Illinois Wesleyan: Redefining Ally Wiegand, One Softball Player’s Search For Her Identity

Returning To The Field

Quickly, word circulated around town.

Ally’s back. Ally’s back. Coaches heard and reached out. She can’t guess now how many emails she deleted. One stuck with her, from Denise Prater, her former travel coach, and an assistant coach for Division-III Illinois-Wesleyan.

“They said everything I needed to hear,” Wiegand said. “That I’m a human first and a student second and then a softball player, that they were going to do everything they can to be happy and healthy, and it all sounded great. But I was skeptical.”

Skeptical, but with her interest piqued. Softball, it seemed, had burrowed itself into her soul.

But she needed to see the Titans in action, to get a feel for who they were, how they played, and, well, if they smiled and enjoyed playing. Happy teammates are good teammates, it seems.

Wiegand began showing up to I-W games incognito, wearing a bulky sweatshirt and a hat, standing near the outfield fence or high up in the bleachers, away from anyone. She didn’t want to be seen or to feel pressured. Pretty soon, there were rumors. Who is that girl in the stands, and why is she always around?

“People would walk by and say, ‘Hi Ally, how you doing?’” she said. “The gig was up.”

“I saw her every time,” Illinois-Wesleyan head coach Tiffany Prager says now. “She was not great at hiding.”

Prager, of course, was interested. She saw Wiegand pitch for the first time as a high school freshman and knew she was in store for big things. Throughout Wiegand’s career at Tri-Valley High, Prager kept tabs. Tri-Valley is less than a dozen miles away from I-W, after all.

When Wiegand moved home, Prager heard in a hurry.

“I had people reaching out to me within the community almost immediately, keeping me posted,” Prager said. “I wanted her to be comfortable making her decision. Not only to play but to play at I-W.”

For a while, Wiegand wasn’t completely sold.

The first time around the recruiting merry-go-round, Wiegand acted hastily. She verbally committed to South Dakota two days after her 16th birthday, and being “naïve about NCAA rules,” she didn’t realize how many coaches would continue to contact her. Feeling unsure about the whole process, at the time she was confident in her decision and wanted to stay loyal. Even a coaching change in 2017 did not dissuade her from her original choice.

But, Wiegand says now, “I wish I had more time to figure myself out.”

When everything went south, she knew it would take a special coach to rekindle the love of the game. She found that in Prager.

“I kept stalking them, and I followed them to the conference championship,” she said.

Soon enough, the softball bug bit her again.

She was back, and the Titans were better for it.

How much better? How about this: Last season’s D-III runner-up after losing in the NCAA championship game to top-ranked Virginia-Wesleyan, the Titans went 19-5 last year with Wiegand in the circle. She tossed 16 complete games, struck out a school-record 229 batters and finished with a 1.15 ERA and a second-team NFCA All-American nod.

Not bad for someone who gave up softball.

The Healing Team

Looking back, Wiegand has regrets.

When she absconded from South Dakota like a thief in a stolen car, she couldn’t even face her teammates and left without saying goodbye, or providing an explanation. It was not her finest moment, she said.

“I was not where I need to be, but that’s hard for people to hear,” she said. “Sometimes you have to do that. People don’t understand it. It is such a hard decision, and I had so much backlash. I mean, I had a full ride at South Dakota, and I was told I was wasting my talent. That I was stupid.”

But you have to live in her shoes.

She’d first picked up a softball at the age of four. At eight, she was throwing bullets, so hard that batters were coming to the plate in shin guards. She skipped 13U and was a 12-year-old on the 14U team. In eighth grade, she got a personal pitching coach and started training to be a DI athlete. She says her family “wasn’t that psycho family with softball,” but even despite a relatively healthy perspective, “softball was definitely my identity.”

And in a graduating class of 68 students at Tri-Valley, where, she said, “I was either Austin’s little sister or Ally The Softball Player,” she stood out. Softball is where she derived her worth, and her joy, or what she knew of it. She missed a homecoming for softball, traveled almost every weekend for the sport, ripped up her knee playing it.

Softball wasn’t just her sport. It wasn’t just her thing. It was her.

“Softball was my entire life in high school,” Wiegand said. “But I found I have more passions than softball. There are things I wanted to explore.”

This is a girl who lists, “Hippie at heart,” on her Twitter profile.

That, Prager said, is not a bad thing.

“We have goofy moments that pull out the hippie in Ally,” Prager said of her team.

Added Wiegand: “Our team thrives on being goofy and our authentic selves.”

That, Wiegand said, is what helped pull her out of her shell, and more so, out of the muck.

“My mental health was deteriorating,” she said. “I was looking at softball as a job, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Every player will tell you they play because a little girl picked up a ball 15 years ago.”

That little girl, Wiegand found, was gone.

Now she’s back.

She loves her teammates, coaches, her studies and her classmates, and, inch-by-inch, she’s beginning to love herself.

“The coaches told me, you came to us very broken, and it took me all fall and at least a couple weeks into last year to feel comfortable,” she said. “I feel like I was put on this team to heal.”

How Southern Indiana Caught Fire & Won Their First DII Championship

How Southern Indiana Caught Fire & Won Their First DII Championship
View Full 2019 THE Spring Games Coverage
Jan 22, 2019
Chez Sievers

Southern Indiana hurler Jennifer Leonhardt stepped into the circle for the first time in her collegiate career back in February 2017. That game, the Screaming Eagles’ season opener, was against the defending NCAA Division II champion North Alabama.

Leonhardt fired a three-hit, complete-game shutout in the 3-0 win and gave USI opponents a glimpse of things to come.

Even back then, head coach Sue Kunkle knew what she had in her freshman hurler.

“I knew she was going to be good this year, but I was surprised at how poised she is in the circle,” said Kunkle in an interview I had with her for a preview of the upcoming 2017 NCAA Championship. “She is even-tempered and has great command of the game.”

That command carried into Leonhardt’s sophomore campaign, providing Kunkle and the Screaming Eagles the ultimate of results.

As fate would have it, Leonhardt would once again take to the circle against a defending DII champion, this time in the 2018 NCAA DII Championship opener against North Georgia.

The All-American sophomore again dominated, allowing just one hit and three base runners in her third consecutive complete game shutout – springboarding the Screaming Eagles into a tournament run that would end with USI bringing the National Championship Trophy back to Evansville.

Catching Fire
The Screaming Eagles made a 14-1 run through the post-season last May, culminating with the first-ever USI National Championship in any women’s sport.

“It was the most amazing moment of my career,” Kunkle said. “It obviously is something every coach strives for and wants for their program and their players – it was such a magical year.”

Kunkle credits that magic to a battle-ready attitude.

“Last year’s team was dynamic in many ways,” she said. “We were never a flashy team…never at the top of our conference. We had to battle back many times through our regular season play and found [ourselves] fighting to get into post-season….we truly won with every single player on our roster.”

Kunkle credits a 4-0 win over Indianapolis in the opening game of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament as key to last season’s spectacular run.

“Our turning point of our season I think was when we won our first game at the conference tournament,” Kunkle said. “After we won that game and realized that we showed up and [were] back to playing the way we should have been playing all season, we were bound and determined to win the whole thing.”

That game, a one-hit shutout by Leonhardt – followed by a 10-0 thrashing of McKendree – led to back-to-back wins over defending GLVC Champion Missouri-St. Louis earning USI their first conference title in 20 years.

Leonhardt’s arm continued to dominate into the remaining 2018 postseason.

Overall in the NCAA Championship, Leonhardt was 5-0 with a 1.44 ERA, a .091 opponent batting average and 40 strikeouts in 34 innings of work. In 31 of the 34 innings she pitched in the championship, she allowed just three hits and no runs.

“Once we came into conference as the 6th seed, we literally had nothing to lose,” said Leonhardt. “We [rode] that expression all throughout the postseason and it made us focus on one game at a time and before you know it, one win turned into fourteen…we didn’t care about the numbers, we just wanted to play our best ball, and that’s what we did,” she added.

Return Of The Champs?
Kunkle echoed her prior praise of Leonhardt after her 2018 season success but understands that more than one arm will be needed for a chance to hoist the trophy in 2019.

“Jenn is a competitor,” said Kunkle. “She works very hard and wants to do the best she can to win for the team. Along with our returning seniors, [Haylee] Smith, [Caitlyn] Bradley, and our new incoming pitchers [we’ll] be a pitching staff that again will be a tremendous staff that will keep us hopefully as a National contending program.”.

But a National Championship trophy in your display case comes along with it a bullseye, and typically a circle on every opponent’s schedule looking to make a statement. Entering her 18th season at the helm of the Screaming Eagle bench, Kunkle likes their odds.

“This year’s team is very special,” said Kunkle. “We have a very talented core back and our incoming freshmen class is extremely talented. Everyone is hungry for success and the way they work every day is exciting to watch. The culture in our program is in place exactly where we want it and we expect to be a team right back at the top,” she added.

Entering the season as the defending national champion is a challenge in any sport.

“We all know we can’t be coming into this season too high, but we do have this confidence and positive energy that will hopefully propel us into the season,” said Leonhardt. “One of our sayings for this year is “291” because there are 291 other teams out there we have to beat on this “Road to Denver” but ultimately, we know it’s up to us and won’t just be handed to us.”

Her head coach agreed.

“Obviously the pressure is there, however, we are not going into the season looking at it like that at all,” said Kunkle. “This is a new year and a new team…the journey is long and grueling, but we are ready and excited to start the season.”

Susquehanna Softball Realizes Dreams Through Friends Of Jaclyn

Susquehanna Softball Realizes Dreams Through Friends Of Jaclyn

When the University of Florida won their first Women’s College World Series title in 2014, hundreds of thousands of viewers all over the world noticed one detail: every girl on the team wore a sunflower in her hair.

The sunflowers represented Heather Braswell, a teenager with brain cancer whom the Florida softball team had “adopted.” Braswell passed away just weeks before Florida’s 2014 run at the championship and the sunflowers paid tribute to their honorary teammate. But this movement didn’t start with Florida softball. The sunflowers were part of something much bigger.

Brad Posner, head softball coach at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania knows a thing or two about what those special sunflowers.

“I’ve been involved with Friends of Jaclyn since my days coaching in New York,” he said. Friends of Jaclyn paired Florida with Heather Braswell who was diagnosed with brain cancer.  They place children and/or teenagers with pediatric brain tumors and other forms of cancer with college athletic teams. As an assistant coach at SUNY Cortland, Posner’s team adopted a kid. And when he moved on to UT Dallas, the Comets continued their relationship with Friends of Jaclyn.

Enriching the lives of Friends of Jaclyn children who are battling tumors or cancer is the mission of the organization but in return, they are improving the lives of softball players and teams all over the country. That’s why Posner was so eager to get the Susquehanna team involved—but it took over two years. “

[There are]

lots of rules we have to get around, privacy rules,” he explained. “But we were able to get through with one of the social workers at Geisinger, the main hospital here, and she connected us with the Rogers family. Olivia had been diagnosed with leukemia and was getting treatments.”

The Susquehanna team welcomed twelve-year-old Rogers with open arms in fall 2017, Posner said, “and she’s been a tremendous part of our team ever since.”

In spring 2018, the team was headed to Florida for THE Spring Games, and they’d gotten so close to Rogers that they invited her to come along.

“A couple of our players went to visit her one of the times she was in the hospital,” Posner said, “They half-jokingly, half-serious said, why don’t you come to Florida with us?”

But of course, Posner acknowledged, the Rogers family couldn’t swing the trip due to Olivia’s medical bills. It was impossible. That didn’t matter to his players, though—the Susquehanna team decided they were on a mission. Several tweets and a lot of hard work later, the team had raised $6,000 for Olivia to join them in Florida.

“It was absolutely amazing what they could accomplish with the use of social media networking and the effort they put into it—it was tremendous,” Posner said. Olivia’s time in Florida was “kind of like a dream:” she went to the ballparks, went to Disney, and hung out in the dugout with the Susquehanna girls. Even pro team Scrap Yard Fastpitch got involved, covering the cost of plane tickets so the Rogers’ could get to Florida plus sending player Nerissa Meyers down to spend the week with Olivia and Susquehanna. But Olivia didn’t wake up from the dream just yet. Agent Matthew Lunsford, who represents a few of Scrap Yard’s players, stepped in.

“The agent for Monica Abbott is also the agent for Charlie Culberson of the


Braves. He got wind of it and got them involved,” Posner said. The next thing Olivia knew, she was throwing out the first pitch at an Atlanta Braves spring training game. Not only did she spend time in Susquehanna softball’s dugout, but she also got to spend time in the Atlanta Braves dugout and play catch with Culberson in the batting cage—all because Posner’s players took action.

When Posner first brought up the idea of adopting a young cancer patient, his players were excited, but they had no idea what was coming. “


couldn’t realize the overall effect it would have on them. Having Olivia around brings a different sense of perspective. The girls Snapchat with her every day, constantly… how can they complain about what they’re going through when there’s this twelve-year-old girl who’s battling leukemia? She’s got chemo and radiation going on in her day and these girls are overstressed about a test they have to take? It gives them a definite bigger perspective of what somebody is going through and to be grateful for what they have.”

That’s one of the many benefits of Friends of Jaclyn. The organization was established in 2005, aiming to let children battling pediatric brain tumors “live in the moment… play in the moment.” Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2004 and was “adopted” by a college lacrosse team, becoming an honorary team member. Living out their own inspirational movie, the team had a perfect season and won their first NCAA DIII National Championship in 64 years, all because of Murphy’s inspiring resiliency and joy for life. Now her family’s organization focuses on helping as many children as they can, from Heather Braswell to Olivia Rogers.

For people who are interested in partnering with Friends of Jaclyn, there are numerous opportunities available. “The tricky part about dealing with kids in cancer is there’s no money in the cause. It costs more than it makes,” Posner explained. “Money is always a good thing, but


people just being involved. Kids need support; kids need love and friendship.”

In addition to collegiate teams, the organization is spreading their wings partnering with high school sports teams.

“Dennis always says that it’s important to raise money for cancer research to help save kids’ lives,” Posner said about Friends of Jaclyn’s founder, adding, “and it totally is.” But the organization’s true mission is something that many people overlook: improving the quality of life for pediatric cancer patients. When a child’s days are filled with nothing but treatments, medicines, and doctor’s appointments, they don’t have much to look forward to. That’s where Friends of Jaclyn comes in. What can be measured dollars can’t be measured in smiles and lives directly impacted by Friends of Jaclyn. From softball teams to MLB players to the children of Friends of Jaclyn, the memories and experiences provided through this foundation are priceless.

For more information about the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and how you can get involved, click here.

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.


• 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.