Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three Softballers Among Finalists for NCAA Woman of the Year

Three softball players have been named part of a group of nine finalists for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award. Spanning all three divisions and all sports, four qualities (academics, athletics, community services, and leadership) are examined to determine the nominees and the eventual winner.
(L-R) Bast, Vrazel, Light

Softball is the only sport to be represented more than once among the finalists. The three young ladies representing the sport also represent all three divisions of the NCAA.

Marisa Bast of Northwestern represent D1 softball. An All-American and three-time all-conference selection, she was also a three-time all-conference-academic choice. More on Bast from the NCAA release: "Marisa Bast, a softball student-athlete at Northwestern University, served for three years on her campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Her senior year, Bast spearheaded the launch of an ongoing anti-bullying campaign, Reach Out and Reinforce Respect (ROARR), which pairs Northwestern student-athletes with local middle and elementary schools to advocate against bullying.

Bast was named three times to the Academic All-Big Ten team and was a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. She was nominated for the Senior CLASS Award, and received the Eggemeyer Family Endowed Scholarship and Walter K. Smart Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded to a junior or senior student-athlete to recognize devoted interest in college athletics."

Bailey Vrazel of the TWU Pioneers represenst the sport at the Division II level. A three-time All-American, which includes two first-team nods, Vrazel also holds two Golden Shoe Awards, marking her as the nation's leading base stealer in two different seasons. More on Vrazel, also courtesy of the NCAA: "A three-year captain for the softball team, Bailey Vrazel led her peers off the field as well. She participated for three years on the Texas Woman’s University campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, while coaching a 16U softball team, volunteering with the Brazosport Regional Medical Center Physical Therapy group, the Good Samaritan Nursing Home and the Angleton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center. Vrazel joined the Athenian Honor Society and was named the 2013 Honors Student-Athlete of the Year.
The kinesiology major plans to pursue a higher degree in physical therapy. She graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was named every semester to the Chancellor’s list, which recognizes students with a 4.0 average. For three straight years, she won the Texas Woman’s University Chancellor’s Award, the highest accolade given to a student-athlete recognizing excellence in sports, the classroom, and the promotion of athletics. Vrazel was also recognized by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association with All-America Scholar honors three times. She received the Division II Athletics Directors Association Academic Achievement Award three times, and was selected as the 2013 recipient of the Division II softball Elite 89 Award. She went on to win the 2014 Texas Woman’s University Outstanding Senior Award, in recognition of her academic excellence, involvement in extracurricular activities and contributions to the life of the university. She received multiple Academic All-America honors, and received the 2014 NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Postgraduate Scholarship. She rounded out her academic accolades as the 2014 Capital One All-America of the Year for softball."

Megan Light of Emory University is the third softballer nominated for the award. Light is also a three-time All-American; five school records and a Team USA representation are also on her resume. For more on Light, let's turn to the NCAA one more time: "A two-year softball team captain for Emory University, Megan Light established herself as a campus leader both on and off the field. She served four years as the softball team’s representative on Emory’s campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Off the field, she volunteered at a homeless shelter and Global Health Action, where she worked with donors on the Left-Behind Children program in China.
Light earned two Capital One Academic All-America honors and made the dean’s list every semester. Light was a recipient of Emory’s Brittain Award, Emory’s highest student honor, which recognizes a graduate who has demonstrated exemplary service to the university and the greater community. She was also named to the Mortar Board Senior Honors Society, which recognizes 50 seniors based on leadership, scholarship and service, and was the 2010 Atlanta Sports Award Female Scholar Athlete of the Year. She went on to earn the 2014 Charles Shepard Scholarship as she pursues her graduate degree."

Monday, September 29, 2014

ANNOUNCING: Brittany Cervantes Twitter Chat

We are incredibly, supremely excited to make this announcement. This is the first in our series of #AskAPro Twitter chats.

Former Kentucky Wildcats & Chicago Bandits star slugger Brittany Cervantes will be joining Justin's World for a LIVE Twitter chat THIS Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm!

She'll answer our questions, but the success of this venture depends on YOU! Tweet your questions on any topic - whether it be her career, tips for on-field success, or her favorite movies - using the hashtag #YouGotCerved and your question just might get answered on Friday afternoon!

If you are able, be sure to tune in to the live chat on Friday @ 3. And in the time between now and then, spread this flier around on social media! Brittany will stick around for about an hour, so there's plenty of time to answer all of your questions!

News and Tidbits - 9/29

  • Ashley Dobbe, who played for the Virginia  Tech Hokies around the turn of the century, will be one of the newest inductees into her school's Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the end of October. Dobbe was a conference Rookie of the Year in 1999 and still ranks highly in several of the school's pitching statistical categories. 
  • Legendary Hofstra head coach Bill Edwards, who led the program for twenty-five years before retiring this past May, will be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015. The announcement was a bit of surprise when it was made by the school's Athletic Director Jeffrey Hathaway. A "commemorative banner" will also be added alongside the program's retired numbers along the outfield wall, to honor Edwards.
  • In the third and final Hall of Fame announcement in this Roundup, former Arizona State Sun Devil Kara Brun will be inducted into her school's HOF in October; her enshrinement class also includes the LA Dodgers' Andre Ethier. Brun played for the Sun Devils right after the turn of the century, and immediately put her mark on the program's offensive record book, where it can still be seen today. Brun was an all-conference selection as well as an Academic All-American and a National Player of the Year finalist in her junior year.
  • Jessica Allister's Minnesota Golden Gophers squad added a new member - 6-year-old Maisy Martindale, a youngster from Elk River, Minnesota. Read more about the team's "signing" of Maisy and Team Impact, the organization behind it all, by clicking here (video included).

Though this is usually a regular-season only feature, after coming across this pic in a slideshow yesterday, it was too great not to share! Take a look at Auburn alum Lauren Guzman giving 100% in effort to make the tag... while wearing shorts in a friendly alumni vs. current team game. That's dedication and competitiveness right there!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kristi Boreing Steps Into Justin's World

Where do softball and traditional Gospel music meet? In the home of today’s featured player; meet Kristi Boreing.

The daughter of a gospel tenor singer and niece of a multi-tasking singer and blogger, Kristi has music in her blood, but as musically talented as her family is, Kristi is equally talented on the softball field.

A four-year starter for the Wright State Raiders, Kristi led her squad offensively in 2012. Posting a batting average of .335, she led her next-closest teammate by more than twenty points. A consistent performer in the time since then, Kristi graduated last May.

I had an absolute blast interviewing Kristi, and her answers to my questions were really great!! In the interview, Kristi and I talked about a host of different things. Including:
  • Her earliest memories from playing softball
  • Choosing Wright State
  • Her future plans
  • Growing up around music and whether she has musical gifts of her own

After you check out the interview below, you can find Kristi on Facebook, Instagram, and  Twitter @ Boreing_oleKB

How did you get started playing softball? Was softball always your sport of choice?
For as long as I can remember, my parents put me in all kinds of different sports. I played softball, basketball, and soccer at an early age but I think it was obvious that I excelled the most in softball. Some church friends of ours were involved in travel softball and they said I should play, so at 8 years-old I started playing softball at a very competitive level. I loved playing other sports as well and still do!

Now that your playing career is over, what will you miss the most?
I'll definitely miss the environment of goofing around with my teammates.  We have made some of the most unforgettable memories together and I couldn't be more thankful for the time we have shared. I have also had many awesome opportunities to travel all over the world to play the sport that I love while experiencing things that some people only dream of. Yea… I'm going to miss that.

Why did you choose to attend & play ball at Wright State?
Mainly because of softball but, looking back on my experience, there is a lot more to Wright State. The athletic department is awesome and it's obvious that their athletes’ success and overall experience are their number one concern. Bob Grant, the athletic director, really makes you feel welcomed by knowing you by name and he invites all of the Wright State teams to his family's house for an awesome dinner once a year. It's a lot of fun!

Who is your role model or hero, and how did that person's influence affect you on the field?
I'd say my family are my heroes. I loved seeing them at my games and their support made me want to leave everything I had on the field.

In your own words, describe the feeling when the last out was recorded in your last game and you knew your career was done.
For me, it was a numbing feeling. I couldn't really process in my head that it was over. It was surreal. Honestly, I still don't think that it has really hit me yet. I guess I'm kind of in denial about it all!

How do you plan to stay involved with the game of softball now that your collegiate playing days are done? Is coaching at some level an area you might pursue?
Coaching and giving lessons are two areas I definitely want to pursue. I don't know if the softball world will ever be able to get rid of me!

What is your favorite memory or moment from your career?
That's hard to answer because we've shared a lot of awesome moments together, but the one most fresh on my mind is when we found out we would be hosting the Horizon League Tournament. Ever since we started the regular season I would tell the team practically every day that we would be hosting the tournament and after we swept Cleveland State we got the news and we all freaked out. It was an awesome experience and I had never seen our team come together like that before. 

Coming from a musically-gifted family, did you grow up around music?
Oh yes! I remember my dad teaching my three older brothers and I how to sing the different parts on many occasions. It's common in Southern Gospel music for the group/quartet to hold out the last note for a long time where all the parts come together; we used to rewind that part over and over in the car to get all the parts right! Aside from that, my dad, his twin, and their other two brothers have sung together before at church on holidays and they can also play many instruments too collectively such as; drums, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and maybe a couple others. 

And coming from such a family, I have to ask... have you done much singing yourself? Favorite song/artist/musician?
I have done karaoke a couple times and I think the people listening would say I'm somewhere between the worst they've ever heard and the best... [laughs]. My oldest brother can sing though! I don't really have a specific favorite song or artist because I listen to all kinds of different music but I'm a huge fan of 80's music.

What are your plans for your future?
What are plans?

Let's say you could spend a single day in another person's shoes - living their daily life. Who would that person be and why would you want to trade places with him or her?
I would want to trade places with [skateboarder and television personality] Rob Dyrdek. He has so much fun, but at the same time he is always looking for ways to help people out. That's exactly the kind of life I would want to live.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, but were allowed to take three things with you, what would you take? No boats, no phones.
My three brothers. We all excel in different areas so together I think we'd learn how to survive and we'd have a blast too!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Where Are They Now: Kayla Cox

Who is she? Kayla Cox, a former pitcher for the NC State Wolfpack and the Tampa Spartans.

What is she known for? Following a respectable freshman campaign at NC State, Kayla transferred to Tampa and promptly became one of the top hurlers in all of Division 2, with a 0.64 ERA in her three years with the Spartans and 756 strikeouts to go along. I had Cox high on my draft board prior to this year’s NPF draft, but she elected not to pursue pro ball.

Here’s a fun fact… Kayla calls herself the “most competitive person alive”. If her on-field performances weren’t evidence enough proof of that, she volunteered this example: “When I am on the treadmill at the gym, I compete with whoever is next to me to go faster and longer than them, when they have no clue!”

What’s she up to now? Following the end of her playing career, Kayla is finishing up her last semester of studies with the goal to be the first person in her family to graduate college. Kayla is presently working as a model for the Wilhelmina Miami fitness division, one of the top modeling agencies in the country. Kayla will be a full-time model for the agency following her graduation in December. She says “Ideally, I hope to get the chance to model for softball companies, since it’s the sport I love so much.”

Contact information: You can find Kayla on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @kaylkcox

Monday, September 22, 2014

News & Tidbits - 9-22-14

Photo cred: Wikipedia
Lots of newsworthy headlines and stories this week... I've elected to compile them all with little blurbs in this one, single article.

- Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso joined the ranks of the very best of the best of folks associated with Bishop Montgomery High School, as she was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. The 2013 National Championship-winning coach has a 901-281-2 record in twenty years at OU. A 2012 NFCA Hall of Famer, Gasso played for Bishop Montgomery for all four years of high school.

- ProSwings, on the Justin's World "recommended" list and run by former NPF player Stephanie Best has expanded in more ways than one, according to recent social media posts and a statement from Best herself. Not only is the company adding a pitching-centered instructor to the staff, but they are also expanding to include a full-on baseball division within the company. Former South Carolina pitcher Audrey Broyles will handle the instruction of pitchers under the ProSwings label, while Greg Smith, an Embry Riddle (NAIA) product and former professional player & collegiate coach, is the head of the new baseball division. Best says "[Smith] will be playing a huge role in launching the baseball side of things... He's young, driven, and motivated, so I'm excited and hopeful to see what he can add to ProSwings”.

- Former Georgia and Mississippi State hurler & current Akron Racer Alison Owen had her high school jersey retired this past week. Owen, a product of East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, was the first softball player to have her number, #4, adorn the outfield fence of the school’s softball field. Something I did not know that was mentioned in an article about the jersey retirement was that, as a high school senior, Owen led her team in home runs.

- Pennsylvania Rebellion rookie catcher Mandy Ogle launched her line of t-shirts this week. You can find them all, featuring her personal logo, here.

- Former Boston U assistant coach & current Arizona State graduate manager Suzie Rzegocki was inducted into her own high school’s hall of fame yesterday. Lemont High School in Illinois inducted their 2007 graduate as part of a three-person 2014 class. Rzegocki, who went onto a four-year career at Purdue after high school, is the first athlete in the past decade to be inducted into the school’s HOF. Rzegocki holds many Lemont school records in the pitching department, including wins, ERA, no-hitters, shutouts, complete games, and strikeouts.

Friday, September 19, 2014

USSSA Pride Announce Fall Tour

Similar to the NPF "Back to School" tour of years past, the USSSA Pride will host a six-game, three-state tour against collegiate programs at the beginning of November. Featuring opponents that include the Georgia Bulldogs and 2014 WCWS participants the Florida State Seminoles, the tour will feature most of the Pride's regular-season roster, including Danielle Lawrie, who will be playing in her final games before officially joining the "retirement" ranks.

The Pride will play six different teams (Georgia, Georgia Tech, Wallace State, UAB, Mercer, & Florida State) in a span of ten days, November 6th to the 15th.

In the sextet of opponents, the Pride's hitters will likely face two of the best pitchers currently in college softball, in Lacey Waldrop of Florida State and Chelsea Wilkinson of Georgia. They'll also visit the UAB Blazers, who are frequent visitors to the NCAA tournament.

Only two of the former Olympians that have gained the Pride so much notoriety will participate in the tour; Andrea Duran and Kelly Kretschman, both former members of Team USA, will lead their teammates into battle. Other Pride players on the team include Gionna DiSalvatore; Courtney Ceo; Alexa Peterson; Amanda Kamekona; Lawrie; Brigette Del Ponte; Kristyn Sandberg; Jordan Taylor; Chelsea Thomas; Cassie Tysarczyk; Breja'e Washington; and Megan Willis. Absent from the roster are the likes of Caitlin Lowe, Natasha Watley, and Cat Osterman.

Worthy of note is a change in pace from last year's tour, when some choice members of other NPF squads donned Pride uniforms to participate in certain stops on the tour. It doesn't look like that will happen this year.

The release does not mention who will be coaching the Pride team. 2014 assistant coach Jenny Gladding is the logical choice, as she works year-round for the USSSA organization and doesn't have the tie-down of a collegiate coaching job that regular-season HC Gerry Glasco (now an assistant at Texas A&M) does. If Glasco does, however, end up helming the team, November 6th will mark his sooner-than-expected return to Athens to face the Bulldogs, his former team until his move to A&M this summer.