The Baylor Bears are preseason ranked 18th in the ESPN poll and 22nd in the coaches poll and have recently released their action packed 2021 schedule. The Bears will open their season the second weekend in February at Lamson Park facing Missouri State and then facing preseason #9 ULL Ragin Cajuns. Head Coach Glenn Moore is in his 21st season leading the Bears and is “More appreciative than ever for the game of softball and Baylor University.“
The shortened 2020 season was a good one for the Bears as they were 19-5, surpassing the wins total from the prior year, defeating ranked opponents: Auburn, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Florida State. As fans look to this 2021 team they should expect a talented squad with lots of depth. Two freshmen have stuck out to Coach Moore, Sydney Collazos and Zadie Lavalley, “these are two of the best catchers we have had in our program, Sydney will get the nod early on and Zadie has a great arm, these two will turn some heads.” Maren Judisch, a freshmen pitcher from Iowa, has been training under Rich Thomas, the father of three-time All-American and Missouri Softball record holder in wins, Chelsea Thomas. “He has molded her into a pitcher and she has a lot of the same great qualities Chelsea had, we expect that she will move into a role of a very effective pitcher for us,” Moore said.
Just as the fall was different for every NCAA team this year, Baylor Softball had to tailor their routine and schedule as well. “We made it clear we were not trying to become a team per say in the fall, our goal was to let our players know they were competing for playing time and make it as competitive as possible,” Moore said. In the years past Baylor has played LSU in the fall and used this as a gauge to how they are prepared for the year, having not been able to play them Moore and his staff had to place an emphasis on pitching and challenging his hitters. Along with the effects of Covid 19 Baylor Softball lost one of its family members and coaches, Mark Lumley on December 27, 2020.
As Beverly Smith heads into her 11th season at the helm as head coach of the South Carolina softball program, who better to deal with change and the often-heard phrase “new normal.” She has dealt with change since she took over the program in 2010. That change resulted in the Gamecocks going to NCAA postseason play 7 of the 10 years. Those changes saw her become only the 2nd softball coach in South Carolina history to get over 300 career wins.
That experience in dealing with adjustments and the ability to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 world that we all work to adjust to, could be the difference in how the season plays out for the Gamecocks.
At the helm of one of the winningest and most tradition rich programs in the country NFCA Hall of Famer Jo Evans looks to lead her Aggies back to OKC. The maroon and white saw success in 2017 going 47-13 and ending their season at the WCWS. Evans, one of the winningest active Division 1 coaches in the game today, with over 1,200 wins, will face one of her biggest challenges yet, coaching during a global pandemic. Along with coaching during Covid-19 the Aggies face away SEC series at LSU, Alabama, and Florida.
Facing a fall like never before the Aggies had to adjust just as every other NCAA team has. Finding themself limited to only intrasquad games Coach Evans had to get creative. “The silver lining about Covid was weren’t allowed to play outside opponents and so with this huge roster of 27 people everyone got lots of reps and lots of playing time,” Evans said. They decided to run their games based on a point system similar to that of the new professional league Athletes Unlimited This system rewards players based on in game performance, meaning each inning is with 10 points and each game is worth 50 points. Evans wanted to run games like AU to put an emphasis on the importance of each at bat, pitch and inning.
The Aurburn Tigers have burst on the scene the past several years, making trip to the WCWS in 2015 and 2016, and in his fourth season at Auburn Mickey Dean has his tigers eyes set on returning back to Oklahoma City. They were on their way in the 2019-20 season as they started the season 16-11with wins over Notre Dame, #25 Northwestern and #18 Minnesota. That was until COVID-19 halted and ultimately ended the season. Dean recalls getting the call during the middle of a mid-week home game informing him the NCAA was shutting things down and ultimately sending all students home. Dean tried to use this a teaching moment to his student athletes, about life and that things are unexpected while encouraging them play every game as their last.
The organization has been competing at a national level for several years and finally broke through in the summer of 2019, as Nate Eaton’s 14u team won the Triple Crown/USA Nationals championship in Georgia.
Eaton’s team finished in third at nationals the year prior but triumphed by beating the Texas Bombers to cap off a 9-0 run through the tournament.
Eaton’s group, which now competes at the 16u level, is one of over 20 teams in the Team NC program, but its story is one that epitomizes what the fastpitch organization is all about.
When you finally get to southern California to play softball, you will quickly learn that he is also the head of the Explosion Softball organization that has some talented teams on the west coast in California, Arizona, and Utah.
“It always starts with the coaching. Look for coaches that are in this game for the right reasons,” says Denio. “I always do research and make sure these coaches are in it for the right reasons and are not there for financial gain.”
When you grow up in the northeast, hockey is the sport of choice to maximize your time outside playing sports and hanging out with friends. For John Knopf, that was where he cut his teeth in sports and how he ended up getting drafted and spending time in the Vancouver Canucks organization.
“As a hockey player, it was great growing up in the northeast. I played hockey from October on outside,” said Knopf.
After his hockey days were over, friends convinced him to give fastpitch softball a try, given his athleticism and his need for a fun way to burn youthful energy. Those times were fast and furious but gave him an indoctrination into the game.
She took over a Bulldogs program in its infancy in 2001, led the team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2002 and hasn’t looked back since.
Georgia hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament in 18 years and was well on its way to achieving more postseason success in the pandemic-shortened season. The Bulldogs were off to a great 23-5 start and had taken two of three in their first SEC series.
The train has just kept on roaring down the tracks in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The University of Louisiana softball program has been one of the top programs in all of college softball for the last three decades.
Not just one of the top mid-major programs. One of the top programs, period.
Gerry Glasco is just the fourth head coach in the program’s history, taking over in late 2017. His first three seasons in Lafayette have done nothing to change the perception of the program. In 2018, the Ragin’ Cajuns won 41 games. In 2019, they won 52 contests and won the Sun Belt championship. Both seasons, they qualified for the NCAA Regionals.