Written By Bill Plummer
OKLAHOMA CITY — The name of the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium just got longer. It's now the OGE Energy Field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium after the NCAA announcement that the WCWS will remain in OKC through 2020 and likely through 2035.
OGE has entered a 20-year naming rights agreement with the Oklahoma City All Sports Association and USA Softball for rights to the field at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“On behalf of the entire ASA/USA Softball community we want to thank OGE for stepping up to the plate to support our venue and all levels of softball played here,” said ASA Executive Director Craig Cress.”The current and future improvements at the facility are due to OGE's support, the City of Oklahoma City , Oklahoma City All Sports , along with several other community enties and leaders. The vision of all parties for the future of our sport is exceptional.”
OGE President Sam Trauschke threw out the first pitch at Thursday's 6 p.m. game between Louisiana-Lafayette and Kentucky. If the NCAA hadn't announced earlier in the week about extending the contract of the WCWS in Oklahoma City, OGE might not have gotten involved for 20-years, but it did and it's a big plus for the future of the WCWS in OKC.
NCAA Vice President Mark Lewis called OKC “the Mecca of Softball” at the press conference earlier announcing to keep the WCWS in OKC. To some OKC has long been the Mecca of Softball, but it's official now and the event is only one of three championships that the NCAA has long standing agreements with . The others are baseball in Omaha and track and field in Eugene, so Oklahoma City is now in an exclusive group.
The NCAA has 89 championships so to be picked as only one of three for a long-term contact is a testament to the people who got the ball rolling in 1990 to get the WCWS here. People like the late Stanley Draper Jr, councilman Pete White, Marita Hynes, Don Porter and many, many others who have devoted their time and effort in making this event “special.” It's only going get bigger and better in the years ahead as more and more colleges are stepping up and spending large amounts of money to upgrade their softball programs and facilities.
Improvements in the future at the stadium complex include extension of the existing dugouts (already done), new tunnels with a handicap plaza, an elevator at the dugout level and a new concession and sales plaza. The stadium will be rebuilt above the dugout level and a new media center will be added at the lower level. Additionally, new ticket booths, press box, concourse and restrooms will be added in the upper level. Work on this project consists of two phases.
The run-rule win by Florida over Baylor was just the fourth in the past 16 years at the WCWS. Between 1989 and 1998, the WCWS averaged one run-rule game a year with six by Arizona and three by UCLA.
Defending national champion Oklahoma (50-12) knew if pitcher Kelsey Stevens didn't give up any homers, the Sooners had a chance to win. Unfortunately, Stevens gave up two and they helped Alabama turn back the Sooners, 6-2, with OU getting only one hit. OU now turns its attention to Louisiana-Lafayette, which defeated OU 7-0 and 3-1 after losing 13-5 in a three-game series in March. Loser of the game is eliminated from the tourney.
Kentucky, which is making its debut in the WCWS, surprised Louisiana-Lafayette 4-1 in its opening game. “I thought we came out and fought from the first inning on,” said Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson.”I thought our offense did a nice job. I thought (starting pitcher Kelsey) Nunley was great on the mound and our defense made all the plays that we needed.” Nunley had Louisiana-Lafayette batters off stride all evening and allowed only one hit against the powerful Louisiana-Lafayette team, entering the Series with 88 homers and a .307 batting average.
The win in the circle for Nunley moves her record to 30-9 on the season, becoming the first 30-win pitcher in program history. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., is now 6-2 in NCAA Tournament play, having thrown every pitch of every NCAA Tournament game for UK this season. The sophomore has nine wins in her career in NCAA Tournament games, leading UK all-time in that category
Opening game loser Baylor hadn't been run ruled since May 19, 2013 when Texas A&M eliminated Baylor 8-0 in five innings to end the College Station regional.
Baylor's 11-run loss was the largest defeat since May 29, 2011 when Georgia beat the Lady Bears 14-2 in the NCAA Super Regional round. Baylor went on to win that Super Regional to advance to the 2011 WCWS. Baylor's three hits were the fewest hits since the May 19, 2013 8-0 loss to Texas A&M when Baylor had two.
Texas A&M (1983) and UCLA (2003) are the only two teams in WCWS history to lose the first game of the tournament and go on to win the national title.Baylor is now 3-5 all-time in WCWS games, and the Lady Bears are 1-2 in WCWS openers.
In the WCWS opener Thursday, Baylor's Whitney Canon lasted just 3.1 innings in the start, which was her shortest start in 2014 since she threw just three innings in an 11-10 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, Feb. 28. She is the first first-team All-American in Baylor softball history.
Baylor coach Glenn Moore on the loss …
“I feel like we were sucker punched quick and we didn't respond. It was more of what we did to ourselves than what Florida did to us. I thought they played a great game, and I thought it was the worst game we've played in the last four or five games. I know this team can play better. They're a great team. I think they have the intestinal fortitude to come back and fight to play better.”
Lexie Elkins' home run, her 23rd of the season, tied her with former Ragin' Cajuns standouts Christi Orgeron (2011) and Holly Tankersley (2008) for the second-most in a single-season in school history. Elkins' RBI, her 73rd of the season, moved her to within one of tying Tankersley (74, 2008) for fifth on the school's single-season list.
The Cajuns were held to one hit in an NCAA postseason game for the first time since May 20, 2011 against Houston in the Austin Regional. During the season, the Cajuns were held to two hits in games against James Madison (Feb. 21) and at Troy (Apr. 19).
Shelbi Redfearn, a Stillwater, Okla., native, made her second appearance in the WCWS after playing for Baylor as a freshman in 2011. She is one of only two seniors and three juniors on the team.
The Cajuns' three errors were the most committed in a game since Feb. 15 when it recorded four in games against Michigan and Memphis.
The Florida State softball facility is named in honor of former head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf who spent 30 years at the school before retiring from coaching June 15, 2008. She had 1,437 wins and also won two AIAW slow pitch titles in 1981 and 1982 before switching to fast pitch in 1984. She had a record of 1,218 wins and 425 losses and six ties in Division One averaging 50.75 wins per year. She taught at her alma mater before retiring in 2013.
University of Tennessee senior shortstop Madison Shipman is winner of the Lowe's Class Award for 2014.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
“Tennessee has not only prepared me for my future career as a professional softball player and coach but has taught me the importance of community,” Shipman said. “The Tennessee softball program provided me with the opportunity to work with different charity organizations and helped me gain a true understanding of what ‘giving back’ means. It doesn't have to mean simply monetary contributions. Your time, respect, dedication and caring spirit are all ways to give back. My journey these last four years has been full of life experiences and I wouldn't be the same person that I am today without all of the charity events that the Tennessee program participated in.
“As for my professional career, I have learned a lot from my coaches. From leadership skills to my maturity on the softball field, I owe my progression to Ralph and Karen Weekly and Marty McDaniel,” Shipman continued. “They provided me the opportunity to flourish as a leader on and off the field and the ability to improve my skills as a softball player. In the classroom, I developed life skills and knowledge that will prepare me for my future. Being a Lady Volunteer at the University of Tennessee has been a wonderful experience for me and I will cherish my four years in orange the rest of my life.”
Shipman will graduate with a degree in anthropology. The four-time Dean’s List student has been active in the Knoxville community. She and her teammates enjoy fun activities with Averi Ramsey, a young cancer patient her team adopted as a teammate. Shipman is active in several community efforts that involve children such as helping with Halloween festivities and promoting exercise for local kids. She has assisted the athletics department by distributing season tickets to fans door-to-door.
“This is a tremendous achievement for one of the most outstanding players Karen and I have ever coached,” Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Madison is a leader on the field. She is a leader in the classroom. She is a leader in the community. She is a person that everybody respects and that people want to emulate.”
Shipman was selected as the 2014 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was named a National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American for the third straight year and was one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. She led the Lady Vols to the 2014 NCAA Super Regionals and finished the season as the team’s leader in batting average (.417), runs (56), hits (70), doubles (16), total bases (140), slugging percentage (.833), walks (46) and on-base percentage (.548) while also hitting a career-best 18 home runs.
“Madison Shipman has been an excellent role model both on the diamond and in the classroom during her career at Tennessee,” said Erik Miner, executive director for the Senior CLASS Award. “She is a great example of how dedication to her studies and to her sport pays off in a big way.”
Bill Plummer A 1973 graduate of Indiana University, Ind. Bill has been involved in softball for more than five decades. For 30 years he was a fixture at the ASA National Office in Oklahoma City as a communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and historian.
In addition, he also served as the editor of the ASA official newsletter, The Inside Pitch, and as the Trade Show manager. He has written widely about the sport and has contributed to 14 books. In 2008, he authored “The Game America Plays.” In 2012, he co-authored “Best of the Best-Women’s Fastpitch.” In 2013 he co-authored “A Series Of Their Own”. Visit his website at PlummerSoftball.com.
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