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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Monica Abbot Signs Six-Year Deal w/ Scrap Yard Dawgs

Monica Abbott, widely considered the best active pitcher in the game, has signed a six-year free-agent contract, a "million-dollar deal", with the Scrap Yard Dawgs, the newest expansion team in the National Pro Fastpitch league.

Abbott, 30, has pitched for the Chicago Bandits for the last five seasons, and the Dawgs will be her fifth NPF team overall since entering the league in 2007. She took the 2008 season off to participate in the Olympics as a member of Team USA.

A Tennessee Lady Vol from 2004-2007, Abbott cemented her status as the program's living legend when she ended her career with 189 career wins, an ERA of 0.79, and 2,440 career strikeouts. She ended her collegiate career as the NCAA's all-time leader in six categories, including wins, strikeouts, shutouts, and innings pitched, among others. She was named the National Player of the Year in 2007.

Abbott led the NPF in 2015 with an 0.31 ERA and her thirteen wins were second in the league. She allowed only thirty-two hits in 90.1 innings of work, striking out 149 over the same period of time. Her dominance was integral in the Bandits' taking home the Cowles Cup as the league champions.

The six-year deal is structured interestingly to fit within the league's $150,000 salary cap. Abbott's base salary will annually be $20,000, with the rest of the $1,000,000 sum being filled through various bonuses based on attendance numbers. The league's attendance fluctuate based on many different factors, including at various venues, but various news outlets have reported a minimum of 100 fans in attendance triggers many of the bonuses, as do several other factors.

Abbott will turn thirty-seven in the midst of the final year of the contract, which stretches to 2021. As Graham Hays of ESPNW noted, the deal seems to be particularly structured toward allowing Abbott's return to international competition should softball be re-allowed into the Olympics for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

The signing makes Abbott the fourth former Lady Vol to join the Dawgs for their first season of play, joining fellow former Tennessee stars Ivy & Ellen Renfroe and Madison Shipman.

The timing of the contract's announcement is interesting, as well, as the Bandits had placed the franchise tag on Abbott to allow for exclusive negotiation up to the tag's expiration on May 1. That the contract with such intricately-woven language would be finalized in such a short period of time is intriguing. The Dawgs will have to forfeit their 2017 first-round draft selection to the Bandits due to signing the tagged player.

Marist Freshman Oberdorf Impresses From the Court to the Diamond

The Marist Red Foxes are in the midst of their finest softball season in recent memory. Favorited in the conference tournament as that time of year nears, there are a few places credit for the program's surge can be applied. No player has made more of an impact, though, than freshman Claire Oberdorf.


Photo courtesy Marist Athletics
The rookie out of Greensburg, Pennsylvania came into this season without having spent much time on the field, and had to replace her sneakers for cleats. After spending the entire basketball season with the Red Foxes' women's basketball team, the two-sport star joined the softball team and has been a most welcome addition.


Oberdorf started all thirty-two basketball games in the 2015-2016 season, one of just three Red Fox players to do so. She averaged just under 4.5 points and right at 3.0 rebounds per game. The starting point guard at season's end, Oberdorf says time management is the only drawback to being a two-sport collegiate star.

"The only challenge I have faced by playing two sports at the Division 1 level is time management. I have been able to keep good grades and get all my work done on time. Sometimes it gets stressful, but I have done my best to get everything done."

Claire is the younger of two Oberdorfs on the softball team; older sister Jayne is a junior pitcher in the midst of a solid campaign in her own right. “Being able to play with my sister is so much fun," Claire says. "I love being in the field behind her while she’s pitching. It is always good to know we are both here to push each other to make us better."


Photo courtesy Marist Athletics
The Red Foxes are in the midst of a seventeen-game winning streak, having taken home the W in twenty-seven of their last twenty-eight matchups. No player has been more integral to her team's success down the stretch than Claire Oberdorf; before this weekend's series, she sports a .432 batting average and .703 slugging percentage with five home runs, thirty-four RBI, and fifteen stolen bases. Her batting average is fifty-six points higher than her nearest teammate in that category and ranks 38th nationally.

While playing multiple sports at the Division I level is not without its challenges, Claire sees many a positive side to it, as well; "Basketball conditioning kept me sharp even with being away from softball for quite some time. Being in shape from basketball has made the transition a lot easier. That’s the bonus of playing two sports because you transition right into the other and staying in shape gives me an edge early on in the seasons."

Already announced as a top-25 finalist for Freshman of the Year, Oberdorf is one of the most exciting young players to come out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in some time and, having already made her mark on the Marist program, is undoubtedly a future national name, both on the court and inside the foul lines.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Prep Game Turns Into Offensive Onslaught, Record-Setting Affair

A late-season game between two Illinois high schools wound up making national headlines after an offensive onslaught and numerous record-breaking performances.


The game between the Peoria Lions and Manual Rams matched or upended eighteen different Illinois state records. Swiped bags were a popular occurrence as one of the newly-set records was the mark of forty stolen bases in the game by Peoria alone! Twelve steals in the bottom of the first and nine stolen bags from Abby Carlton added to the Lions' bag of records.

For their part, the Rams swiped eighteen bases, including eleven in their part of the second inning alone.

Manual's Monique Miller earned six walks for her own record-setting performance.

The game ended in a 29-28 victory for Peoria, ended the team's thirty-seven-game losing streak. The Lions had twenty hits in the game, though none of them were for extra bases.

In the circle, Manual's Alexis Randle, who ultimately took the loss, threw 244 pitches, while Peoria's Chasity Alexander threw 210.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Top 25 Finalists Announced for Division II Player of the Year

The second-annual Division II National Player of the Year award will be handed out in 2016 and the top twenty-five finalists who will vie to receive it have been announced.

Twenty-two Division II programs are represented by at least a single player on the list, as well as fifteen conferences. Humboldt State with three and North Georgia with a pair were the only teams to place more than one player on the list of finalists.



Notable names on the list include national headline-grabbers Morgan Foley of Indianapolis and Hannah Perryman of Missouri-St. Louis, as well as the award's inaugural winner in 2015, North Georgia's Courtney Poole. The list is comprised of fourteen seniors; six juniors; and five sophomores.

The current list of twenty-five will be narrowed down to the top ten finalists on May 6, with the final trio named on May 12 and the National Player of the Year trophy being awarded on May 17.


The full list of finalists can be found below:



Stephanie Adkins
Pitcher
Saint Leo
Kaitlyn Bannister
Third Base
Alabama-Huntsville 
Janessa Bassett 
Outfield
Dixie State 
Lyndsay Butler
Pitcher/Outfield
Wayne State (Mich.)
Morgan Foley
Pitcher
Indianapolis
Ally Foster
Utility
Bellarmine
Brooke Goad
Outfield
Southern Arkansas
Stephanie Hartness
Outfield
North Georgia
Haley Hodges
Catcher/Infield
Southern Indiana
Hanna Holland
Outfield
Humboldt State
Courtney Iacobacci
Outfield
Fairmont State
Makayla Kovac
Shortstop
Colorado Mesa
Lexi Loos
Outfield
Wayne State (Neb.)
Brenna Martini
Third Base
Adelphi
Katie Obemma
Pitcher
Humboldt State
Hannah Perryman
Pitcher
Missouri-St. Louis
Courtney Poole
Pitcher
North Georgia
Kiley Rusen 
First Base
Valdosta State
Jessica Simmons
Second Base
SE Oklahoma State
Lacey Taylor
Catcher
West Texas A&M
Carley Tysinger
Pitcher
Catawba
Kelsey Vining
Outfield
Montevallo
Katelyn Vinson
Third Base
Midwestern State
Madison Williams 
Pitcher
Humboldt State
Kat Zabielski
First Base
NYIT

Monday, May 2, 2016

Weekend Roundup

NEWS:
  • Oregon senior Janelle Lindvall set the program's all-time career RBI record.
  • Texas coach Connie Clark earned her 800th career win.
  • Northwestern coach Kate Drohan earned her 500th career win.
  • Georgia State head coach Roger Kincaid earned his 200th career win.
  • Kennesaw State's Taylor Denton tied the program's career stolen bases record.
  • UMKC's Katie Kelley set the program's career doubles record.
  • Charlotte's Lexi Betancourt set the program's career pitching wins record.
  • Baylor senior Linsey Hays set the program's career doubles record.
  • Congrats to this week's members of the No-No Express:
    • Devin Brown, South Alabama (5.0 IP, 11 SO, vs. Kennesaw State)


KELSEY STEWART HIT TRACKER
The Florida Gators' second baseman comes into the season 113 hits away from the career NCAA record. We will track her progress weekly.

Original photo: Tim Casey/Florida Communications


UPSET ALERT: Ranked teams that suffered losses this week.
- #1 Florida - Lost to #22 Texas A&M 6-4
- #4 Alabama - Lost to #28 South Carolina 2-1
- #5 Auburn - Lost to #13 Tennessee 10-2 (5); Lost to #13 Tennessee 12-1 (5)
- #6 James Madison - Lost to #123 Elon 5-4 (15)
- #8 Washington - Lost to #24 Utah 6-5
- #10 Louisiana-Lafayette - Lost to #99 Georgia Southern 2-0
- #17 South Florida - Lost to #29 UCF 9-0; Lost to #29 UCF 5-3
- #19 Georgia - Lost to #30 Ole Miss 1-0
- #20 Arizona - Lost to #16 UCLA 8-7; SWEPT by #7 Oregon 2-0, 7-0, 8-0 (5)
- #22 Texas A&M - Lost to #1 Florida 14-3 (6); Lost to #1 Florida 7-3
- #24 Utah - Lost to #8 Washington 6-0; Lost to #8 Washington 8-0 (6)
- #25 Notre Dame - Lost to #37 North Carolina 7-6; Lost to #50 Louisville 8-3


WORTH WATCHING: Excellent defense by Mississippi State defensive wizard Kayla Winkfield



WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Monday, May 2:
     Auburn vs. Tennessee - SEC Network @ 7:00 pm ET
Wednesday, May 4:
     Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN3.com @ 5:00 pm ET
     North Texas vs. Texas - Longhorn Network @ 6:00 pm ET.
Friday, May 6:
     Ball State vs. Toledo - ESPN3.com @ 3:00 pm ET 
     Oklahoma State vs. Kansas - ESPN3.com @ 6:00 pm ET 
     Arkansas vs. Florida - SEC Network+ @ 6:00 pm ET 
     Texas A&M vs. Auburn - SEC Network+ @ 7:00 pm ET 
     Tennessee vs. Ole Miss - SEC Network+ @ 7:00 pm ET 
     Georgia vs. Alabama - SEC Network+ @ 7:30 pm ET 
     South Carolina vs. Missouri - SEC Network+ @ 7:30 pm ET
Saturday, May 7:
     Georgia vs. Alabama - ESPN @ 12:00 pm ET 
     Seton Hall vs. St. John's - ESPN3.com @ 12:00 pm ET 
     Mississippi State vs. Kentucky - SEC Network+ @ 12:00 pm ET 
     Arkansas vs. Florida - ESPNU @ 1:00 pm ET 
     Tennessee vs. Ole Miss - SEC Network @ 1:00 pm ET 
     North Carolina State vs. Notre Dame - ESPN3.com @ 3:00 pm ET 
     Louisiana-Monroe vs. Louisiana-Lafayette - ESPN3.com @ 3:00 & 5:30 pm ET 
     Louisville vs. Florida State - ESPN3.com @ 4:00 & 6:00 pm ET 
     Washington vs. LSU - SEC Network+ @ 5:00 & 7:30 pm ET 
Sunday, May 8:
     Louisville vs. Florida State - ESPN3.com @ 12:00 pm ET 
     Mississippi State vs. Kentucky - SEC Network+ @ 1:00 pm ET 
     North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech - ESPN3.com @ 1:00 pm ET
     Arkansas vs. Florida - SEC Network+ @ 1:00 pm ET 
     South Carolina vs. Missouri - SEC Network+ @ 1:30 pm ET 
     Washington vs. LSU - SEC Network+ 1:30 pm ET 
     Tennessee vs. Ole Miss - SEC Network+ 1:30 pm ET 
     Georgia vs. Alabama - SEC Network+ @ 2:00 pm ET 
     Texas A&M vs. Auburn - SEC Network+ @ 2:00 pm ET 
     North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech - ESPN3.com @ 3:00 pm ET


PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK:
  • Shelby Friudenberg, Baylor - The Slugging Sophomore of Waco put together another power show in a three-game sweep of Texas Tech where the Bears offense showed out. For her part, Friudenberg hit .400 on the weekend with three home runs and nine RBI. Couple the weekend with a midweek performance that added another dinger and two RBI to her total and she collected a nice quartet of home runs, with eleven RBI in all to go with them.
  • Holiday Cahill, Towson - The Tigers' junior first baseman put on a power show all her own in her team's series-ender against Delaware on Sunday. In three trips to the plate, Cahill hit three home runs. Earning at-bats in the 3rd, 5th, and 6th innings, she took the Blue Hen pitchers deep each time, gathering a school-record seven RBIs along the way. She sits second all-time in the program's record books for home runs and both her three home runs and seven RBI are new Tiger single-game records.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where Are They Now: Maggie Hull

Who is she? Maggie Hull, a former all-American outfielder and record holder for the Kansas Jayhawks.

(c) Kansas Athletics
What is she known for? Hull was an outfield stalwart and a steady bat in the lineup for four years at KU.... in her senior season, she led three statistical categories and ranked in the top ten in six others. Upon her graduation, she held the Jayhawk program's career batting average record as well as the single-season mark of .456 among others. She was three times named to the all-conference team;  twice all-region; and finally was awarded all-American honors in her senior season of 2013. Following her senior season, she joined the Chicago Bandits of the NPF as their 11th-overall selection in the 2013 draft.

Here's something interesting... At KU, Maggie played all four years with her twin sister, Rosie. The identical twins were both outfielders and were named to the Academic all-Big 12 First Team each of the final three years of their careers... Maggie also is a writer and runs her own website, "Competing for His Glory". Her site contains first-hand takes on many aspects from Maggie's life, including as a student-athlete, pro athlete, coach, wife, and Christian.


Quotable quote: "In my post-playing life, I try to commit fully and whole-heartedly to any task at hand, not letting the fear of failure paralyze me, yet embracing the process and knowing that God uses the hard times and the failures to refine me, mature me, and transform me into the woman that He created me to be."


What's she up to now? After her playing career ended following her rookie season with the Bandits, Maggie is back in Lawrence, home of the Jayhawks. Now Maggie Hull-Tietz following her marriage, she and her husband Kevin are part of the Young Life College ministry at KU. Kevin is a full-time staff member while Maggie works in a variety of roles and right now is a volunteer.


In addition to her ministry opportunities, Maggie works part-time as a TV Analyst for ESPN3.com and other networks and recently accepted the position of Director of Softball Operations for the Jayhawks softball team, a job she’ll start on June 1st of this year!

Keep up: You can find Maggie on Twitter @maggietietz
 or via her website, competingforhisglory.com

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Madison Shipman Steps Into Justin's World for Team COMBAT

Madison Shipman is one of the best-known names to reach the National Pro Fastpitch league in recent history. The three-time all-American is already cemented among the lore of Lady Vol legends.

(c) Kevin Gregory
Shipman's senior season of 2014 was undoubtedly a stellar climax and fitting end to her collegiate career. At various points in the postseason, she earned the Honda Sports Award; the Senior CLASS Award; was named SEC Player of the Year, as well as first-team all-Conference and all-American.

Drafted #2 overall by the Pride following said stellar season, Shipman rode her hot streak into her pro career with a .344 batting average and five home runs en route to Rookie of the Year honors.

In a move to free up some roster space just prior to this year's draft, Shipman and fellow infielder Brigette Del Ponte were shipped from the Pride to the team's rookie franchise, the Scrap Yard Dawgs.

Now the first base coach for the Lady Vols, back to her alma mater, Shipman has become a cult favorite for her tradition of handing out Skittles to every runner that reaches first base.

Having recently come out with her own product line under the COMBAT brand, Shipman dished on her partnership with the company; her Skittles dispensary; and her time in the NPF. Be sure to read past the interview for our thoughts on one of the Shipman-monikered bats.

Justin’s World: What are your long-term plans when it comes to playing in the NPF? Is it something you could see yourself doing long-term?
Madison Shipman: As of today, I want to play softball as long as my body will allow me to. I love the game and I can't imagine stopping anytime soon! 

Justin’s World: Talk to me about your coaching career - obviously, you're still at UT, but do you intend to coach collegiately long-term, possibly even as a head coach at some point? What are your aspirations in that aspect of your career?
Madison Shipman: I decided to volunteer coach last year just to try it out and I ended up really enjoying it! I can definitely see myself coaching long-term. It allows me to be competitive in a way other than just playing on the field. 

Justin’s World: I'd be remiss not to ask you about the now-famous Skittles. Where did the idea for that incentive come from? Were you surprised when it caught the fan-fueled fire that it did and became such a well-known thing, even being mentioned often on TV broadcasts?
Madison Shipman: I actually got the idea from Karen [Weekly] She used to hand out M&M's when she coached first base. I decided to bring back that tradition but with my own flare: Skittles! I figured they wouldn't melt in my pocket during the hot, spring days. I was definitely surprised when I found out how much it had been talked about. I originally did it to change things up a little and give the team an immediate reward when they did something well. You won't believe how many bags of Skittles I went through during the season!

Justin’s World: What factors led to your desire to sign an endorsement deal with Combat, especially as an exclusive partner for your brand?
Madison Shipman: When I was younger, I used to swing the Lisa Fernandez bat and ever since then, I have been determined to have a bat with my name on it. Combat gave me that opportunity and I could not be more ecstatic. Combat bats are known for their power and that's definitely something I wanted to incorporate in my own bat. 

Justin’s World: When it came time to design the Shipman bat line, how much input did you have into the design and creation of the bats? What were some features that you wanted to make sure were part of the line?
Madison Shipman: I was there from the beginning! I wanted a bat that would stand out among others and had a lot of different color options. I have always been a fan of one-piece bats. I like how even they feel throughout the swing. I wanted to make sure that this was a bat that was powerful, yet easy to handle. 

Justin’s World: What are your eventual plans or hopes to increase your brand in the future, including with other merchandise and beyond?
Madison Shipman: I want to expand to create bat bags, batting gloves and hopefully my own fielding glove! 

Justin’s World: I'd love to get your thoughts on the NPF's expansion with a sixth league franchise.
Madison Shipman: I think the addition of the Scrap Yard Dawgs just shows how much the league is growing. It's amazing to see how much the league has grown in the two years that I have been a part of it. I love that it gives softball players a chance to continue their playing careers after college.