Friday, October 24, 2014

6 Degrees of Separation: Gary Busey-Kelsi Dunne

Today, we feature the next installment in our popular “Six Degrees of Separation” series by connecting actor Gary Busey to former Alabama All-American pitcher Kelsi Dunne.

Gary Busey starred in “Rookie of the Year”, a movie that featured a cameo appearance by Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds & Matt Cain were teammates on the San Francisco Giants from 2005-2007.

Matt Cain’s present-day battery mate on the Giants is Buster Posey.

Buster Posey’s sister is Samantha Posey.

Samantha Posey played for Valdosta State who were conference foes against Les Stuedeman’s Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) squad.

Les Stuedeman is sister to Mississippi State head coach Vann Stuedeman.

Vann Stuedeman, while at Alabama, was pitching coach to Kelsi Dunne.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where Are They Now: Ali Lowe

Who is she? Ali Lowe, a former standout shortstop and team captain for the Villanova Wildcats.

What is she known for? A four-year starter in the hole at short for Maria DiBernardi’s team, Ali led her squad in hits in her junior season, a year when she was also named a winner of the NCAS/Scholar Baller National Academic Momentum Award. She was elected a team captain in her senior year of 2014.

Here’s an interesting tidbit… This was a pretty interesting one when I asked Ali for an interesting fact about herself. Originally a native of South Florida (West Palm Beach, to be exact), Ali says she “grew up at the beach”. After moving to Pennsylvania for school and softball, Ali now says “I came to find myself calling this place home. One might think the beach would be my favorite place, but if you give me a snowboard and a mountain covered in snow, I will take that over the warm sand any day!”

What’s she doing now? Ali is currently working as the softball manager at Longstreth Sporting Goods outside Philadelphia. The company specializes in “defining the women’s game in field hockey, lacrosse, and softball”. As the softball manager, Ali is in charge of anything and everything softball at the company, including goods and equipment. Her job includes both working retail, working with vendor representatives, training other employees on new products, and conducting what she calls “demo days” at colleges and other institutes. Though she’s now involved with the game from the “other side of the fence”, Ali says she couldn’t think of a better way to stay connected.

Contact information: You can follow Longstreth Softball on Twitter @LongstrethSB and Ali’s personal account @ALowe09.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Team USA Tryouts Roster Announced

As announced last week, the preliminary list of invitees to Team USA selection camp has been announced. Thirty-two players have been invited.

The selection camp will be held in Irvine, California in January of next year. A roster of seventeen will be formed from the players in camp, and will include the players that put on the red, white, and blue for competition this summer.

Notable newcomers to the tryout list include Annie Aldrete; Ally Carda; Alex Hugo; Sierra Romero; Chelsea Wilkinson; Janie Takeda; and others. Aldrete and Romero were both late additions to the tryout list for this year's team, but both bowed out for various reasons. All three finalists for 2014 Collegiate Player of the Year will be in camp, in Romero, Carda, and the award's eventual winner Lacey Waldrop.

A notable returnee to the tryouts is Aimee Creger. After serving as one of the top pitchers for the national team in 2013, Creger was surprisingly left over this year's roster. A back injury was reportedly to thank for her absence, but it has apparently healed to the point that she'll be able to once-again contend for a spot in the new year.

Lauren Chamberlain also returns. After injuries limited her 2014 collegiate campaign, her summer ended at tryouts. She should be back to mostly-full health and could easily reclaim her spot on the squad. She stands eighteen home runs away from tying Stacey Nuveman's all-time collegiate record, and her performance in USA camp could give a good sign as to whether or not she will challenge for the record during the regular season.

Former Team USA assistant coach Mike White places four of his current & former players on the squad. Alumni and national team vet Jessica Moore is joined by fellow vet Cheridan Hawkins and newcomers Takeda and Janelle Lindvall. Tennessee, Cal, and Arizona all have three current & former players representing their schools on the squad.

Four members of the class of 2012 make up the elder statesmen on the squad- Michelle Moultrie; Sam Fischer; Amanda Chidester; and Valerie Arioto. Aldrete is the youngest, a sophomore.

The team is coached by Ken Eriksen. His assistants are Laura Berg (HC, Oregon State); Lisa Dodd (HC, UNLV); and Howard Dobson (AC, LSU).

The full roster for tryouts includes (* denotes a returnee from the 2014 team):
  1. Annie Aldrete, Tennessee (SO, C)
  2. *Valerie Arioto, Cal (’12, IF/P)
  3. Ally Carda, UCLA (SR, P/IF)
  4. Lauren Chamberlain, Oklahoma (SR, 1B)
  5. *Raven Chavanne, Tennessee (’13, IF)
  6. *Amanda Chidester, Michigan (’12, C/IF)
  7. Cheyenne Cordes, Cal (SR, IF)
  8. Aimee Creger, Tulsa (’14, P)
  9. *Sam Fischer, Loyola Marymount (’12, IF)
  10. *Kellie Fox, Arizona (SR, IF)
  11. Amber Freeman, Arizona State (SR, C)
  12. *Lauren Gibson, Tennessee (’13, IF)
  13. Chelsea Goodacre, Arizona (SR, C)
  14. Cheridan Hawkins, Oregon (JR, P)
  15. *Jolene Henderson, Cal (’13, P)
  16. *Taylor Hoagland, Texas (’13, IF)
  17. Nicole Hudson, Missouri (’13, IF/OF)
  18. Alex Hugo, Georgia (JR, IF)
  19. Janelle Lindvall, Oregon (JR, C)
  20. *Destinee Martinez, Oklahoma (’14, OF)
  21. *Haylie McCleney, Alabama (JR, OF)
  22. *Jessica Moore, Oregon (’13, P)
  23. *Michelle Moultrie, Florida (’12, OF)
  24. *Sara Nevins, South Florida (’14, P)
  25. *Jess Plaza, Stanford (JR, C)
  26. Sierra Romero, Michigan (JR, IF)
  27. *Kelsey Stewart, Florida (JR, IF)
  28. Janie Takeda, Oregon (SR, OF)
  29. *Jackie Traina, Alabama (’14, P)
  30. Lacey Waldrop, Florida State (SR, P)
  31. Chelsea Wilkinson, Georgia (JR, P)
  32. *Hallie Wilson, Arizona (SR, UT)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kourtny Thomas Steps Into Justin's World

Kourtny Thomas made her collegiate softball debut as a part of the #1-ranked signing class in 2011. Joining Ralph & Karen Weekly's Lady Vols alongside the likes of Melissa Davin, Tory Lewis, Madison Shipman, Ellen Renfroe, Ashley Holmes, and Chelsea O'Connor, Thomas' tenure on Rocky Top was short-lived.

Photo cred: Southern Conference via Facebook
Spending just a single season in orange and white, and appearing in just eight games during that year, Thomas fell behind Shipman on the depth chart and rarely saw action. A perfect fielding record in a couple-dozen opportunities were the sole bright spot of her freshman campaign.

Following a transfer to Georgia Southern, Thomas began to thrive immediately. Clubbing seven home runs, good enough for second-best on the squad, in her first year in Statesboro, Thomas continued on a hot streak as her career continued, adding twenty-six roundtrippers over her final two seasons and driving in sixty-nine runs over the same period.

A two-time first-team all-conference selection, Thomas finished her career just two home runs shy of the Eagles' school record. She also added an all-conference-tournament award to her trophy case in 2013.

Kourtny isn't on Twitter, but you can find her on Facebook here.

How did you get your start playing softball? How old were you when you began playing?
I started playing baseball when I was younger, and when I was about 9 my father made me switch to softball. At first I hated it, in all honesty, but once I made it to the end of the season, I was in love with the game.

Did you play any other sports growing up, or was softball your main focus?

 I played every sport. I played baseball, softball, tennis, soccer, basketball, swimming and even football. When I was a sophomore in high school, I started focusing on one sport, but I still continued to play basketball.

When it came time to pick a school to continue your career, you originally chose Tennessee. Why did you want to become a Lady Vol?
I wanted to become a Lady Vol because when I was about 11 years old, I watched Ralph and Karen coaching on television and I thought it would be awesome to play in Tennessee orange. My father told me I could do anything I put my mind to, so I wanted to make my dream come into a reality.

After being part of an uber-talented freshman class, you transferred to Georgia Southern. What factored in to you making that move?
I wasn't happy; I hated that we played softball because we had to, not because we loved to. It wasn't fun anymore and as far as I am concerned, it should always be about having fun. It's not like you can truly play professionally so you can't compare college baseball to college softball. In baseball, you play because you are working on getting drafted. In softball, you play your four years and maybe play softball for one of the NPF teams in the short summer or go play overseas. My heart was in softball to have fun, not to end up hating the game I grew up loving. The girls were great, especially the class I came in with, but I think out of seven only three stayed [[Editor’s Note: Four members of Kourtny’s class actually stayed at Tennessee]]. I applaud them; it's a tough life to live. The school just wasn't for me, but that doesn't mean it's not for other girls. The team and coaching staff is amazing.

Is there any one thing, whether it be a tournament, a game, playing with a certain player, that you wish you could have had the opportunity to experience?
Not really. I do wish I could play with Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, or Chipper Jones but obviously that's not going to happen.

If you had to pick one moment or one play from your career as your favorite , what memory would it be?
The walk-off home run to win the SoCon championship [in 2013]. That was pretty amazing.

If you can, describe what it was like for you when the final out was recorded in your last game and it hit you that your career was done. What was that moment like?
I remember being on deck with two outs. It was tough, not because I was going to miss it but because of my parents. They were more in love with it than I was at times. They enjoyed traveling and watching me play in 10 degree weather or even 100 degree weather. Rain or shine, I could always count on them being there. It was a special bond we had and it's not like it's the only thing that kept us together, but it was really special. So when I looked up in the stands and saw my father trying to hold back tears, it was tough. I won't forget that day in the pouring rain.

Now that your career is done, what are your plans, both as far as your career and remaining involved in the game of softball? Is coaching at some level something you would like to do?
I wouldn't mind coaching, but it's not my dream. I am finishing up my sport management degree and I currently work for a marketing company so my future is starting to come together, I hope.

If you could sit down and have dinner with any three people from history, who would they be and why?
1. Charles Darwin, because I do not think he was even close to done with all his theories and findings. I am sure he could still teach us a lot.
2. Amerigo Vespucci, basically because I want to know how it felt to discover a new land that is now our wonderful country. He probably didn't even know how important that discovery was.
3. Lastly, probably Einstein. I would just want to tell him and show him all of the inventions and futuristic things we have. Even his mind would be blown!

Let’s say you were stranded on a deserted island, but could take three things with you. No boats, no phones. What would you take?
I would take my dog Ellie because I love her. A fishing pole because I love fishing and probably a camera so someone will find my recordings one day.

Monday, October 20, 2014

News and Tidbits - 10/20

Slow news week this week. The couple of stories that were newsworthy...

  • Former Louisiana-Lafayette and LSU legendary head coach Yvette Girouard will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame next summer.
  • The Ragin Cajuns hosted a double-header on Saturday against an all-star team made of up of NPF players and regional stars. The all-star team included Lisa Norris; Alison Owen; Tatum & Taylor Edwards; Nadia Taylor; Nerissa Myers; Briana Hamilton; Sarah Draheim; Brooke Foster; and Lesley Hirsch. Myers and Draheim are ULL graduates, and Norris currently serves as the team's pitching coach.

The Alabama softball team shared a Throwback photo of the first game at Rhoads Stadium, fourteen years ago in the year 2000.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coaching Tree: Ralph & Karen Weekly

When a coach's success is multiplied through his or her former pupils themselves making a mark in the profession, this forms what is commonly referred to as a "coaching tree". Today, we are debuting a new series  focusing on this aspect of the game of softball, exploring the impact many well-known and great coaches on the future of the coaching game. To kick off this series, we're actually going to look at the impact of one of the great duos in the business, Tennessee's own Ralph and Karen Weekly.

In 16 seasons as co-head coaches at Chattanooga and Tennessee, the Weeklys have amassed 792 career wins together. 664 of the victories have come at the helm of the Lady Vols. Under their leadership, the Lady Vols have made six trips to Oklahoma City to participate in the Women's College World Series; pertinent to this series of articles, however, the Weeklys' lengthy tenure at Tennessee has spawned quite a few new coaches at many levels of the game. Including...

  • 1 head coach - Shannon Doepking, Darmouth
  • 4 full-time assistant coaches - Cat Hosfield, Kennesaw State; Ashley Andrews, Washington; Erinn Webb, Redlands; Megan Rhodes Smith, Lipscomb
  • 3 volunteer assistant coaches - Ivy Renfroe, Lipscomb; Madison Shipman, Tennessee; Ellen Renfroe, Memphis
  • 1 graduate assistant coach - Lauren Gibson, South Florida

Interesting and of note is that, of the nine coaches on this list, only two have held their listed positions prior to the 2014-2015 season.

Have we missed any members of the Weeklys' "coaching tree"?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Caralisa Connell Steps Into Justin's World

The past two seasons, the same name has shown up in my conference forecasts that include the Louisville Cardinals. Caralisa Connell was a fixture on the pitching staff in Louisville from the day she set foot in the circle and has left some big shoes to fill for the Cardinals staff this season.
Caralisa w/ the 2014 American Conference Championship
trophy // Photo cred

An All-Big-East selection in the three seasons she and the Cardinals were in that conference, Caralisa recorded sixty-four wins and only thirteen losses during that time. A no-hitter against Memphis in her sophomore year highlighted.

In 2014, the Cardinals' first season in the American conference (a year in which they also took home the conference's tournament championship trophy), Caralisa's workload diminished a bit, though she still averaged fewer than a hit an inning and opponents hit just .242 against her.

The daughter of a former two-sport athlete who played baseball and football at Vanderbilt, Caralisa comes from an extremely-athletic family - her uncle also played baseball for an SEC school, the UGA Bulldogs.

You can follow Caralisa on Twitter @Caralisa13.

How did you get your start playing softball?
My dad used to coach college prospect baseball when I was growing up so I was always on a field somewhere watching. When I got to the age to play, I started asking him when he was going to coach me so he signed me up for a coach pitch league and then I just loved the sport!

Why did you choose Louisville as your “spot” to continue your education and play college ball?
I chose Louisville because, from the moment I walked on campus, it was somewhere I could see myself playing. I wanted to be a part of a program that was on the up and had a chance to make it to the top. One of the things that I was most impressed with on my visit though was the obvious effort that Tom Jurich and the athletic department was putting into women's athletics. So many schools only have women’s sports because Title IX requires them but Louisville truly supports its women’s sports and it shows.

How did softball become your sport?
I was always into athletics as a child and played anything I could. I played everything from soccer to track and field to volleyball. The two sports that became a mainstay for me, though, were basketball and softball. Ultimately I made the decision to pursue a scholarship for softball because I was better at it and because I wasn’t tall enough to play post in college basketball and hated playing guard.

What is your favorite memory from your career?
I think my favorite memory would be beating Oklahoma on their field the year they went on to win the national championship. It was just a huge win for our program and it really gave us that moment when we realized we were there, ready to compete with the top programs.

If you had the opportunity to go back in time and relive or redo one moment or one play, when would you go back to?
I would choose to relive winning the Big East Championship over Notre Dame my sophomore year. That entire season was incredible to a part of. At the end of the regular season, we had only lost 3 games and we just knew we were going to win every game. We ended up winning the game on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 8th and the feeling was unbelievable.

Despite some very talented and even highly-ranked teams, the Cardinals didn’t make it out of regionals the past three seasons. How does or did it affect the team’s mindset to know that y’all are one of the better teams in the country, yet when it comes to the postseason tournament, there’s a humongous roadblock?
My sophomore year was the first year we really expected to make it out of the Regional tournament and after getting our bracket, we quickly realized that we were in one of the toughest regionals in the tournament. Losing the winner’s bracket final game to Michigan, especially because it was in extra innings after a very questionable call, was demoralizing for us. We went in the next day hoping for the best but it is very tough to beat a team twice in a day especially when it is a team as rich in history and tradition as Michigan. After that, there was just a different feel whenever we got to the NCAA tournament. We lost our sense of fun and started pushing too hard to win. As soon as we started trying not to lose, it took away our chances to win. The program needs one win on that Saturday game to put it in a position to be consistently in Super’s of the World Series.

With your collegiate playing career now done, what are your plans for the future? Do you plan to stay involved with the game in some way, perhaps coaching at some level?
Now that I’m done playing, I am attending law school at Belmont University in Nashville. Law school will be the next three years of my life and then after that I guess we will see! I am currently staying involved in softball by doing private lessons a couple times a week but I would love to coach at some point if I have the time.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.

If *you* could give up-and-coming young softballers one piece of advice, what would you say to them?
There is no shortcut to the top. If you want to get there, you have to start now and put in the work. Don’t expect to do the minimum and be the best.

My favorite question to wrap things up! Let’s say you were stranded on a deserted island, but were allowed to take three things with you. Boats and phones are off-limits. What would you take?
I would take a knife to help me make shelter and prepare food, a rope for many purposes, and my sister for company and help.