THE Spring Games adds Osceola Softball Complex to its college softball facility inventory for 2019

KISSIMMEE, Florida – August 22, 2018

Kissimmee Sports Commission and THE Spring Games (Clermont, Fla.) have signed an agreement, effective immediately, that is expected to generate over $3 million in direct economic impact for Lake County and Osceola County, Fla. in 2019.

As part of the agreement, THE Spring Games will add the Osceola County Softball Complex to its inventory of facilities for its collegiate softball event, held annually since 2008. THE Spring Games brings over 300 college softball teams to the Central Florida area representing colleges and universities at the NCAA Division II and III, NAIA, and Junior College levels.

Currently, THE Spring Games operates exclusively out of Lake County, Fla. including Clermont, Minneola, and Leesburg. Alison Strange, Manager of THE Spring Games, is excited about this expansion.

“We are thrilled to be at the Osceola County Softball Complex for 2019. As we have grown as an event, we have outgrown the facilities available to us in Lake County. With its access to the theme parks and unique accommodations options, as well as first-class softball facilities in close proximity to our Lake County venues, Osceola County is a perfect fit for THE Spring Games,” said Strange.

“Kissimmee Sports Commission is excited to co-host one of the world’s largest college softball events here in Osceola County,” said John Poole, Executive Director of Kissimmee Sports Commission. “We appreciate the opportunity to partner with a local event rights holder like THE Spring Games and bring talented athletes to experience our state-of-the-art softball facility and all our sunny destination has to offer.”

THE Spring Games will continue to operate at fields in Lake County and will be using the Osceola County Softball Complex for 21 of the 40 days of the event.

The Kissimmee Sports Commission is a brand extension of Experience Kissimmee, the official tourism authority for Osceola County, Fla. The Kissimmee Sports Commission pursues and attracts amateur sports, both traditional and nontraditional, plus a variety of high-profile sporting events to the Kissimmee destination. Sports tourism is responsible for bringing more than 300,000 visitors to the popular Central Florida destination annually, producing approximately 200,000 room nights and exceeding $100 million in economic impact to the community. For more information, visit KISSIMMEESPORTS.COM.

Meet Luther College Pitching Duo Samantha Bratland & Courtney Cooper

By J. Daniel Pearson


They couldn’t be more different. A freshman and a junior. A newcomer to the college game and a returning All-American. A psychology major and a management major who is minoring in studio art.

One is a power pitcher, the other relies on pitch location. One is reserved and a serious student of the game and the other has a bubbly personality who occasionally likes to joke around to keep teammates loose.

But for as different as their personalities are, Samantha Bratland and Courtney Cooper consider themselves the best of friends and are two of the main reasons Luther College is off to a 9-1 start and ranked ninth nationally in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III Poll.

Bratland, a junior, earned third-team All-America honors last season, posting a 22-4 record with a 1.24 ERA. The power pitcher of the duo, Bratland struck out 141 batters in 148 innings last year and is off to a 4-1 start this season.

Cooper, the newcomer, is 4-0 this season with a stellar 0.61 ERA in 23 innings of work.

“We’re just so close,” Cooper said. “When I first got here, I realized that I could learn so much from Samantha. I respected everything she has already accomplished here and also appreciated her willingness to share everything she knows. She’s an incredibly hard worker and a great leader of our team.”

Head coach Ranae Hartl says the two could not be more different but still manage to complement each other.

“Samantha is the veteran and she’s all business,” Hartl says about her junior ace. “Courtney is totally different. She always has a smile on her face and an incredible enthusiasm about her. But what’s really neat about their personalities is that they not only feed off of each other but they sometimes assume each other’s personality.”

Both players say that their close-knit relationship with the third pitcher on the team, Natalie Stockman (0.00 ERA in two appearances), along with catchers Kelsey Rox, Addy Pender, and Kaeli Kovarik, has been a key to the team’s early success.

“Our pitchers and catchers are always together and not just during practices,” Bratland said. “It seems we’re always together whether we are at offseason workouts or just hanging around together. We got to know each other as individuals and we’ve become really close. I think that has given us great chemistry as a team.”

Both Bratland and Cooper also agree the team’s success is also due in large part to Hartl and her staff. Now in her 17th year, Hartl has recorded an impressive 522-172 record heading into this week’s spring trip to Florida. Associate head coach Teri Olson has been with Hartl for 13 of those seasons, while pitching coach Tracy Hjelle has been in her current position for 24 seasons.

“I started going to Luther College softball camps when I was in third grade,” Bratland said. “I grew up in this program and Coach Hartl and her staff were here during that whole time. There’s no question this is where I was going to sign.”

It’s that type of stability and sense of family that both Bratland and Cooper says inspires the team.

“I knew when I was going through the recruiting process that Luther was the right place for me,” Cooper added. “Our coaching staff is awesome and Our pitching coach made the transition from high school to college softball a lot easier on me.”

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.

How St. Thomas Coach John Tschida Fell For Fastpitch

By Tommy Deas


John Tschida took his first softball head coaching job on one condition: If the baseball coaching position came open, he wanted to be considered.

After one season at St. Mary’s—his alma mater, an NCAA Division III school in Winona, Minnesota—the baseball position did become available. And he turned it down.

“I like both of them,” the 50-year-old coach reflects. “I like softball better, the sport itself. I felt I could have an impact.”

That turned out to be an underestimation. Tschida is the only coach to win NCAA softball championships at two different schools: St. Mary’s and St. Thomas, another Division III institution located about two hours away in St. Paul. He took St. Mary’s to the title in 2000 and coached the Tommies to back-to-back national titles in 2004 and ‘05. He was inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame in 2016. Tschida entered the current season just seven victories short of 900. He spent six seasons at St. Mary’s and has been at St. Thomas since 2001.

A native of St. Paul, Tschida grew up reading books on hitting. He became a baseball shortstop. When he was a freshman at St. Mary’s, his duties included loading equipment on the team bus. He got a lesson in leadership from Tim Piechowski, still, the school’s all-time career batting leader.

“I got on the bus, I’m the last one on from making sure all the equipment is in there, and the seats are full,” Tschida recalls. “You’re hoping to find a seat, you keep walking and no seats.”

“Then the best player on the team says, ‘Hey, why don’t you sit here?’ Here’s the best player inconveniencing himself by moving over. I said that’s the kind of leader I want to be.”

Even though he was a baseball player, Tschida came from a softball family: His father played fastpitch on a team that was ranked as high as third in the world, and his brothers also played for a high-level men’s team. When he was in college, they asked him to play—a pursuit he continued into his 40s.

Still, it seemed his future would be baseball. His college coach asked him when he graduated if he was interested in coaching. He set him up with a job in the St. Mary’s admissions office and made him an assistant.

Falling For Fastpitch

Five years later, the school—noting his own fastpitch playing background—made Tschida head softball coach. After his first season, he found that he liked it enough that he turned down the baseball job. In his sixth season, he took the Cardinals to their national title, then left for St. Thomas.

Why did he leave?

“I’m from St. Paul and most of my recruiting was in St. Paul and I was still playing and my team came to St. Paul a lot, so really my life was happening in St. Paul,” he says. “I thought, man I’m driving every day two hours there, two hours back, it would be a lot simpler life.

“As hard it was to leave a national championship team that returned everybody but one, the plus side was what better time to leave your alma mater? It was sad to have to leave those kids.”

Tschida jumped across to the fellow Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference school and, within a few years, was hoisting national title trophies with St. Thomas.

So What’s The Secret To Building Championship Programs?

“A good pitcher makes a coach real smart,” Tschida says with a chuckle. “We all know that.”

“It’s not only having good players, they don’t even have to be that good—they need to be pretty good and they need to be very committed or passionate. I always say, ‘Good, better, best; never let it rest ‘til the good get better, the better get best.”

He wants players and coaches to walk the line between humility and confidence: “The humility that the game is hard, the opponents are all good, and then also playing the game the right way, a little more hustle than the average bird.”

Tschida emphasizes the mental game. He has a master’s degree in sports psychology. The coach has a no-cut policy. He sticks with his players and tries to mold them.

“We don’t separate anything we do from the psychology,” he says. “So it’s a constant talking about either mental toughness or mental relaxation, whatever it may be.”

Developing a winning culture is as important, Tschida believes, as having great talent. He goes back to that lesson he learned from the college teammate who offered his seat on the bus and preaches that kind of leadership.

“Learning how to have championship teams, each team is so different with a different group of individuals mixing in,” he says. “With culture, you have to constantly keep your eye on it. You start to develop routines, they become traditions where the culture almost takes care of itself, which is awesome.”

“One of the biggest compliments is when you can make the players around you better. You need those kids on your team.”

Tschida scouts recruits in search of ability and a little something more. At non-scholarship programs, he has to find good players who are maybe a little more geared toward academics, who are willing to skip the travel and grind of major-college scholarship programs to play at the Division III level where they won’t miss as much class and can concentrate more on their studies.

Intangibles Trump Talent

“You see a kid who may be talented but doesn’t treat a teammate well, they go off your list,” he says. “Sometimes you recruit a kid that’s not that talented but has got that grit, that passion.”

To Tschida, it always comes back to that key ingredient: passion.

Back when the St. Thomas offered him the baseball coaching job came open after his first year coaching softball, he went to his old baseball coach, who advised him to take it.

“I think you’re too good of a coach” to stay in softball, his mentor told him.

The baseball coach’s daughter and wife walked in at the time. His wife chided him.

“Does that mean Angela’s never going to have a good coach?” she asked.

Tschida laughs recalling the scene. It was an epiphany for the young coach.

“You know, just because you can coach doesn’t mean you should go one sport or the other,” he says. “Follow your passion. And fastpitch softball was my passion.”

He’s still following it.

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.

From Houston To Babson, Meet Josephine Mares

When Houston native Josephine Mares decided she wanted to pursue college softball and business school in the Northeast, she made the unlikely choice to join a club team from Pennsylvania.

Her teammates from her hometown were perplexed by her decision.

“I know I wanted a really good education,” Mares said. “I went to a very high academic high school so the people that I went to high school understood, but the people that I played softball with definitely did not. They thought it was a waste of time. They didn’t really understand it.”

Mares father did some research and saw an opportunity at Division III Babson College, located in Babson Park, Massachusetts, which had the No. 1 business school for entrepreneurship.

They called BC coach Dave Canan, went on a visit to Babson, and the rest is history.

Now a junior, Mares is a huge contributor for Babson in every aspect of the game, including as one of the team’s leading hitters. Ranked No. 14 in Division III, the Beavers list a team batting average over .350 and are outscoring their opponents by 17 total runs this year.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about being on a team,” Mares said of her time at Babson. “When you’re playing tournament ball and trying to get recruited it’s a very selfish sport. You’re only looking out for yourself. You’re only wondering what you’re doing, what you’re stats are, etc.

“But at Babson, you really get a family experience. I care so much about the girls around me. Winning is fun but being in this type of environment is so much better.”

When most players felt the pressure of going to a Division I school, Mares went the other direction.

“You’re not missing out on anything by going DII or DIII,” she said. “All of the girls share the same passion and love for the game. You’re not missing out on anything in that aspect. It’s really about your future. You want to pick a school on the academics because softball is going to end for you in four years. That’s the way that I look at it. They shouldn’t make their decision based on softball alone.”

Of course, Mares definitely misses the Tex-Mex and Southern hospitality from Texas, but she wouldn’t trade her experience for the world.

“These past three have been the best years of my life,” she said, “and I’m sure these four years are going to set me up for a great life later on.”

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.

No. 14 Babson Holds Off Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Rolls Past Plymouth State

Reilly Wins 14th Straight Decision and Becomes Program’s All-Time Leader in Innings Pitched

CLERMONT, Fla.—The 14th-ranked Babson College softball team racked up 21 hits in two games and extended its winning streak to five with a pair of victories on Sunday morning at Hancock Park. The Beavers defeated the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 6-4, in their opener before finishing the sweep with an 11-3 five-inning victory over Plymouth State University.

Babson improves to 7-3 overall, Wisconsin-Eau Claire is 6-3 and Plymouth State is now 2-4 on the year.

GAME ONE: Babson 6, Wisconsin-Eau Claire 4

Junior Annie Quine (Santa Monica, Calif.) was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI and senior Samantha Smith(Hillsborough, N.J.) had two hits and drove in a pair of runs for the Green and White. Sophomore Tori Roche (Andover, Mass.) homered and junior Josephine Mares (Houston, Texas) scored twice in support of senior Ali Reilly (New Canaan, Conn.), who struck out six and allowed four runs over 6.2 innings to improve to 5-0 on the year.

Sophomore Gretchen Armeson (Chippewa Falls, Wis.) was 2-for-4 with a double, a homer and three runs batted in to lead the Blugolds. Classmate Sara Peka (Chanhassen, Minn.) shouldered the loss and fell to 2-3 on the season after giving up five runs in 5.1 innings.

Sophomore Victoria Casey (Emerson, N.J.) started the third inning with a double, Mares followed with a single and Smith plated both of them with a bloop single to centerfield for a 2-0 lead. Quine drilled a two-out, two-run homer to straightaway center in the fifth, and Roche smacked her second dinger of the year to make it 5-0 in the top of the sixth.

Arneson and senior Carlie Christensen (Ellsworth, Wis.) hit back-to-back homers to begin the bottom of the sixth to get Wisconsin-Eau Claire on the board, but sophomore Jacqueline Paul (Burlington, N.J.) drew a bases-loaded walk with one out in the seventh to extend the Beavers’ margin back to 6-2. Reilly got two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh, but the Blugolds responded with consecutive singles and a two-run double by Arneson to pull within 6-4.

Babson sophomore Brooke Stock (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) came on in relief and earned the one-out save, her first of the season, with the tying run at the plate.

GAME TWO: Babson 11, Plymouth State 3

Casey and Paul both drove in three runs and nine different players recorded at least one hit as Babson scored 11 unanswered runs to finish off Plymouth State in five innings. Paul, Stock, and sophomore Kayla Schinik (Watchung, N.J.) all finished with two hits apiece, and Stock improved to 2-2 on the year with 4.2 innings of shutout relief.

Senior Nina Murray (Saugus, Mass.) had two hits and junior Ashley Deyo (Dover, N.H.) drove in a pair of runs for the Panthers. Sophomore Caitlyn Miller (Lee, N.H.) fell to 1-3 on the year after giving up nine earned runs on 10 hits and three walks over 4.1 innings in the circle.

Plymouth State sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning and built a 3-0 lead behind a two-run double from Deyo and a pair of errors. The Green and answered with a two-run single by Paul in the bottom of the frame, and then pull even on a two-out RBI base hit by Stock in the last of the second.

The Beavers pushed across three runs in the fourth and then ended the game with a five-run fifth. Casey hit a bases-clearing double to the base of the wall in left-center and Smith ripped a two-run single to center three batters later to drive in Stock and Casey for the final margin.

Babson wraps up its trip on Tuesday when it takes on Juniata and Hope beginning at 9 a.m.

DOUBLEHEADER NOTES

• The Beavers are now 1-3 against Wisconsin-Eau Claire and 6-1 all-time against Plymouth State.

• Reilly won her 14th straight decision in the win over Wisconsin-Eau Claire and passed Babson Hall of Famer Colleen Kelly ’04 as the program’s all-time leader in innings pitched with 487.2. She also needs just one more win to tie another Babson Hall of Famer, Meghan Gaskell ’06, for the most wins in program history at 50.

• The Green and White has recorded at least one extra-base hit in six consecutive games and nine of its 10 contests this season.

• Paul has a hit in eight consecutive games going back to March 3.

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.

Tufts Triumph 1-0 In Season-Opener Over Chicago

CLERMONT, Fla. – Freshman Kristi Van Meter pitched a four-hit shutout in her collegiate debut and junior Kristen Caporelli hit a walk-off single as the Tufts softball team opened 2018 with a 1-0 victory against the University of Chicago on Saturday.

Van Meter and Chicago’s Molly Moran waged a fantastic pitcher’s duel. Before scoring in the seventh, Tufts hadn’t touched third base against Moran. Van Meter worked out of danger in the second when the Maroons loaded the bases with one out.

In the Tufts seventh, senior catcher Raven Fournier walked with one out. A Chicago error and a fielder’s choice on which they failed to get an out loaded the bases. Caporelli then delivered the game-winning single to left as Fournier scored unearned.

Van Meter struck out seven and walked one while getting 12 outs on fly balls. In the Chicago second, the Maroons loaded the bases with a walk and singles by Emma Nelson and Serana Moss. Van Meter struck out Christie Ambrose and got a fly ball out from Skye Collins to strand three.

Jumbo errors also put Maroons in scoring position two more times, including with just one out in the fifth. However, Van Meter worked out of the spots to keep it 0-0.

Tufts’ only scoring threat before the seventh was in the fourth when junior SS Christian Cain reach by error and stole second. However, she was thrown out trying to advance to third on a fly ball to Collins in center.

The teams combined for just seven hits, four by Chicago.

The Jumbos (1-0) play Clarkson in a 7 p.m. start Saturday night. Chicago (0-2) continues its week in Florida with games against Fredonia and Oberlin on Sunday.

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.

Transylvania Split With St. Mary’s and Lakeland at THE Spring Games

Clermont, Fla. – The Transylvania softball team forged a split on their fourth day of competition at the PFX Games on Thursday afternoon, taking a 3-1 defeat to the St. Mary’s College (Ind.) Belles before defeating the Lakeland University (Wis.) Muskies, 9-1 in six innings.

The Pioneers moved to 9-3 on the season and 7-1 for their spring break week with four games remaining in Florida.

In the first game of the day, the Pioneers faced off against the one-loss Belles in a rematch of an early-season contest in Lexington that went to St. Mary’s. In their second clash of the season, St. Mary’s outhit Transylvania 9 to 4, using a go-ahead two-run homer from Makenzie Duncan in the bottom of the fifth inning to clinch the 3-1 lead and subsequent final score.

Senior pitcher Renae Morton took her third loss of the season, racking up six strikeouts against zero walks, while yielding eight hits and two earned runs over four innings of work.

Four different Pioneers collected hits against St. Mary’s with senior outfielder Madison Dorsey pounding a double.

Transylvania bounced back to make quick work of Lakeland in the second game of its Thursday outing, putting its first five batters aboard in the bottom of the first inning. With two runners on base, junior outfielder Shelbi Poehlein hit a shot into centerfield to score freshman infielder CeCe Witry and junior infielder Brittany Mumfordfor a 2-0 Pioneers lead.

The Pioneers plated two more runners in the first inning as Poehlein scored on an RBI base hit from Dorsey while Dorsey came home on an RBI groundout from sophomore designated player Sydney Motell.

Lakeland scored its lone run in the top of the second inning to cut Transylvania’s lead to 4-1, but the Pioneers scored two more in the bottom of the fourth inning for a 6-1 stranglehold on the game.

The Pioneers ended the day early in the bottom of the sixth as Mumford led off with a double and Wittry got aboard with a walk. Both runners scored via an infield error to put the Pioneers ahead by seven runs, and junior infielder Meg Liter scored the ninth run of the game on an RBI infield single to score Dorsey for the final eight-run margin.

Freshman pitcher Kameron Bowling gained her fourth win of the year to move to 4-0 with three strikeouts over four innings.

Transylvania returns to play on Friday with a 4:30 p.m. contest versus Stockton University and a 7:00 p.m. tussle with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in Clermont.

For more on Transylvania softball, follow @TransySoftball on Twitter

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.

Top March Matchups To Watch At THE Spring Games

Some of the top DII, DIII, JUCO, and NAIA softball teams in the country are converging on THE Spring Games in Clermont, Florida, to sharpen their skills before they enter conference play.

The monthlong showcase, which is streaming LIVE on FloSoftball, sees more than 1,500 games take place between hundreds of teams.

Here are some of the top matchups to watch in March.

THE Spring Games Schedule

DII

#9 Minnesota State University Mankato vs. #14 Southern Indiana

When: March 7, 9 AM EST on Legends Way 3

#14 Overall / #1 Atlantic Region West Chester vs. #6 Midwest Region Grand Valley State University

When: March 10, 2 PM EST on Hancock Park 1

#3 Atlantic Region Kutztown vs. #7 Central Region Augustana University

When: March 13, 2 PM EST on Legends Way 5

#6 Atlantic Region Bloomsburg vs. #3 Midwest Region Wayne State University

When: March 16, 9 AM EST on Legends Way 5

DIII

#6 East Region Stockton vs. #4 Central Region Transylvania University 

When: March 16, 4:30 PM on Legends Way 3

#3 New England Region Babson vs. #6 Central Region Hope

When: March 20, 11:30 AM EST on Legends Way 2

#1 Great Lakes Region Wisconsin Whitewater vs. #7 New England Region Tufts

When: March 22,  2 PM EST on Legends Way 5

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.

300 College Softball Teams Are Ready To Play Ball

The Augustana College Women’s softball team is competing against other teams at the Spring Games

From February through April, more than 300 college softball teams come to Clermont to kickstart their season.

The Spring Games were founded in 2008 by Dr. Dot Richardson, who earned Olympic gold as part of the USA’s women’s softball team. The games are now under the direction of Richardson’s niece, Alison Strange, president of PFX Athletics.The games are hosted by PFX Athletics at the Legends Way Ballfields at the National Training Center in Clermont.

Strange estimates that the Spring Games will bring more than $11 million in revenue to the Clermont area.

Clermont City Council Member Diane Travis throws the ceremonial first pitch to the Augustana College catcher at the Spring Games.

Clermont City Council Member Diane Travis threw the first ceremonial pitch Friday to kick off the beginning of the 2018 Spring Games. She welcomed the teams from Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill. and Oakland Community College,  Bloomfield Hills, Mich., wishing both good luck.

Travis understands the dedication required for the college athletes. She is one of the top female athletes in the world for her age group, having won a gold medal in the USA Duathlon and a silver medal in the World Duathlon Championship. Her nephew, Sam Travis, plays first base for the Boston Red Sox.

The Spring Games are open to the public and also are streamed live. Go to www.pfxathletics.com for details about the games and viewing online.

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FloSports Announces Multi-Year Partnership With PFX Athletics

AUSTIN, Texas — FloSports, the innovator in live digital sports and original content, today announced an exclusive partnership with PFX Athletics to air THE Spring Games, the World’s largest college softball event. The multi-year agreement enables FloSports to broadcast the event on FloSoftball.com.

Since 2008, thousands of fans have attended the THE Spring Games to watch hundreds of teams compete in the world’s largest college softball event. This year, THE Spring Games will include more than 1,500 games and 300 teams from DII, DIII, JUCO, NAIA, and the junior college level, including multi-time national champion Tufts University.

“THE Spring Games are some of the most anticipated games in college softball and spotlight the best student-athletes and teams in the sport,” said Phil Wendler, FloSports SVP Global Rights Acquisition and Subscription. “Our partnership with PFX Athletics gives fans unparalleled, daily, and in-depth access to the largest softball event of the year. We’re looking forward to working with (PFX Athletics President and Executive Director) Alison Strange and her team to continue to grow this unprecedented and amazing event.”

Strange said: “The partnership with THE Spring Games and FloSoftball was a logical next step for PFX. Our ability to produce the event with the help of Suffragette Softball coupled with the marketing arm and content-oriented approach of FloSoftball just makes sense. We are a sport that understands the phrase ‘together we are better’ and this is a perfect example of that concept in action in business.”

Live coverage of THE Spring Games begins on Feb. 22, 2018, with Lake-Sumter State facing South Florida State at 4:30 PM ET on FloSoftball.com.

To access live and on-demand coverage of THE Spring Games, visit FloSoftball.com and become a monthly or annual PRO subscriber. Either subscription unlocks access to premium content across the entire FloSports network. Watch the games across all screens by downloading the FloSports app on iOS, Roku or Apple TV 4.

For more information, visit www.FloSports.tv.

Article courtesy of FloSoftball.