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Friday, February 24, 2017

South Florida's Juli Weber Dismissed From Team

Juli Weber
Reigning American Conference Player of the Year Juli Weber has been dismissed from South Florida, according to a report from SBNation's Bulls-centric site The Daily Stampede.

Weber had led the program in several offensive categories last season, including batting average (.406) and at-bats (192). She was named the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Year and was named to the Top 50 National Player of the Year watch-list prior to this season.

The senior had seen a diminished role to begin this season, playing in just five of her team's first eleven games and recording a .125 batting average in sixteen at-bats thus far this season.

No reason has been given for Weber's departure, though in a statement to the Daily Stampede, South Florida coach Ken Eriksen did say, in part, 'This was purely a coach's decision that I felt was in the best interest of the program and the success of our team moving forward'.

Requests for comment were not immediately returned.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Where Are They Now: Amy Hooks

Photo: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services
Who is she? Amy Hooks, a former all-conference and Easton all-American catcher for the Texas Longhorns. 

What is she known for? Hooks slugged her way into the Longhorn record books during her playing career, finishing her career amongst the top ten in eight different statistical categories, including #2 all-time in home runs. She twice earned all-conference honors and in 2011 was named an Easton all-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year. She would go on to a short-lived career in the NPF with the one-and-done squad, the New York/New Jersey Comets.

Here's something interesting... Amy shares... "Something that a lot of people don't know is [that] I had the opportunity and privilege to play in the FCA vs. the Wounded Warriors game. It was an experience of a lifetime. The guys were awesome... they have seen and been through a lot serving our country and keeping us safe! To be able to practice with them and get to know them before the game is something [that] I will never forget."

Quotable quote: “My advice would be work hard every day and never take the game or the opportunity the game has given you for granted. Your four years will go faster than you think. Keep the passion and grit from when you were younger and the game will reward you in ways you would never expect.”

What's she up to now? In 2017, Hooks begins her fifth season as an Assistant Coach at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where she works with the Lady Demon catchers; hitters; and defense.

Keep up: You can find Amy and Northwestern State softball on Twitter @AmyHooks10 and @NSUDemonsSB, respectively.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When Coaches Speak: Grading the Hires

(When Coaches Speak is a series of articles where active coaches will give their thoughts on their own teams, as well as current happenings in the game and offer thoughts on their peers, always in their own words.)

I spoke to quite a number of coaches throughout this offseason. Many of them were not for specific articles or anything in particular, but merely a "shoot the breeze" conversation prior to the season's start.

As part of many of these conversations, I gave these coaches the opportunity to chime in with their thoughts on the head coaching changes of the offseason. I asked them which move they liked the most, which move they didn't like, and which new coach they found the most interesting and intriguing.

Each coach was guaranteed anonymity in exchange for his/her open and honest thoughts. Coaches had to receive more than three votes to be listed.

The Good Hires, according to a tabulation of more than 100 coaches' votes.
Jamie Trachsel, Iowa State - 32 votes
Trisha Ford, Arizona State - 27 votes
Robert Wagner, South Dakota - 15 votes
James DeFeo, George Washington - 9 votes
Pete D'Amour, Kennesaw State - 5 votes

Trachsel and Ford were popular choices in this category across the board - several coaches who ultimately cast their votes for another coach often mentioned the Cyclones or Sun Devils' new leaders.

Interestingly enough, Trachsel; Ford; DeFeo; and Wagner all took their new positions in a parallel move from another head coaching position. Trachsel had been co-head coach at North Dakota State, while DeFeo was previously head coach at Mercer and Wagner spent the 2016 season as the co-interim head coach at Arizona State. Ford moved to Arizona State after serving as head coach at Fresno State.

The Bad Hires, according to a tabulation of more than 100 coaches' votes.
Boo De Oliveira, Purdue - 43 votes
Nikki Palmer, UC-Riverside - 21 votes
Joanna Hardin, Virginia - 11 votes
James Landreneau, McNeese State - 7 votes
Linda Garza, Fresno State - 6 votes

Former Arizona State and Arkansas assistant De Oliveira (nee Gillette) was a frequent mention on this side of the voting. One coach noted the list of reported finalists for the position, including DJ Sanchez who ultimately wound up at Omaha and Scott Hall of Butler and questioned "hiring an unproven assistant coach instead of those candidates."

Palmer and her 45-126 career record moving to Riverside, California was a move that received a lot of discussion among the coaches polled.

The "Interesting" Hires, according to a tabulation of more than 100 coaches' votes.
Robert Wagner, South Dakota - 22 votes
Trisha Ford, Arizona State - 15 votes
DJ Sanchez, Omaha - 13 votes
Lynn Curylo, UIC - 10 votes
Brian Levin, Belmont - 8 votes
Joanna Hardin, Virginia - 8 votes
Pete D'Amour, Kennesaw State - 5 votes
Boo De Oliveira, Purdue - 4 votes

Nearly every coach hired this offseason - 27 of 30 - received at least one vote in this category. Wagner, the former Arizona State interim co-head coach moving to the chilly climate of South Dakota and taking over a program that was not on a downward slope was a move that intrigued many coaches. One coach said that he "expected good things" from the Coyotes, but wanted to reserve a final opinion until they saw the on-field product.

Ford moving from Fresno State to Arizona State and DJ Sanchez, an in-demand candidate for multiple positions this offseason, both were popular choices in this category. Multiple coaches expressed that they were more interested in how well Ford would do in her new location more than if she would.

Lynn Curylo rejoining her alma mater of UIC from a previously-solid position leading Wright State was another move that earned a lot of votes for "most intriguing". After success leading Wright State and an unplanned departure this offseason, the consensus opinion among the coaches polled was an expectation of success in Chicago, as well.

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Our annual Justin's World of Softball Coaching Grades will be released later this week. Be sure to check back to see what our experts think. Do they agree with the coaches' choices?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Weekend Roundup: Landry Earns Player of the Week Honors

NEWS:

  • Southern Illinois head coach Kerri Blaylock earned her 600th career victory.
  • Dayton's Gabrielle Snyder set the program's career doubles record.
  • St. John's pitcher Tori Free recorded her 500th career strikeout on Friday.
  • In a holdover note from last weekend, SIU-Edwardsville pitcher Haley Chambers-Book set the program's career strikeout record.
  • D2: Carson-Newman head coach Vickie Kazee-Hollifield earned her 1,100th career victory.
  • D2: Former St. Edward's standout Lexi Stephens Hagen (c/o 2011) was inducted into the school's athletics Hall of Fame this weekend.
  • D2: Kutztown head coach Judy Lawes earned her 900th career victory.
  • Congratulations to the ladies on this week's (and 2017's inaugural) edition of the No-No Express:
    • Trystan Melancon, Houston
    • Megan Landry, Nicholls State
    • Carley Hoover, LSU
    • Kamalani Dung, Fresno State
    • Taylor Rahach, Coastal Carolina
    • Ketarah Devries, Saint Francis
    • Kerisa Viramontes, BYU
    • Morgan Florey, Evansville
    • Lauren Quense, Fordham

KATIYANA MAUGA HOME RUN TRACKER


WORTH READING:
An incredible story from the Detroit News on Michigan C Aidan Falk, sisterly love, and the gift of life. Find it here.


JWOS POWER RANKINGS:
  1. Florida State 
  2. Florida 
  3. Oklahoma
  4. UCLA
  5. Minnesota
  6. Arizona
  7. Louisiana-Lafayette
  8. LSU 
  9. Alabama
  10. Georgia 
  11. Auburn 
  12. Oregon
  13. James Madison 
  14. Tennessee 
  15. Washington 
  16. Michigan 
  17. Texas A&M
  18. Arizona State
  19. Wisconsin 
  20. Pittsburgh 
  21. Utah 
  22. Kentucky 
  23. BYU 
  24. South Florida 
  25. Notre Dame 
  26. California 
  27. Ole Miss 
  28. Florida Atlantic
  29. Baylor
  30. Ohio State
  31. USC-Upstate 
  32. Arkansas 
  33. Illinois 
  34. Virginia Tech 
  35. Nebraska



PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK:
Haley Chambers-Book, SIU-Edwardsville --- The senior pitcher, still in the infancy of her return after a year's hiatus, was back to her old self against Auburn in Auburn Thursday. She threw more than seven innings, allowing just five hits to the defending SEC champs and striking out seven. Though she ultimately took the loss, Chambers-Book held the Tigers offense frequently at bay. Chambers-Book added an RBI single on offense, to boot.

Kelly Christner, Michigan --- The Wolverine senior outfielder had quite the day in a blowout, shutout against North Carolina State on Friday. She hit three long balls in the offensive onslaught, starting her way on a weekend that ultimately saw her drive in eleven runs in total in her team's quartet of games.

Sami Williams, Iowa State --- The Cyclones are off to one of their best starts in recent memory and are actually winning games; Williams had a large hand in her team's successful week this weekend. The freshman clubbed her way to a .429 batting average over the weekend, knocking three home runs over the fence and driving in nine runs. She helped lead her team to a 5-0 weekend record and now leads her program with a .889 slugging percentage.

Alyssa Palomino, Arizona --- Palomino didn't play like a redshirt freshman this weekend, batting at a .421 clip while helping lead her team to a 6-0 record at home over the weekend. The young Wildcat hit the first home run of her career in Tucson, and promptly followed the long ball up with two more. She drove in eleven runs on the weekend, giving her the new team lead in that category.


PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

BAILEY LANDRY, LSU --- The Bayou Bengals outfielder posted an unreal .833 batting average through her team's four games over the weekend and did not record an out in three of the four games. Along the way, the senior recorded five extra base hits, including two doubles, two triples, and a home run - her first of the season - and drove in ten runs.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Weekend Primer: Mary Nutter Classic I

Participants: Sixteen teams (Arkansas, California, Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge, Illinois, Kent State, Kentucky, Liberty, Loyola Marymount, Oregon, San Diego, St. Mary's, UC Davis, UCF, UCLA, Utah Valley)

Venue/Location: The Mary Nutter Classic is held at the Big League Dreams Complex, a series of five fields in Cathedral City (Palm Springs), California. 

Tournament style: At-large format; most teams play 4-5 games, each against different opponents

Schedule: Thanks to weather conditions, the schedule for the Friday slate of games has changed. Find the updated schedule here. For Saturday's and Sunday's schedule of games, click here to be redirected to the tournament website.

Social media: Tournament organizers maintain an active presence on both Twitter and Facebook under the tournament name.

Matchups to Watch:
4. Arkansas v. Kent State (Sunday, 9 am PT)
Arkansas senior slugger Nicole Schroeder enjoyed her school's first conference Player of the Week honors in three years after a three-homer weekend to start off her season. Kent State's senior hurler Ronnie Ladines pitched herself to a 1.47 ERA in fourteen innings over opening weekend, allowing just three runs. On the offensive side of the ball for the Golden Flashes, Holly Speers and Maddy Grimm hit .429 with a combined four home runs and twenty RBI.

3. Arkansas v. Illinois (Saturday, 12 pm PT)
The Hogs will face the Big 10's Illini on Saturday afternoon and the matchup to watch here is are the Illini's top hitters - Nicole Evans, Annie Fleming, and Maddi Doane, all sporting .600+ batting averages - against the Razorback pitching that did not allow an earned run through opening weekend.

2. Kentucky v. Oregon (Friday, 12:30 pm PT)
Fresh off an extra-inning victory over UCLA, the Wildcats look to rebound from an opening weekend that saw them take a pair of losses to Pittsburgh. The Wildcat hurlers, particularly Meagan Prince and Larissa Spellman, have impressed thus far this season; Prince leads the team with a 1.80 ERA while Spellman's batting average against of an even .200 is an impressive number. The Duck pitching staff has a cumulative ERA of 0.88, a feat even bettered by Megan Kleist's 0.00 number and freshman Maggie Balint's 0.36 mark. Opponents are hitting below .180 against each.

1. UCLA v. Cal Poly (Friday, 12:30 pm PT)
In what some are calling the 'Game of the Week', Cal Poly and breakout senior hurler Sierra Hyland will take on UCLA in one of the tournament's first games on Friday. With the latter portion of the tournament still up in the air, it's a good thing this game is scheduled for opening day. If Hyland can do to the Bruin hitters anything close to what she did to Purdue and Creighton last weekend, she'll put herself in the front runner's seat already for National Player of the Year.

Mary Nutter Classic Announces Friday Schedule Change

With the first weekend of the 2017 Mary Nutter Classic upon us, but weather conditions threatening to put a damper on one of the sport's favorite tournaments, the event organizers have announced a change in schedule for Friday's games.

The fifteen games originally scheduled for Friday will take place on all five available fields at the tournament location, in three different time blocks. The games will be played at 10, 12:30, and 3 pm, Pacific time.

Event organizers advised that the schedule for Saturday and Sunday, while subject to change, has not been changed as of press time.

For the full, updated Friday schedule, see below:


Waving the Flag

One of college football’s craziest, zaniest, most cherished traditions involves the simple waving of a flag, and the tradition would never have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for one former softball player.

College GameDay has been a college football institution since the mid-80s. The show has gone through its share of analysts, hosts, and reporters, but some things remain constant - the showcasing of rabid fandom; the highlighting of some of the sport's most electric environments; and Ol’ Crimson, the Washington State University flag.

Keep a close eye on the show any fall Saturday and you’re sure to spot the white cougar on a field of crimson, billowing in the wind or being waved back and forth by a dedicated soul. Ol' Crimson's first appearance came in the fall of 2003 – some Cougar fans (the cougar being the Washington State mascot) brought their school’s flag to the show, hoping it might help play a role in getting GameDay to broadcast from their home stadium in Pullman, Washington.

A group of Cougar fans had gotten together in an online forum, “CougFan”, and were using the site as the jumping-off point for the new flag-waving campaign. The tradition was only a few weeks old when GameDay announced they were headed to Bowling Green, Ohio. The CougFan network – and the internet as a whole – wasn’t as developed back in the day, so longtime Washington State fan John Bley placed a call to his daughter.

Amanda Bley was a member of the Detroit Titans softball team at the time; just roughly an hour and a half away from Bowling Green, she was given the instruction to be the token flag bearer for the weekend.

“I grabbed Kari [Messina, then the Titans first baseman] who is 6’1” and our friend and first baseman Tim Poley, also well over 6’, and [we] hit the road,” Amanda says. “I didn’t know what we were doing, but if it involved waving a flag on TV, I figured it would be good to bring tall people.”

The trio headed to Bowling Green and set up shop. While her height-blessed compatriots waved the flag, Amanda stayed on the phone with her father, making sure the group was fulfilling their task.

“Dad reported we were [being seen on television] but asked if we could get closer,” Amanda shares. “Kari being Kari, [she] took the flag down, we formed a line around the flag, and we headed into the crowd. Picture ancient warriors operating a battering ram!”

Now a civil attorney and back in Washington state, Amanda says that the tradition has stuck with her, even though she has not had an opportunity to participate since then. “I’ve had judges recognize my last name and ask me if I’m related to John Bley with ‘the flag waving thing’,” Amanda says.

The waving of Ol’ Crimson should reach its two hundredth consecutive GameDay appearance during the 2017 college football season.