Thursday, November 26, 2015


Whether you are celebrating with family; feasting on a delicious meal; enjoying a football game; or even getting an early start on your Black Friday shopping, from the Justin’s World team to you and yours, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

We are thankful for your loyal readership and support of this site as we strive to bring you all the best of the game of softball.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Did you know?

Bucky Dent earned two World Series rings as a member of the New York Yankees in the late 1970s and was named World Series MVP in 1978. He is likely best remembered for his three-run home run against the Boston Red Sox in the 1978 AL East divisional playoff game, a long shot that earned him a profane-addition to his name in the minds and out of the mouths of Boston sports fans.

Did you know that Bucky Dent has not one but two direct connections to the game of softball?

Daughter Caitlin was a four-year starter for the North Carolina State Wolfpack, earning all-conference honors in 2013 and, emulating her father, hitting the eventual game-winning home run to clinch the 2013 ACC Championship over Florida State.

Dent’s son, Cody, a former Florida Gators baseball player and current Washington Nationals minor leaguer, is married to the former Ensley Gammel, a former Gators softball pitcher and outfielder. Gammel played for four years in Gainesville, beginning her career with a 10-0 record in the circle, only the second 
Gators softballer in history to start her career with a 
ten-game winning streak.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Where Are They Now: Rachel Riley

Who is she? Rachel Riley, a former pitcher for the Kentucky Wildcats.

Photo: UK Athletics
What is she known for? Riley was an NFCA all-Region selection in 2011, her junior campaign, during which she hit .354 with eight home runs and recorded a 2.56 ERA in the circle. She was twice named all-SEC academic and was on the 2012 Player of the Year preseason watch list.

Here's something interesting... In her final two seasons at Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Rachel led her team to back-to-back state championships, batting .476 over those two seasons.

Quotable quote: "Appreciate the people around you and the time you have playing softball because it goes by so fast."

What's she up to now? Since graduating in 2012, Rachel has stayed at UK as a student in the university's dental school. She will graduate in May and will be a practicing dentist thereafter.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kylee Lahners Steps Into Justin's World

The historical depth of talent to come out of the Washington softball program is tremendous. Whether on international or professional rosters, numerous Husky softballers have played at the game’s highest levels. In 2015, the newest member of this fraternity officially joined the professional ranks when the Dallas Charge signed Kylee Lahners to be part of the franchise’s inaugural season.

(c) Scott Eklund/Washington Husky Athletics
Defensively versatile and capable of playing nearly every defensive position not involving a circle or shin guards, Lahners put together a quietly-stellar career at UDub. Four times an all-conference selection and an all-American as a junior, she holds four top-ten marks in the Husky record books. Her fifty-four career home runs rank third all-time for the program, and she ranks among the top ten in the career categories of walks, slugging percentage, and RBI.

Expounding and offering an example of the versatility mentioned earlier, Lahners was her team’s center fielder in 2015. Just a year earlier, she had split time as the starting third baseman and right fielder. In 2012, her first season in Seattle, she started at second base.

Drafted #10 overall, Lahners was the eighth UDub Husky to suit up in the domestic professional ranks, following in the footsteps of the likes of Ashley Charters, Jenn Salling, Kimi Pohlman, and others. She was the first, and, to date, only Husky alum to wear a Charge uniform. She will return to the field in Dallas in 2016 in the second season of a two-year deal.

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball? At what point did you realize that this was something you were *really* good at?
Kylee Lahners: When I was about 3 years old, my dad used to pitch plastic golf balls to me in the backyard and I would hit using a broomstick. I was that kid who never wanted to come in for dinner because I was having too much fun out in the street playing whiffle ball with my friends. The start of being somewhat serious in my softball career was at the age of 6, my first year playing in an organized league. I think the key to my softball success was that my parents always played me a division up, so that I could compete with older kids. In addition, my father never wanted me to be the best player on the team or play with other kids from my neighborhood or school that I was attending at the time. He strongly felt that you getter better by not only participating against strong competition, but also by playing with better players on your current team.

Different players from completely different areas creates a need to understand and relate to others a lot more than players you would know from your local schools or neighborhoods. [That was] a trait that he felt would help my social skills with teammates.

Justin’s World: Why Washington? Tell me what it meant to you to be part of the storied, successful heritage of Husky softball.
Kylee Lahners: UW was the first school that I took a trip to and I absolutely fell in love with it. It seemed like the best place for me. I am not only proud of playing softball for Washington, but also getting a degree from such a great institution.

Justin’s World: You played several positions across the diamond; to what do you attribute your ability to not only play so many positions but to provide such quality play at each of them?
Kylee Lahners: I always believed in, when training, to be as well-rounded an athlete as possible because you never know when you might need it. Being able to play multiple positions is one of the biggest ways you can help out the ball club.

Justin’s World: Your name is seen in several places all throughout the Husky record books. What does it mean to you to know that you’ve left that kind of impact on the program?
Kylee Lahners: It’s a tremendous honor and to be very honest, I cannot tell you what I’m in the record books for because I never looked. I believe that a key factor in my success on the field is due to my humbleness. I believe that you shouldn’t be so invested in record books, but rather play the game with a lot of heart and the records will come. Maybe someday I’ll take a look, but right now I just want to keep playing the game I love.

Justin’s World: Four times an all-conference honoree and an all-American, players coming into the program for many years are going to know your name. Outside of the awards, what do you hope is the legacy you’ve left behind at UW?
Kylee Lahners: Try to be a better player than yesterday! Remember it’s still a game and to have fun playing it. I hope that players coming into the program will remember that I always knew how to have fun, but at the same time got the job done. Regardless of what kind of game you’re having, good or bad; it’s still 60 feet and turn left.

Justin’s World: What went through your mind when you found out you had been drafted to the NPF?
Kylee Lahners: A day I will never forget; it was a tremendous honor to be one of the few players that was selected. It was always a life-long dream to be a professional player. When I was younger, I always told my dad that I was going to play in the MLB. He was always supportive and would tell me to never stop working towards that goal. Then, when I was old enough to realize that playing in the MLB probably wouldn’t work out, I made it a goal to get drafted and play in the NPF. I hope that someday the NPF draft and league will be almost as big of a deal as the MLB.

Justin’s World: What was the biggest culture shock, moving from the Pacific Northwest to north Texas?
Kylee Lahners: The two areas are completely opposite, but both have great fans that are passionate about their softball.  Plus, I think it’s just a little warmer in Dallas during the summer!!

Justin’s World: What was the biggest learning curve from college ball to the pros?
Kylee Lahners: Osterman & Abbott. The biggest names and pitchers in the game. In the league, you are on the field with the top softball players in the world and there is never a game that is an easy one. There are no weak links in the league and you need to stay on top of your mental game in order to do well in it. If there was no competition, the league wouldn’t be that fun! Love it and embrace it!

Justin’s World: What are your plans for the future – is playing long-term in the NPF something you have plans to do? What about stepping into the coaching world? Non-softball career plans?
Kylee Lahners: I would like to play professionally for as long as I can, possibly even internationally during the NPF off-season. My long-term goal is to be a Division 1 head coach someday. I would also be open to becoming a Grad Assistant for a program in the near future so that I can further my education and coaching experience at the same time. At some point in my life, I would like to spend numerous hours on the golf course, trying to make it on the LPGA.

Justin’s World: And a Justin’s World must-ask: Say you were stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time. You can take three things with you. No boats or phones, but anything else tangible goes. What would you take?
Kylee Lahners: I would take a big blow up float so I could hop on it and let the water take me wherever. The next thing I would take would be a backpack full of suckers and jolly ranchers. I would never get bored with all that candy. The last item that I would bring would be tanning oil, because I need as much vitamin D as I can get, after living in Seattle for 4 years.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jill Barrett Traded to Chicago Bandits

As NPF rosters are still beginning to take shape, a fairly significant trade was completed on Wednesday. The Akron Racers traded standout Ben Zobrist-esque jack-of-all-trades Jill Barrett to the Chicago Bandits. In return, the Racers received the #4 and #31 draft picks in the 2016 draft.

Akron Racers/LSU Athletics
Barrett is a two-time all-league selection and has shown herself to be a standout at multiple positions throughout her career as a member of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, as well as on the Racers and the USA Women’s Baseball National Team. In 2015, Barrett hit .339 and scored twenty-six runs for the Racers while starting at the shortstop position.

Heading to the Bandits, she is projected to take over for likely-departed star shortstop Tammy Williams, whose return following the Bandits’ 2015 championship run is unlikely at best. Barrett also gives the Bandits some versatility and experienced help if a hole is created at first base by Brittany Cervantes’ potential eventual selection to Team USA.

Outfielder AJ Andrews, a member of the Bandits in 2015, was included in the deal, but for the time being, only the rights to treat her as a returning free agent-signing were acquired by Akron, since she is not presently under a contract for 2016.

Andrews was the #7 overall draft pick in 2015, signing later in the season after going all the way to the Women’s College World Series with the LSU Tigers. She ranks highly in the LSU statistical charts, including the top three in four career categories.

The acquisition of the #4 draft pick in 2016 gives the Racers back-to-back selections, as they also own the #3 overall pick. It also gives them three of the first ten picks, with #10 at their disposal, as well.

With a deep class of talent at the second base position in 2016 and Ashley Thomas, the Racers’ 2nd-sacker in 2015, an experienced college shortstop, an everyday second baseman figures to be high on the list for Joey Arrietta come draft day.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dallas Charge Name Jen Rocha Head Coach

The Dallas Charge on Wednesday named current Florida assistant coach Jennifer Rocha as the team’s head coach for the 2016 season.

At the helm of the Charge, Rocha replaces University of Texas assistant Jennifer McFalls, who led the Charge to the postseason in their inaugural season in 2015.

Rocha, the 2015 NFCA Division 1 Assistant Coach of the Year, is considered one of the top pitching coaches in the nation and is a highly-regarded potential head coach at the collegiate level, as well.

On Tim Walton’s staff with the Gators from the beginning of his tenure in Gainesville, Rocha has mentored and coached five pitchers to all-American status, including Stacey Nelson; Stephanie Brombacher; Hannah Rogers; Lauren Haeger; and 2015 freshman phenom Aleshia Ocasio.

Rocha’s coaching resume also includes time at Wichita State during Walton’s tenure at the school, as well as a stop at Oregon. She spent six seasons as a member of the Oklahoma program, including three as a player and three as a graduate assistant coach. She was a member of the 2000 National Championship-winning Sooner program and boasts a 1.46 career ERA and a 43-17 career record in the circle.

This will be Rocha’s first head coaching position at any level. She reunites with Haeger, who was drafted by the Charge in 2015, and follows Walton as a head coach at the professional level.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bree Nasti Steps Into Justin's World

Photo provided by Bree Nasti/ (c) Paul Hokanson
Last Friday, in the most recent edition of our Where Are They Now series, we caught up with Buffalo great Bree Nasti. Today, join us as Bree candidly shares her thoughts and provides some particularly humorous anecdotes.:

On her favorite memories… It’s funny. I have a former teammate who could tell me what happened in the third inning of a game in March of 2003. Meanwhile, it usually took me four innings before I realized the opposing pitcher was left-handed, and being left-handed, we usually find each other pretty quickly in life. The further removed I am from college ball, the more the vivid memories speak volumes of the things that mattered most. I remember playing in Hawaii on a beautiful day and moments later, on the field stuck in torrential downpour and thunderstorms. (And then moments later, playing in Hawaii on a beautiful day.) Nature is crazy. I don’t know if it was that day, or another day in Hawaii – I see how people can lose days, weeks, months, or years in a place like Hawaii – but we beat Baylor, who at the time was ranked 18 nationally or something like that. That was pretty cool. I think I had a hat trick that day. Three SO’s. Followed by a slight breakdown where I questioned my ability to play softball at a high level. Maybe it’s a little twisted, but that’s one of my favorite memories, for a few reasons. One, it was a big deal to us. It meant something, and we did it together. Two, the game humbled me, as it often tends to do, and reminded me that without a thick skin or some stubbornness, you’re not long for the world of softball.

On passing advice to today’s generation of players… High school ball matters. Having pride in town, city, state, and community matters. Competition matters. Keeping score matters. Winning and losing matters.  There is more to life than softball.  The meals on my table depend on softball, so if I can say there is more to life than softball, kids should be able to do the same. That being said, if you are passionate about something, you owe it to yourself and to whatever that thing is to treat it with care, sacrifice, and pride.  There is no substitute for investment, time spent, and working at something. There are also no guarantees in it. I think this is one of the most important lessons this generation of players must learn. Working hard at something doesn’t mean you will get what you want, but it will create more opportunities and perhaps increase your odds of getting what you want. Sometimes people are more talented, smarter, luckier, etc. It’s not fair. Life is not fair, but without investment and work, you won’t ever put the gloves on or make it to the ring.

On her post-playing endeavors… My playing career hasn’t ended. I play for a living. If I can’t enjoy what I’m doing, I have to find something else to do.  Sadly, I’m sure there are many who still have a playing career, but the play has ended. Okay, sure, technically my playing days are over. I began coaching as an assistant immediately following college. I began at Hofstra, moved to St. John’s, and then to Stony Brook. After six years of this type of role, I felt there was more I needed to do in order to best prepare myself for whatever it was I decided to do in the future. I moved to California and pursued a graduate degree at Fresno State. I stepped away from coaching, and in doing so was brought closer to it. In addition to higher education, I had a few odd jobs out there, including a summer with the Fresno Grizzlies, who were at the time the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. That was fun. I chauffeured the mascot around, ran the warning track in a hamster suit in between innings, drove Manny Burress’s Benz, talked softball with then-manager Steve Decker, learned about the mud used to prep baseballs, made my own variations of Powerade concoctions complete with ridiculous names, drove Billy Crystal in a golf cart, and in between game and event ops duties, acted as an assistant clubbie on the visitor’s side.  I taught activities classes and studied Sport Administration at Fresno State.  I took a Talent Development & Coaching class as an elective during my first year and in doing so, I met Dr. Wade Gilbert, a brilliant mind in the field of Sports Psychology, who became the chair of my thesis committee and helped me to design and execute a study in coaching science. The process of observing effective coaching, researching, and writing about it made me look at my profession through a different lens, and in doing so, made me feel more confident and prepared for my future in coaching than any experience I had previously. The irony was that it was the leaving that brought me back to it. Had I not, I might be doing something very different with my life. My inability (or lack of desire) to look ahead or plan my future has been of frustration to some people in my life whose role it has been to help me prepare for what is ahead. I remember butting heads with my Sport Administration professor and advisor at Fresno State over this many a time. After nearly two full years of not understanding each other, he told me that planning isn’t for me, that he understood that now, and that while he may have no idea where I’ll be in five to ten years, he knows for a fact that I will be happy. I don’t know if he realized how, in that one simple statement, he understood me completely.
As for the “otherwise”, I try to round out my professional life with adventure and exploration. It’s amazing what some fresh air and a nice view will do for a person. I’ve never been to Portland. I really want to go to Portland.

On the skill(s) she learned from playing that has benefitted her as a former player… There are so many. I think it would be that the game doesn’t care how badly you want it, how many games you won or lost previously, how long it’s been since you’ve had a hit, etc. I think you can make softball analogies for pretty much anything in life. Someone once told me that life is just like baseball: slumps and streaks. I think about that a lot. And what constitutes which? That’s a “you” thing. That’s mindset.  I heard someone else say once, “the only thing that’s fair in life is a ball between first and third”. Yeah, life’s not fair. I’m not really a “quote” person, or an unnecessary-quotes-around-a-word person – which I think I just did – but I think playing sports has taught me that getting my way isn’t the most important thing, but finding a way is. It has taught me to value process over outcome. And here comes the quote: “If you don’t like where you are, then change it. You are not a tree.”  We like to complain about things because it’s easier than changing them. Coaches are guilty of it too. I have found myself saying things like, “kids these days don’t know how to…” and then I think, I’m better than that. If I don’t like where they are, let’s change it. None of us are trees.