Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Tigers and Coaching Styles

The saga of the summer came to an end this weekend in Columbia, Missouri when it was announced that the Title IX investigation into Mizzou head softball coach Ehren Earleywine had ended with no findings and that he would be retained in his position.

As the summer dragged on and the investigation with it, the eventual finding became a more likely outcome as time went by. It seemed almost a sure thing after the departure of athletic director Mack Rhoades, who accepted a similar position at Baylor. Rhoades had long remained intentionally mum on the "investigation", except to confirm that an investigation was, in fact, ongoing.

According to reports, the investigation stemmed from a complaint by a handful of players who were unhappy with Earleywine's treatment of them. The school's release confirming Earleywine's status did not include any new information as to whether the allegations were found to have merit or what, if any, basis was found for them.

Earleywine is the winningest coach in the school's softball history, amassing a 453-154 record in a decade of time as a Tiger, and guiding his squad to three Women's College World Series appearances during that time.

Despite the complaints of the few active players, numerous former players were vocal in their support of Earleywine from the beginning. The program's class of 2016, consisting of Taylor Gadbois; Sami Fagan; and Emily Crane, all appeared in a video with several other program alumni, celebrating Earleywine's ten-year anniversary at the school.

The Tiger fanbase was equally vocal in their support of Earleywine during the latter part of the season, as the details surrounding the investigation began to come to light. A hot-air balloon with a pro-Earleywine banner attached was spotted during the Regional hosted in Columbia and fans wore t-shirts supporting "their" coach.

The offseason has not only been tumultuous in the job security department for Earleywine, but equally so in the player turnover department. Six players have elected to transfer out of Columbia this summer, including 2/3 of the active pitching staff in Paige Lowary and Tori Finucane, as well as several role players from the 2016 squad.

Earleywine's contract runs through 2018, the final season of an extension he signed in 2011.

Stony Brook's Danielle Kemp Diagnosed with Brain Tumor

Stony Brook freshman Danielle Kemp has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, according to a GoFundMe account set up on Monday evening.

Danielle Kemp
Kemp, a member of the legendary Stratford Brakettes, was "beaned" in the head with a pitch during a game in early July. After beginning to experience symptoms that included issues with balance and dizziness, doctors realized Kemp's condition was beyond a simple concussion and she was diagnosed with the brain tumor after an MRI.

The tumor is located in the Pons region of her brain, the area that connects the upper and lower parts of the brain. Due to the tumor's location, surgery is not an option. Kemp is set to begin radiation treatment later this month with a plan for further treatment to follow thereafter.

Kemp appeared in twenty-eight games for the Seawolves in 2016, starting sixteen. She amassed seven hits, four of them for extra bases, and stole three bases.

The GoFundMe account set up to help Kemp's family with medical expenses had raised more than $16,000 in five hours as of late Monday night. You can find the fundraising campaign here.

IUPUI Head Coach Steps Down, Joins Purdue as Assistant

IUPUI head coach Amanda Rivera resigned her post this week to accept an assistant coaching position under first-year head coach Boo Gillette De Oliviera at Purdue.

Amanda Rivera
Rivera had spent four seasons leading the Jaguars, gathering ninety-five victories and registering the program's first winning record of the millennium in 2015. Her squad advanced to the conference tournament championship game in 2016, one win shy of an NCAA tournament berth.

Her Jaguars squad advanced to the conference tournament in each of what would be her final three seasons at the helm of the program, having missed the postseason eight straight years prior to that.

In addition to her role as head coach at IUPUI, Rivera's resume also includes stints as an assistant at Indiana; North Carolina State; Northwestern; and Illinois-Chicago (UIC), her alma mater.

Rivera joins a Purdue coaching staff that looks to turn around a program that has been in the lower tier of the Big 10 standings for several seasons. The Boilermakers finished the 2016 season with a 27-28 record and an 8-15 conference mark. De Oliviera was named head coach of the program earlier this month.

Green Bay Hires Scott Wachholz as Head Coach

After spending the summer with the position vacant, the Green Bay Phoenix have found their head softball coach, hiring Scott Wachholz to the position.

Wachholz, a former lower-level head coach and Wisconsin student assistant, has a decade of collegiate coaching experience, after two seasons at UW-Parkside (Division II) and a year at Williston State College, a junior college in Williston, North Dakota.

Wachholz's career also includes two crossover coaching stints that also included work in the strength and conditioning department, as well as a three-year stint as an assistant coach at the high school level from 2009-2011. He began his coaching career as a four-year student assistant at Wisconsin, beginning in 2005.

The UW-Parkside program posted a 15-77 record during Wachholz's tenure, including eight victories during the 2016 season.

He takes over a Green Bay program that is coming off of an impressive 21-33 campaign in 2016, a season that included a 12-10 record in conference play and the #4 seed in the Horizon League conference tournament.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Softball Musings

Micaela Arizmendi graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2016 as a four-time all-conference honoree, once nominated in the Big East and three times as part of the ACC. Three times an all-region selection and a 2014 all-American, she ended her collegiate career with a .352 batting average and a .660 slugging percentage, to go along with thirty-eight home runs.

Did you know that Arizmendi’s head coach at Notre Dame, Deanna Gumpf, also coached Arizmendi’s mother when the latter played at Long Beach State in the nineties? Arizmendi’s mom Marie O’Beck played for the 49ers in the midst of Gumpf’s two-year stint as a coach at the Beach.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 NPF Awards Recap

As the NPF Championship Series rages on in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the USSSA Pride and Chicago Bandits have a 1-0 lead in their respective best-of-three series' of the semifinal round, let's take a look at the league's 2016 award winners.

Player of the Year: Kelly Kretschman, USSSA Pride
     (The 2016 Triple Crown winner was the stand-alone favorite for her second-consecutive Player of the Year honor after putting together a season that included a near-.500 (.466) batting average and a league-leading thirteen home runs. Kretschman's season-ending batting average was nearly 100 points above her nearest competition in the category, while she was one of just four players to hit double-digit home runs. Her .821 slugging percentage along was nearly TWO hundred points above her nearest competitor. Quite possibly the easiestly-award in NPF history.)

Pitcher of the Year: Monica Abbott, Scrap Yard Dawgs
     (Abbott was her usual dominant self in her new uniform in 2016, amassing an 18-1 record with a sub-1.00 ERA. Her 167 strikeouts dwarfed the rest of the league in the circle. Though backed by a breakout offense, Abbott carried the first-year expansion Dawgs into the postseason with her work in the circle.) 

Rookie of the Year: Sami Fagan, Akron Racers
     (Rounding out the trio of obvious award winners, Fagan took home the well-earned title of top newcomer. The first person in line in Kretschman's stead, she played like a veteran herself at times, clobbering nine home runs and collecting more total bases than every player not named Kretschman. Though other first-year players came within striking distance of Fagan's lead in a single category, none put together the all-around stellar campaign she did that likely would have earned her POTY honors, as well, were it not for Kretschman.)

Rally Spikes Award (most stolen bases): Sammy Marshall, Chicago Bandits/AJ Andrews, Akron Racers

Jennie Finch Award: Lauren Chamberlain, USSSA Pride
     (The collegiate home run queen was named the Jennie Finch award recipient, signifying leadership and humility on and off the field.)

Rawlings Gold Glove: AJ Andrews, Akron Racers
     (Andrews was named the first-ever female Gold Glove recipient; with a tight battle of some stellar glovework among the other finalists, Andrews' SportsCenter-worthy diving catches and athletic plays likely put her over the top to take home the hardware.)

Coaching Staff of the Year: USSSA Pride
     (Led by Florida State head coach Lonni Alameda with a staff that consisted of Mississippi State assistant Samantha Ricketts and Jeff Ellison, as well as recently-retired players Megan Willis and Andrea Duran in various roles, the Pride easily took home the regular-season title despite the retirement of ace pitcher Cat Osterman following last season.)

All-NPF Team:
The NPF version of the All-Star roster, the squad broke down with a single representative from the Pennsylvania Rebellion; two representatives from the two Texas squads, the Scrap Yard Dawgs and the Dallas Charge; three Chicago Bandits; four Akron Racers; and seven members of the regular-season champion USSSA Pride rounded out the squad. The full all-NPF roster is below.

The left side of the Racers' infield were both named to the squad, while three members of the Pride pitching staff earned honors at their positions... Pride closer Jordan Taylor earned a nomination despite having just thirty-eight innings pitched on the season... despite missing the playoffs, the Dallas Charge placed their finest stars on the squad. Pitcher Lauren Haeger, the only pitcher other than Abbott to amass a triple-digit inning count during the regular season, and rookie outfielder Taylor Gadbois (.331/.382/.364) both earned at-large nods... Despite earning the #2 seed in the championship series, the Scrap Yard Dawgs only placed two players on the all-star squad, further putting into focus Abbott's influence on the team's success.

2016 All-NPF Roster:
Catcher: Griffin Joiner, Racers
First Base: Alisa Goler, Rebellion
Second Base: Nerissa Myers, Dawgs
Third Base: Kelley Montalvo, Racers
Shortstop: Sami Fagan, Racers
Outfield: Kelly Kretschman, Pride
OutfieldMegan Wiggins, Pride
OutfieldTaylor Schlopy, Racers
Pitcher: Monica Abbott, Dawgs
PitcherJordan Taylor, Pride
PitcherJolene Henderson, Pride
PitcherKelsey Nunley, Pride
Utility: Taylor Edwards, Bandits
At-Large: Shelby Pendley, Pride
At-LargeTaylor Gadbois, Charge
At-LargeHallie Wilson, Pride
At-LargeJill Barrett, Bandits
At-LargeLauren Haeger, Charge
At-LargeDanielle Zymkowitz, Bandits

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Former Nevada Head Coach Meuchel Named Arkansas Assistant

Former Nevada head coach Matt Meuchel has been named an assistant coach at Arkansas, the school announced.

Meuchel replaces the departed Boo Gillette De Oliviera, who accepted the head coaching position at Purdue this offseason. He arrives in Fayetteville after eight seasons at Nevada.

In 2015, Meuchel posted one of the program's finest seasons in recent memory with a 32-15 record and finishing the season tied for third in the conference standings. In addition to his tenure at Nevada as head coach, his resume also includes a four-year stint as a Wolfpack assistant, as well as stops at Arizona State; McNeese State; and Oklahoma State.

Meuchel also served on the coaching staff of the Greek national team for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and for two seasons with the USSSA Pride in the NPF.

He joins an Arkansas program that finished a disappointing campaign in 2016, with a 17-39 overall record and just a single win in conference play. The Hogs ended the season with fourteen straight losses, a streak that included four consecutive series sweeps at the hands of SEC opponents.