recruiting coordinator.

D'Amour was primarily in charge of the Tigers battery, including calling the pitches during game play. Three-time all-American Chelsea Thomas is one of many award-winning hurlers who benefitted from D'Amour's tutorship.

The Owls position is D'Amour's first as a head coach, having spent his entire coaching career to this point at Mizzou. He had been a part of three Women's College World Series teams and the squad advanced to the Super Regionals in eight of his ten seasons on staff.

He takes over a Kennesaw State program that showed promise in 2016, posting a 30-28 overall record and an 8-10 mark in conference play, but one that was marked with controversy in the offseason after then-head coach Tory Acheson was fired under allegations of misconduct.

D'Amour's hiring leaves just two vacant head coaching positions in Division I - St. Peter's and Utah Valley.

Joe DiPietro Joins Drexel as Assistant Coach

Former Temple and Hampton head coach Joe DiPietro has been hired as an assistant coach at Drexel.

DiPietro spent five seasons as head coach at Temple and was at the helm of the program when it was disbanded in 2013. He spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as head coach at Hampton and also has been head coach at La Salle.

During his tenure at Hampton, the Pirates won forty-two games before DiPietro surprisingly resigned earlier this offseason. His Temple squad increased its win total in each of his five years as Owls head coach, culminating in a thirty-two win season that ultimately was the program's last.

DiPietro and former Hofstra Hall of Fame player Stacy Jones will round out head coach Carl Taylor's staff as the Dragons seek to improve on a 2016 campaign that saw them post a 20-35 record with a winless 0-19 mark in conference play.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Where Are They Now: Leanna Pittsenbarger

Who is she? Leanna Pittsenbarger, a former pitcher for the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.

What is she known for? Pittsenbarger garnered national attention in 2014 during a season that saw her set a trio of program records, including for strikeouts with 297, as well as lead the Ohio Valley Conference in another trio of statistical categories. For her efforts, Pittsenbarger was named an all-conference first-team selection and received a nod to the all-region team.

Here's something interesting... Leanna's dad Aaron was a collegiate athlete himself, playing golf for Urbana University in Ohio.

Quotable quote: "Enjoy everything, even if you don't want to do it in the moment. Enjoy the 6:00 am weights and enjoy the conditioning. Don't take for granted the four-hour practices and the late nights after a long bus ride, finishing homework in the hotel room. It goes so fast, and nothing else in your adult life can take the place of being a student-athlete."

What's she up to now? After receiving her degree in psychology, Leanna is now enrolled in Wright State's School of Professional Psychology, a five-year program. She also co-owns a business called The Field House in Dayton, Ohio, where she and a partner team up to offer both pitching, catching, and offensive lessons.

Keep up: You can find Leanna on Twitter @leannapitt_15.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Casey Myers Returning to Auburn

After a one-year stint with the San Diego Padres, former Auburn volunteer assistant coach Casey Myers is returning to the Tigers program in the same role.

In a report first filed by the Opelika-Auburn News' Dana Sulonen, head coach Clint Myers, who is also Casey's father, confirmed the move.

Casey Myers served as volunteer assistant for the Auburn team that reached the Women's College World Series in 2015, serving primarily as an offensive coach. He accepted a position with the Padres earlier this calendar year and was released from that role following the completion of the minor league season.

Casey Myers rejoins his father as well as brother Corey Myers at AU, reuniting the trio of kinfolk that took the country by storm when their respective hirings were announced in 2014. Casey is a former minor league hitting  coach, as well as a former minor league player.

As Casey Myers returns to the volunteer assistant's role, Hunter Veach, who occupied the position during the 2016 season, will remain on the staff, but as a manager. 

IUPUI Hires Heather Tarter as Interim Head Coach

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, more commonly known as IUPUI, has hired Heather Tarter as the program's interim softball coach for the 2017 season.

The move follows the surprise resignation of former head coach Amanda Rivera, who left to accept an assistant coaching position at Purdue.

Tarter, formerly the head coach at NAIA Purdue Calumet for three seasons, will assume the role of interim head coach for the 2017 season before a full-time head coach is named following the season.

Purdue Calumet saw their program grow from scratch with Tarter at the helm, though she only led the Peregrines through three playing seasons on the field. In 2014, the program's inaugural season, the Peregrines posted a record of 28-8, ultimately going 75-60 during Tarter's tenure.

At IUPUI, Tarter assumes the helm of a program that posted a 20-35 record in 2016, even still barely missing the NCAA postseason with a championship-game-loss to North Dakota State to end the conference tournament. The season also included a victory over the ACC's North Carolina State in an early-season matchup.