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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 In Review

2015 was a year for many things - A year for long-standing records to be broken. A year for new starts to breakthrough and old ones to fade. A year where we saw the birth of a new top-level program and witnessed several changes at the sport's professional level. As the year is ready to close, let's take a look back at some of the biggest softball stories of 2015.

RECORDS BROKEN: 
--> We chronicled her chase here, and Lauren Chamberlain's race for the all-time home run record dominated headlines all over the softball world. She officially broke the record with her 91st career jack with a grand slam against North Texas on April 30th. She finished her career with ninety-five homers.

--> Almost exactly two weeks before Chamberlain's home run, another record was broken roughly twenty-five miles from Norman as Oklahoma City University head coach Phil McSpadden set the sport's all-time coaching wins mark. Chalking up his 1,458th career W, McSpadden overtook former Fresno State coach Margie Wright and later chalked up another seventeen victories to 'pad' his record. OCU is an NAIA school.

--> Trine University senior outfielder Carly Searles set the all-time Division 3 hits record, recording her 300th base knock in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association title game on May 1st. The previous record had stood since 1995.

--> Another Sooner did some record-setting in 2015; dual threat freshman Paige Parker tied the all-time record for perfect games in a single season. With four 'perfectos', she became the first player in more than twenty years to notch the feat. For those efforts and others, she was named NFCA Freshman of the Year after the regular season.

SCANDALOUS:
--> 'twas also the year of scandals in Division 1, or so it seemed - several schools were marred by some sort of controversy over the course of the year. Suffering the most severe consequences was the St. Joseph's program, which saw its season end prematurely on May 1st due to serious allegations of hazing and misconduct. A lengthy lawsuit alleged Title IX violations, among other claims, and explicitly detailed alleged sexual misconduct by members of the team and lack of proper oversight by the coaching staff. An independent external investigator appointed by the school later found no violations of the school's harassment policy by the coaching staff.

--> Near the regular-season's end, allegations surfaced that Michigan State head coach Jacquie Joseph and assistant Jessica Bograkos had conspired on two separate occasions to intentionally hit senior Alyssa McBride during batting practice. After investigation, Isabella County prosecutors determined that 'there [was] not sufficient evidence to sutain the burden of proof... to support criminal charges'. McBride has since graduated from MSU and Joseph was announced as a member of the 2016 class for induction in the NFCA Hall of Fame.

RECOGNIZED:
--> Florida senior Lauren Haeger earned Division 1 Player of the Year honors after a final campaign that saw her lead her Gators squad to a National Championship title and where she put up numbers like a 32-2 win-loss record, with a 1.23 ERA. On offense, she hit .347 with nineteen home runs and seventy-one RBI. Just in the postseason, Haeger hit .433 with three home runs and seven RBI. She ended her collegiate career with the SEC's all-time home runs mark and a career 73-12 record in the circle.

--> Auburn head coach Clint Myers; Texas A&M head coach Jo Evans; and D3 Montclair State head coach Anita Kubicka made up the 2015 NFCA Hall of Fame induction class.

CHAMPS:
--> Division 1: Florida
--> Division 2: North Georgia
--> Division 3: Tufts

NATIONAL PRO FASTPITCH:
--> The NPF got the new year off to a hot start with the formation of a new league franchise in Dallas, Texas, the Charge. The Charge hired Texas assistant as head coach; drafted Cal infielder Danielle Henderson #4 overall as the franchise's first-ever draft selection; and made the postseason as the 4th-seed.

--> The NPF bookended 2015 with announcements of new franchises in major Texas metropolises, announcing in late October a new team dubbed the Scrap Yard Dawgs and based in Houston, Texas. Owned and managed by the same individuals as the Charge, the Dawgs have already taken part in a closed-door expansion draft and signed their first free agent, building a sizable roster within their first two months of existence. The team's coaching staff has not yet been announced.

The Chicago Bandits are the 2015 NPF Champions.
--> Led by the powerful arm of Monica Abbott and primed to spoil the swan song of Cat Osterman, the Chicago Bandits did just that, taking home the Cowles Cup after sweeping the USSSA Pride behind back-to-back 1-0 shutouts.

--> Having announced prior to the 2014 season that it would be her last, Osterman later 'pulled a Favre' and decided to come back for one more year and shoot for back-to-back championships for the Pride. She earned all-NPF honors in her final campaign, but took the Loss in both games of the championship series.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at what's to come in 2016. Happy New Year!

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