Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2017 Team USA Invite List Includes Current, Former Stars

The list of players receiving invitations to Team USA tryout camp in January numbers forty-three, according to a release from USA Softball on Monday.

The inaugural list of invites for 2017 is made up of twenty-seven active collegiate players and sixteen graduated stars. 2012 graduates Amanda Chidester; Val Arioto; and Michelle Moultrie, the later now an assistant coach at Samford, are the senior statesmen of the group, while PAC-12 freshmen Alyssa Palomino and Rachel Garcia are the youngest players that will be in camp for the red, white, and blue. 

Nineteen current PAC-12 players and alumni of the conference received invites to the camp, the most of any collegiate conference, barely ahead of the SEC's sixteen invites. Three players will represent the American Athletic Conference, while two were invited from the Big 12 and the Big 10; Sun Belt; and Conference USA will all have a single representative suiting up at training camp. Zero players from the ACC were invited in the first round of selections.

Three players will put on the red, white, and blue for the first time, including Arizona powerhouse senior pitcher Danielle O'Toole. Her invitation to tryout could have serious implications on her pro prospects, as well, as she currently ranks as the #2 pitcher available in the 2017 NPF draft class on the JWOS Big Board, but would be required to split her season between her eventual NPF club and Team USA if she is selected for the national team roster. Cat Osterman prodigy Randi Rupp of Texas State and South Florida outfielder Juli Weber are the other "rookies".

Weber is one of the lesser-known names on the roster and one of three members of former USA head coach Ken Eriksen's South Florida Bulls, but her selection is a worthy one, given her 2016 numbers that included a .406 batting average; .609 slugging percentage; 117 total bases; and the American Athletic Conference's Player of the Year trophy.

The invitation list breaks down as ten seniors and ten current juniors receiving invites, as well as five sophomores and two freshmen. Six members of the class of 2016 were invited to return, as well as two 2015 graduates; three graduates from the class of 2014; two from the 2013 graduating class; and the afore-mentioned trio of veterans that last saw a college diamond in 2012.

2014 and 2015 back-to-back champion Florida placed seven players on the list of invites, tied for the most of any program with another septet of UCLA Bruins. The defending-champion Oklahoma Sooners are represented on the roster of invitations by now-sophomore standout Sydney Romero and recent transferred pitcher Paige Lowary.

The full list of players invited to tryout for the Team USA roster can be found below:
- Ali Aguilar, Washington (2017, IF)
- Annie Aldrete, California (2017, C)
- Valerie Arioto, California (2012, IF)
- Kelly Barnhill, Florida (2019, P)
- Bianka Bell, LSU (2016, IF)
- Allexis Bennett, UCLA (2016, OF)
- Ally Carda, UCLA (2015, P/IF)
- Raven Chavanne, Tennessee (2013, IF)
- Amanda Chidester, Michigan (2012, C)
- Kasey Cooper, Auburn (2017, IF)
- Nicole DeWitt, Florida (2018, IF)
- Astin Donovan, South Florida (2018, OF)
- Hannah Flippen, Utah (2017, IF)
- Rachel Garcia, UCLA (2020, P)
- Delanie Gourley, Florida (2017, P)
- Meghan Gregg, Tennessee (2018, IF)
- Paige Halstead, UCLA (2019, C)
- Carley Hoover, LSU (2018, P)
- Jazmyn Jackson, California (2018, OF)
- Madeline Jelenicki, UCLA (2018, C)
- Bailey Landry, LSU (2017, OF)
- Jenna Lilley, Oregon (2018, IF)
- Amanda Lorenz, Florida (2019, OF)
- Paige Lowary, Oklahoma (2018, P)
- Haylie McCleney, Alabama (2016, OF)
- Jessica Moore, Oregon (2013, P)
- Michelle Moultrie, Florida (2012, OF)
- Aubree Munro, Florida (2016, C)
- Sara Nevins, South Florida (2014, P)
- Danielle O'Toole, Arizona (2016, IF)
- Alyssa Palomino, Arizona (2020, OF)
- Sydney Romero, Oklahoma (2019, IF)
- Lindsay Rood, California (2019, IF)
- Randi Rupp, Texas State (2018, P)
- Mysha Sataraka, UCLA (2016, IF)
- Madison Shipman, Tennessee (2014, IF)
- Delaney Spaulding, UCLA (2017, IF)
- Kelsey Stewart, Florida (2016, IF/OF)
- Gwen Svekis, Oregon (2018, C)
- Janie Takeda, Oregon (2015, OF)
- Jackie Traina, Alabama (2014, P)
- Juli Weber, South Florida (2017, OF)
- Morgan Zerkle, Marshall (2017, OF)

Monday, October 24, 2016

St. Peter's Hires Chris Stelma as Head Coach

The final open head coaching position of the offseason has been filled with Saint Peter's announcing the hiring of Chris Stelma as their new program leader.

Stelma joins the Peacocks after serving a single-season stint as an assistant coach at Division III William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. Stelma's resume also includes a period as the owner of the Fielder's Choice Baseball/Kaboom Softball faciliy in Andover, Maryland, as well as a short period of time as the head baseball coach at County College of Morris, his own alma mater.

This will be Stelma's first head coaching position in the sport of softball; he will serve as the first full-time head coach in Saint Peter's history.

He takes over a Peacock program that failed to win a single game during the 2016 season until the very last, when they closed their season with a 1-42 record after beating Monmouth. The Peacocks carried a fifty-three game losing streak, dating back to the 2015 season, up to that point. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Missouri Hires Adam LaLonde as Assistant Coach

Missouri has hired Adam LaLonde as a new assistant coach, the program announced over the weekend. LaLonde fills the role vacated by Pete D'Amour, who accepted the head coaching position at Kennesaw State.

LaLonde is a former teammate of Mizzou head coach Ehren Earleywine on the US National Team, including the 2002 Pan Am Games' gold-medal-winning squad. LaLonde's storied playing career also includes a silver medal with the US National Team in 2003 and a first-place finish at the AAU International Championship in 2006.

This will be LaLonde's first collegiate coaching position, as well as his inaugural foray into collegiate coaching. He has recently helmed his own self-named Adam LaLonde ASA USA Softball Training Academy in Huntington, West Virginia.

In addition to filling the position of assistant coach, LaLonde will also be the Tigers' recruiting coordinator.

He joins a Missouri squad that has had a very interesting offseason, including the departure of D'Amour and several player transfers, but most notably marked by the suspicious Title IX investigation into Earleywine that raged for months but resulted in a finding of no violations.

The Tigers posted a 42-16 overall record in 2016, including a 14-10 mark in conference play. The Tigers won five conference series', including three-game sweeps of Texas A&M and Mississippi State, but went one-and-done in the SEC conference tournament and, after breezing through the regional round, ended their season in a two-game losing streak  to Michigan in the Super Regional round.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Towson Adds Nick French to Staff

The CAA's Towson has added former Power Five assistant Nick French to its coaching staff, the school announced earlier this week.

Photo via Towson Athletics
French is coming off a stint as the Volunteer Assistant Coach at Georgia, where he served as the volunteer assistant and first-base coach. He was part of the 2016 Bulldogs squad that advanced from an unlikely #16 seed in the NCAA tournament to upset top-ranked Florida and reach the Women's College World Series.

Prior to UGA, French spent a quartet of seasons as an assistant coach at Holy Cross; his resume also includes stints at Memphis and Arizona. In 2008, French was the interim head coach at Simmons College, a Division III school in Boston, Massachusetts.

In addition to his coaching experience, French has also previously worked in the journalism business, including for the Boston Globe and as a sports editor for the Community Newspaper Company.

He joins a Towson program that was particularly impressive in 2016, posting a 37-17 overall record and an 11-8 mark in conference play. The Tigers' season including a doubleheader sweep of the ACC's Virginia, as well as a series win over traditional conference powerhouse Hofstra. The Tigers posted a 2-2 record in the conference tournament, ultimately losing out to eventual Super Regional hosts James Madison in the conference championship.

Rutgers Continues Staff Overhaul, Hires Roya St. Clair

Rutgers has continued the overhaul of their coaching staff as they fight to get out of the Big Ten cellar in 2017, adding veteran coach and Michigan grad Roya St. Clair to Jay Nelson's staff.

St. Clair
St. Clair's hiring follows the addition of former Mississippi State head coach Jay Miller to the staff earlier this summer.

St. Clair most recently coached at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016, serving as the program's hitting coach and was part of the program's second-consecutive Horizon League regular-season championship.

Prior to UIC, St. Clair's resume also includes a lengthy four-year stint at Memphis and played in the NPF for the Akron Racers in 2011.

A 2010 Michigan grad, St. Clair was part of three Big Ten championship-winning squads and twice earned All-Big Ten honors as a Wolverine. She helped lead the program to an appearance in the 2009 Women's College World Series.

She joins a Rutgers program that is coming off a 2016 season that saw them post an overall 24-33 record, including an 8-15 mark in conference play. The Scarlet Knights won outright just three conference series' in 2016, and were themselves swept in four. They closed the campaign with a shutout loss to Ohio State in the B1G conference tournament. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Where Are They Now: Janelle Bouchard

Who is she? Janelle Bouchard, a former catcher for the Valparaiso Crusaders and the Maine Black Bears.

Photo: UMaine Athletics
What is she known for? At Valpo to start her career, Bouchard did earn all-conference and all-freshman team nominations in her freshman year. After transferring to Maine for the final two seasons of her career, Bouchard helped lead the Black Bears to the 2016 America East conference title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Bouchard earned the conference's Player of the Year trophy on the merits of her .394 batting average and .606 slugging percentage.

Here's something interesting... Janelle's home town of Kennebunk, Maine also served as a filming site for the 1995 Robin Williams movie Jumanji.

Quotable quote: “I would tell the next generation of players to always respect the game. Softball has made me who I am in so many different ways. It has given me confidence in myself that I never would've had otherwise, but also exposed my weaknesses. You will always get from the sport what you put in to it. Go the extra mile, and don't ever be afraid to be great. There are too many people in the world that settle for mediocrity.”

What's she up to now? Since graduating earlier in 2016, Bouchard accepted a position as Graduate Assistant Coach at Eastern Nazarene University, a Division III school in Quincy, Massachusetts, where she'll begin her coaching career.

Keep up: You can find Janelle on Twitter @jbouchard94

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Beyond the Diamond

It all started with an innocent group text - a friend had to put together a charity event for school credit, had chosen the St. Baldrick’s Foundation as her cause to benefit, and needed support and help. That was all it took for the gears in Allison Hill’s head to begin to turn.

Three years earlier, a cousin had gone through serious treatment for neuroblastoma, a type of cancer most commonly found in children under five. It was at that time that Allison says she became much more aware of the effects and horrors of pediatric cancer and wanted to do something.

The Softball Side
As a young, just-beginning player in Illinois, Allison started her career under the tutelage of Staci Silkwood. If that surname sounds familiar, it should; Staci is the mother of Mississippi State breakout hurler Alexis Silkwood. As the two girls grew up as long-time teammates, one excelled in the circle while the other found her niche at the plate.

Allison ended her prep career with her high school's career RBI and home run marks firmly etched with her name atop them. After graduating, she headed to Kankakee Community College. “I just didn’t think I was good enough to go straight to a four-year out of high school,” she says.

At Kankakee, she "just" hit seventeen home runs and posted a .947 slugging percentage, earning first-team all-American honors for her efforts. “My main focus was wanting a place where I could grow as a player,” she would later say. “I wanted a place where I was going to have to play… I was going to have to work for it.”

After a starring role for Kankakee (pronounced just like it’s written), Allison moved to SIU-Edwardsville, finally getting her taste of Division 1 ball. She spent a single season as a Cougar, part of a squad that posted a .729 winning percentage but ended the season in a disappointing loss in the conference tournament final.

Braving the Shave
When the group text arrived, it simply asked for support - volunteers were needed to staff the upcoming event. Those who could donate or ask others to do so would be welcomed. Spreading the word would be appreciated.

Allison was familiar with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and how and why they operate; the leading private funder of childhood cancer research in the nation, they are most famous for their fundraising events that include volunteers dubbed “shavees” who shave their heads in exchange for donations from friends and family members.

The before & after of a $3,500 haircut
(Courtesy: Allie Hill)
It was a moment of legitimate happiness as she responded to the text. “I want to do it,” she said, asking for the event’s details.

For most people, shaving one’s head is a big deal. For someone who had long been part of the “the bigger the hairbow, the better” infamous philosophy of the sport, the decision went many steps beyond just being “big”. It was major. It was “humbling”, Allison says.

“I kind-of spent my whole life hiding behind my hair… and you never realize just how much you do that until you can’t any more. It has been such a learning experience.”

With roughly one month’s time to raise money, Allison set a $2,000 fundraising goal; the motto of many volunteers like Allison is that ‘every penny counts’, but surely an amount such as that would make losing one’s head of hair a bit easier. Thanks to a generous group of donors, that goal became more than $3,500 in literal funds donated, more than 150% of what she had hoped to raise from the first.

April 29th was the day Allison’s head was shaved, and she says it’s been a journey since. With the journey have also come some surprises; "People love my short hair," she says. "Honestly, I didn't expect it, but they do."

While Allison’s fundraising and event have ended, the battle of thousands and hundreds of thousands of kids are just beginning. Statistics show that a child is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes, a staggering statistic that slaps many across the face, as well it should.

Her seven-year-old cousin named Ella was Allison’s inspiration to get involved with the cause and, ultimately, to shave her head. Now in remission after being diagnosed at three years of age, Ella still has to journey four times a year to receive follow-up treatments and make sure the cancer has stayed gone.

Ella is one of the lucky ones, just to still be here. Many parents have to be told that their children will not beat the cancer that afflicts their small bodies.You can be part of the solution and help change this reality. Check out to find out about one of the organizations that is leading the way to conquering childhood cancer.