Saturday, August 19, 2017

Monica Abbott to Join Tennessee Hall of Fame

Tennessee legendary pitcher Monica Abbott will be one of eight ex-Vols to join the school's Hall of Fame later this year.

Image via Monica Abbott
Abbott, an Olympic gold medal winner and the program's most-heralded alum, was a four-time all-American during her time in the orange and white and was named the National Collegiate Player of the Year in 2007.

The SEC's Pitcher of the Year in three consecutive seasons from 2005-2007, Abbott also helped the Lady Vols reach the Women's College World Series in each of the same years. When her career in Knoxville ended, Abbott held four NCAA career records, including the all-time strikeouts mark with more than 2,400.

Abbott's career statistics include twenty-three no-hitters and six perfect games, as well as 189 wins in 253 career appearances. Her 724 strikeouts during the 2007 season set a single-season record; she averaged more than two strikeouts per inning through the entirety of the year.

A longtime professional player during and after her Team USA career, 2017 marked Abbott's second season with the Scrap Yard Dawgs of the National Pro Fastpitch league, where she recorded 213 strikeouts in 115 innings and registered an ERA of 1.10.

The eight-member Hall of Fame class of 2017 will be officially inducted in a ceremony on October 13th. Joining Abbott in the star-studded induction class are Todd Helton (baseball); Justin Gatlin (track and field); Philip Fulmer (football coach); Ray Bussard (swimming coach); Jeremy Linn (swimming); Delisa Walton Myricks (track and field); and General Robert Neyland (football coach & namesake of the Vols football stadium).

Friday, August 18, 2017

Arizona's Candrea Receives Contract Extension

Arizona legendary head coach Mike Candrea has agreed to a five-year contract extension that will keep him in Tucson through 2022.

Candrea has spent thirty-two seasons at the helm of the Wildcats, collecting more than 1,500 victories along the way. He boasts a .796 career winning percentage and is the all-time wins leader at the Division I level.

A 12-time conference coach of the year, Candrea's program's accolades include eleven conference championships and ninety-nine all-American players, as well as five National Players of the Year.

The head coach of the US national team in 2004 and 2008, Candrea led the Olympic squad to a gold medal in 2004 in Athens, Greece and a silver medal in Beijing, China in 2008.

Candrea's new contract will earn him a yearly salary of $345,000, vaulting him into the upper echelon of the game's highest-paid coaches. The extension also includes the implementation of performance bonuses and a vesting master limited partnership.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Kretschman, Goodacre Headline NPF Awards

Kelly Kretschman and Chelsea Goodacre of the USSSA Pride led the way at the National Pro Fastpitch awards banquet Wednesday night.

The banquet kicked off the league’s championship series week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Kretschman was named the league’s Player of the Year for the third year in a row after she hit .500 during the regular season with six home runs and nineteen RBI. Her batting average set a league record, while her .623 on-base percentage led the league this season.

Goodacre was awarded the Rawlings Gold Glove, the second softball player in history to receive the trophy. The Arizona Wildcats alum posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on the season. She recorded 208 putouts in forty-three games and seventeen assists from behind the plate for the Pride.

A third-year professional, Goodacre was one of a dozen nominees for the award. Two players from each of the league’s six teams were named as finalists for the trophy.

Monica Abbott of the Scrap Yard Dawgs was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year for the sixth time. She recorded seventeen victories on the season and was second in the league with a 1.10 ERA.

 LSU alumni Bailey Landry was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. In her first season as a pro, the Dallas Charge speedster hit .348, good enough for fourth in the league in that category. She also recorded five home runs, eighteen RBI, and eleven stolen bases.

The Pride led all of the league teams with seven players selected to the all-league team, a group that included Goodacre and Kretschman, as well as infielders Hallie Wilson and Shelby Pendley, pitchers Keilani Ricketts and Jordan Taylor, and at-large selection Sierra Romero.

Five players represented the Texas Charge on the all-league roster, despite the club finishing fifth in the league standings and missing the playoffs. Landry was joined by teammates Taylor Gadbois, Dallas Escobedo, Nadia Taylor, and Lauren Haeger.

The Chicago Bandits and Scrap Yard Dawgs placed three players each on the all-league roster. Infielders Emily Carosone, Natalie Hernandez, and Sahvanna Jaquish represented the Bandits, while the Dawgs on the team were Abbott, Allexis Bennett, and Brittany Cervantes.

Joey Arrietta’s Akron Racers placed a duo on the all-league roster in 2016 Gold Glover AJ Andrews and breakout star Shellie Robinson.

The league playoffs began on Thursday and stretch through Sunday.

Mike Roberts Named Buffalo Head Coach

Mike Roberts has been named the new head coach at Buffalo, the school announced today.

The former men's fastpitch pitcher takes over the reins of the Bulls program after two seasons as the pitching coach at Washington, where he was part of the 2017 squad that reached the Women's College World Series semifinals.

Prior to Washington, Roberts spent a single season as pitching coach at Oregon. His college coaching resume also includes a three-year stint in a similar position at Green Bay.

At Buffalo, Roberts takes over a program that went 9-46 in 2017, including a 3-21 mark in Mid-American conference play. The Bulls missed the MAC tournament with a last-place finish in the conference's six-team East division.

Graphic via Buffalo Athletics

Ole Miss Extends Mike Smith

Ole Miss and head coach Mike Smith have agreed to a contract extension that will keep the 2017 JWOS Coach of the Year in Oxford through 2021.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Smith / Photo: Ole Miss Athletics
The deal meets the state of Mississippi's maximum with the four-year extension, and lets the Rebels hold on to the coach who led them to their first-ever SEC tournament championship, NCAA tournament national seed, and Super Regional berth, all of which happened during the 2017 season.

Smith, who in 2018 will begin his fourth season in Oxford, engineered a remarkable turnaround for his squad, taking the program from a point of missing the conference tournament in 2014, the year prior to Smith's arrival, to winning the same event just three years later.

With a record of 114-67 during his time in Oxford, Smith has more than doubled his career win total at the Division 1 level, surpassing his career high, set during his time at McNeese State.

Terms of the extension are unknown at this time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Where Are They Now: Shelby Babcock

Who is she? Shelby Babcock, a former pitcher for the Arizona Wildcats.

What is she known for? Babcock was among the line of star hurlers to go through Tucson and was named to the conference's all-Freshman team in 2011. Her finest season arguably came in 2012, when she put together a 21-10 record and 164 strikeouts in 197 innings of work.

Here’s something interesting… Shelby played her high school ball at Legacy High School in Colorado. Her high school coach was Dawn Gaffin, the mother of former Tennessee star and current SEC Network analyst Rainey Gaffin.

Quotable quote: “My favorite memory from my playing career would have to be when we beat LSU to go to Supers my senior year. It was the ‘if’ game to get to super regionals. It was very intense, competitive, and we were on fire defensively and offensively. Not to mention [that] it was the last game I would ever wear my #12 University of Arizona jersey at Hillenbrand Stadium. What better way than to go out with a ‘W’?”

What’s she up to now? Since the end of her playing career, Shelby has moved back to Colorado and owns her own softball business in the Centennial State.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Atlee Addition Vaults UW to OKC Shortlist of Favorites

Even after earning a national (top eight) seed in the NCAA tournament, it could be safely assumed that the Washington Huskies still surprised some people with their Women’s College World Series berth in 2017.

Heather Tarr’s club fought their way to the tournament’s semifinals, standing as one of the last four teams playing, before ultimately begin eliminated two wins shy of the WCWS championship series.

Following the tournament, the Huskies’ lone representative on the WCWS All-Tournament team was senior Ali Aguilar. The elder statesman served as a big part of her team’s heart on many occasions, as well as a stout offensive factor and always a dynamite playmaker both at the plate and in the field.

The Huskies sported one of the most lethal infields in the game in 2017, with Taylor Van Zee, Aguilar, Sis Bates, and Kirstyn Thomas around the horn. Morganne Flores behind the plate quickly and efficiently established herself as one of the game’s best backstops and certainly the cream of the crop in the PAC-12.

Nevertheless, Aguilar remained head and shoulders above the rest, showing her senior leadership on a regular basis and coming up big for her team when they seemed to be most in need of a spark.

With college athletics comes graduation, however, and Aguilar and left fielder Casey Stangel’s collegiate careers came to an end on the field in Oklahoma City. Two prolific hitters and veterans on a young Husky club, the duo’s impactfulness left some gaping holes in the Husky batting order and defensive alignment, and caused many to wonder if Tarr’s club would be able to find the production and the right replacements in a year’s time to make a run at a return to the game’s biggest stage and challenge for a championship.

Enter Taryn Atlee.

Atlee, a former Rutgers Scarlet Knight, joined the Huskies as a transfer this offseason. Despite playing at one of the Big Ten’s most oft-struggling programs for her freshman campaign, Atlee earned first-team all-Big Ten honors in 2017, finished second in the Big Ten in hits, and recorded a .393 batting average on the year.

Instead of an incoming freshman attempting to fill Aguilar’s shoes, or reshuffling their other all-star basemen around to find the new “right combination”, Tarr now has a player that she can plug in to said gaping hole and suffer much less of a learning curve than otherwise might have been the case.

The Huskies have talent in the pitching circle, led by Taran Alvelo, who has emerged as a force to be reckoned with both in conference play and in the postseason. Flores behind the plate possesses one of the game’s best cannons, while the batting order features several potent and dangerous hitters.

Losing an all-American is never easy. But for the Huskies, their journey just got easier and that alone should put them on the fast track to a return to Oklahoma City in 2018.