Tag Archives: softball

In The Circle- Importance of the Mental Game

The game of softball is full of ups and downs.

There are times when players feel great and on top of the world, and times when they feel the lowest of lows. This is when the mental part of the game comes into play. The crazy part about softball is that if you fail 7-out-of-10 times, you are considered an amazing hitter. Having a strong mental approach is extremely important to succeed.

The biggest mental test I ever had actually happened to me my senior year of college.

I was the only senior pitcher on our team and I wanted to prove to my team and myself that I could handle high pressure situations. I also wanted my senior year to be the best and to go out on a high note.

Our team had just begun Pre-Season, and we were heading to Athens GA, to play the No. 5 team in the country, The University of Georgia. I had a conversation with our head coach the day before we played and she said I was going to get the ball in the first game. Once she told me that, I was all over the place in my head. I wanted to prove to everyone that our team could hang with them, and that I was the right person to be in the circle throwing.

I probably got about an hour of sleep the night before because I was so nervous and anxious. Once I started warming up for the game, the nerves kicked in. I was extremely nervous and I wasn’t confident in myself. When the game started I was completely in my head. Let’s just say, the first inning definitely showed all of this. First pitch of the game, homerun. Second batter walked. Third batter hit a home run. Fourth batter hit a homerun. And then just like that, I was pulled out of the game. I didn’t even get an out.

I remember sitting in the dugout thinking “How did this happen? I am THE senior pitcher on this team. I let my whole team down. How could I do that?”

As I watched the rest of the game, I tried to cheer my teammates on, but I felt like I let them down because I had a bad outing. I have never been harder on myself than how I was after that game.

I spoke to my catcher the next day who said, “J, it is just a game. One performance doesn’t define you as a person. You are an amazing pitcher. Next time you go out there relax, HAVE FUN, and know that you are doing the best you can. Your team supports you 100%.”

Her words really stuck with me and the next two weeks during practice I was able to relax more. During spring break, our team was heading down to Gainesville Florida to play the No. 1 Team in the country, The University of Florida. Before the game, my coaches pulled me aside and said that I was getting the ball again. They said they believed in me 100% and just wanted me to do the best that I could.

My mindset for this game was completely different than the game against Georgia. I told myself that I just wanted to have fun and enjoy every second of pitching. I only had about three more months left to play college softball, and I wanted to soak in every moment. Win or lose, I knew that I had put the work in.

In this game, things were night and day different from the Georgia game. I threw a three hitter, and our team only lost 1-0, which happened to be in the bottom of the 7th inning. That game is the best game that I ever pitched in my whole life.

Regardless of the score, I was so proud of myself and my team that we hung with the best team in the country. It showed me that I deserved to be on the mound, and how important having a strong mental game was.

The Georgia game and Florida game were two weeks apart. In those two weeks I didn’t become a whole new pitcher and change my pitching style. However, I did change my mental approach.

Softball is supposed to be fun; that is why we play. Yes, there will be failures, but it is how you bounce back when things don’t go your way. You can’t dwell on an at-bat that you had from the first inning and let that carry with you into the next inning. You need to have a short memory, and focus on the next pitch and next play. If things aren’t going your way, cheer on your teammates and focus on the things that you can control.

Preparing mentally is just as important – if not more – than any other part of your game. At the end of the day, you only have a certain amount of time to play the game of softball, it is important to enjoy every second you can!

In The Circle-Overcoming Adversity

The sport of softball teaches you many life lessons not only on the field but off the field. One of the biggest lessons happened to me when I was eight years old. I learned at an early age how to overcome adversity, how to be a good teammate, and I realized that sometimes things just don’t happen the way you want them to.

I started pitching when I was seven years old. I pitched almost every day growing up; I absolutely loved it. I did everything I could to become better. I played on an 8 and Under Rec Ball team in our local softball league and was primarily our #1 pitcher. The biggest goal I had that year was to make the “A” All Star team. The A team would be the best 12-to-13 girls from the league and they would play all summer in different tournaments.

This would be my first year making All-Stars, and I couldn’t wait to play the whole summer and get better. There were many people throughout the rec ball season that said I was going to make the team, and I couldn’t wait for my parents to get that call.

Our rec ball season came and went, and it was time for coaches to pick the All-Star team. The way the voting goes for the All-Star team is that each manager selects girls that they feel should make the team. They are supposed to select the best girls on the A team, and then the second tier girls would make the B team. It turned out that all the managers that were voting had daughters that were pitchers, and all of those girls ended up on the A team.

Unfortunately, my family got the call that I was going to be on the “B” team. I remember being sad, shocked, and confused. I worked incredibly hard all year, I was the best pitcher in the league, and I was on the B team? How did this happen? This is when I learned that politics, as much as we don’t want them to be, play a role in sports.

I remember having a conversation with my dad about the situation. He said, “J, you can either not play on the B team and not play All-Stars because you are upset, OR you can play on the team and be the best pitcher that you can be and show them that they made a mistake.”

Even though I was extremely disappointed, I decided to play on the B team that year. Playing on that team was hands down one of the best things I ever did. I got to pitch all the time, received incredible coaching, and learned some amazing life lessons. Our team was one of the best B team’s that our organization had ever seen with our team finishing with an 18-4 record.

One of the greatest things that came from the situation was in the second tournament our team ended up playing our A team. We beat them 4-2, which to this day is the only time a B team has beaten an A team from our All-Star program.

My dad received a call after our second tournament from the coaches of the A team. They realized that they made a mistake and they wanted me on their team. Again, I talked with my parents about switching to the A team, but in the end I stayed on the B team. The B team didn’t have any other pitchers, and I did not want to let them down. I had made a commitment to my team and I wanted to stay. I already had a great relationship with my teammates and coaches, and I knew that being loyal was extremely important.

It is crazy to think that I learned some of my most valuable life lessons as an eight year old. I learned that even if you feel you deserve something, sometimes things just don’t go your way and to work even harder. Politics are a part of the sport, but never let them get in the way of you and your goal. Adversity in sports happens, but it is how you bounce back from that adversity.

I could have given up, not played on the team, or had a terrible attitude throughout the whole All-Star season. However, I was able to turn this negative situation into a positive and learn from it. In life, it is how you bounce back from these situations that can not only make you a better ball player, but more importantly a better person.

In the Circle- My Love For The Game

Ever since I was five years old, the only thing I ever wanted to do was play Division I Softball. Softball was my life.

At the age of seven, I started pitching and never looked back. I loved the game more than anything. The goal I set for myself as a five year old to play Division I ball was achieved. On top of that, the past four and a half years I have been fortunate enough to stay involved in the sport of Softball by working at the Softball Factory. This sport has given me so many opportunities and the many people I have met in the game has been amazing.

In the Circle will give you a look into the many different parts of Softball and how much this sport impacts you not only on the field but more importantly off the field. Enjoy!

Girls…make sure to always thank your parents. I know you hear this all the time, but I want to make the first “In The Circle” blog about this topic. It is extremely important and something that many people take for granted. I know that growing up I did this at times, however, there is no way I would be where I am today without them.

My dad and I at seven years old on my 8 and Under Rec ball team.

As I mentioned, from a very early age I wanted to play College Softball. I remember when I was seven, I told my dad I wanted to start pitching because I was bored playing other positions. He asked if I would take it seriously because he didn’t want to spend the money on lessons if I didn’t want to practice or care about it. I said I wanted to, and from then on, I was set.

When I started taking pitching lessons, my dad became my catcher. He caught me every single time I needed to pitch. Looking back, those are some of the best times I had with my dad. On certain occasions, we would pitch at 6AM and find a field with lights on, because I knew that we couldn’t pitch later on in the day. Or we would pitch at 10PM before bed because I knew I needed to get a bullpen in. He never ever complained, whether the weather was freezing cold, or extremely hot, or if I wasn’t in the…best mood that day, he was a trooper and was always there for me.

I had been pitching for about a year, when I found out that my dad was diagnosed with Leukemia. As an eight year old, you don’t really understand what that means. In reality, it meant my dad would be in the hospital for 6-to-8 months and it would take close to a year for him to become 100% healthy. This also meant that the catcher I was used to having, wasn’t able to be there. Thinking of my dad not surviving never crossed my mind. Thankfully he beat cancer, and today is as healthy as ever. He actually just celebrated his 20th anniversary of being cancer free this past May.

Reflecting back, there is no way I would be where I am without him and the sacrifices he made. When I was in college and came home for holidays and the summer, my dad would wear full catching gear any time he caught me. It may have looked a bit funny to people walking by, but his response was always “Do you want to try to catch her?” I will cherish the moments and memories I had with my dad forever because they are some of the best times of my life.

When my dad was sick, my mom attempted to catch me. She caught me maybe….three times and then said I was throwing too hard. However, she was my biggest fan, biggest supporter, and knew more about what I was doing incorrectly pitching wise then sometimes I did. She came to all of my games (even if we had Nationals in the hottest places, or had seven games in a day, or had the 8AM game and we had to get up at 5 AM, etc…) She was a trooper through it all.

My parents and I at Mercer. I don’t know where I would be without them.

When I was 12 years old, my family got the news that my mom had Breast Cancer. That was a big shock and a hit to everyone in my family especially after everything my dad went through. This news was difficult since I was in seventh grade, and this time I fully understood what was going on. My mom like my dad is a fighter and has been cancer free for the last 15 years.

Through all of her treatments, she did whatever she could to make sure she was at my games. She tried to go to as many pitching lessons as she could, and tried to stay as involved as possible. I am her #1 fan and she is not only my mom, but my best friend.

Looking back on my career, I don’t know where I would be without the love and support of my parents. Not only are they my heroes, but they always supported my goals and dreams to play softball. They drove me everywhere I needed to go, never complained about not having a “real family vacation,” spent money on new equipment, travel team fees, pitching/hitting lessons, hotels, etc. You name it, they did whatever they could to support me.

I played softball at two different colleges, 5,000 miles away from home, and they supported me through all the ups and the downs. I realized how much I missed having my parents at my games in college when I wasn’t able to see them every weekend. There is no way that I would be the type of player and person that I am today without them.

I want to end this with what I said in the beginning: Always say thank you to your parents, and never take them for granted. Understand that they make sacrifices for you every single day. There are probably times that they would rather not be at the fields from 6AM-10 PM every single weekend, but they do it because they love you. They do it because they want you to succeed and be the best softball player you can be. Always appreciate them, because they do more for you than you will ever know.

Five Division I Commits Shine At 2017 All-America Pre-Season Tournament

Being named a Softball Factory Pre-Season All-American is truly an honor. Powered by Under Armour, Softball Factory All America Preseason Tournament featured a special guest this year, Olympic Gold Medalist and former Player of the Year Jennie Finch. Softball Factory selected 44 athletes from across the nation to participate in the event. Each athlete showed strong passion and skills for the game.

This year there were five 2017 Pre Season Under Armour All American outstanding player awards listed below:

Casey Dixon

Casey Dixon

RHP Casey Dixon is approaching her final season at Willis High School in Willis, TX. Last season Dixon went 25-2 with a 1.13 ERA striking out 311 batters. She also batted .364 with 38 RBI and was named MVP of her district. The senior has committed to University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

At the tournament, Casey was a recipient of the Easton Gloveman Award and received a brand new Easton glove. She described the experience as unforgettable.

“I had so much fun! It was great to meet so many girls from different states and to play alongside them,” Dixon said. “I was able to learn a couple of new and different things while playing for coaches I had never played for before. Having Jenny Finch there to watch and instruct me was an honor!”

The Dixon family is just as excited to see her play at Louisiana-Lafayette.

“We are so excited and blessed. Most of our family is from Louisiana, so it feels like home. The people in Lafayette are just wonderful and so welcoming. It will be amazing to watch Casey in a Ragin’ Cajun uniform with the best softball fans in the country. I know she has worked really hard to get the opportunity to play Division 1 ball, so it is a wonderful feeling to see that pay off for her.”

Janae Jefferson

Janae Jefferson

OF Janae Jefferson is entering her senior season at Chester W. Nimitz Senior High School in Harris County, TX. Her junior season she finished with a .687 batting average with 21 doubles, 15 triples, 31 RBI and swiping 18 bases. The Texas native will be playing college ball at the University of Texas.

“I thought the event was great,” Jefferson said. “The event was very professionally organized. I got to meet some nice people and play the sport that I love. I really enjoyed it. Softball means the world to me. I fell in love with the game at six years old, I love the competition and team work aspect of the game.”

Ecstatic to play at the University of Texas, her parents share the emotion of the feeling.

“It’s always been her dream to play Division 1 softball. We are so proud and excited for her. The fact that she gets to live out her dream is just awesome. The true icing on the cake is that she gets to play for Coach Clark at The University of Texas. When you think of college and universities in this state, the one that immediately comes to mind is UT. They have a tremendous tradition.”

At the tournament, Janae was also a recipient of the Easton Gloveman Award and received a brand new Easton glove.

Audrey Lyle

Audrey Lyle

1B/C Audrey Lyle is entering her junior season at Westlake High School in Westlake, OH. In her high school career, Audrey is averaging .437 with 45 hits and six doubles. She has already committed to Belmont University and has worked hard at the game since four years old.

“Audrey started softball when she was four years old. She went from tee ball, to coach pitch, to local travel, and eventually to national travel teams. Softball has taught Audrey so much about life and how to work with others. She has been challenged and blessed so much by the game. She has learned to set and achieve goals for herself and her teammates through hard work and dedication.”

Her favorite moment at the tournament, according to her mom, Laura, was the coaches, especially Jennie Finch and Raven Chavanne.

“Audrey was so honored to be chosen as a Pre-Season All-American, and she was so blessed to be coached by Jennie Finch and Raven Chavanne, along with all of the amazing Softball Factory coaches.”

At the tournament, Audrey was also a recipient of the Easton Gloveman Award and received a brand new Easton glove.

Her family continued “She loves being able to play with amazing, talented girls from all over the country at Softball Factory events! She has learned so much about life and softball from the Softball Factory!”

Playing at Belmont University Audrey can’t come any sooner for Audrey.

“Playing at Belmont after graduation will be a dream come true for her. She feels like it is the perfect place that God prepared for her. Her future coaches and teammates are amazing, and she can’t wait to get there!”

Alexandria Lewis

Alexandria Lewis

SS/OF Alexandria Lewis is entering her senior season at Columbia High School in West Columbia, TX. In a total of 73 games, Alexandria has a batting average of .444/.519/.580 with 53 stolen bases in her high school career. She is a Galveston College commit who fell in love with the game at six years old determined to play college ball.

“Alexandria has been playing softball since she was six years old and we are so proud that she has decided to attend Galveston College and continue her education. She has made some sacrifices along the way but she has always been very determined to follow her dream and play softball and dreamed of someday playing at the Division I level and maybe even in the Olympics. Our goal was always for her to go to college so she could make a way for herself, not knowing for her it would becoming so much more.”

At the tournament, Alexandria was also a recipient of the Easton Gloveman Award and received a brand new Easton glove, where she described the tournament as an amazing experience.

Madison Watson

Madison Watson

3B Madison Watson is approaching her senior season at Riverside Academy in Reserve, LA. Last season, Madison averaged a slash line of .348/.442/.573 with 31 hits in 31 games. The Louisiana native looks forward playing college ball at Southeastern Louisiana University. It has been a dream of hers to play in college for a long time, while her parents are just as excited.

“Softball means the world to me,” Madison said. “It’s the one place where everything disappears and I get to be me. It has taught me valuable life lessons such as team work and how to overcome failures even through difficult times. I fell in love with softball when I was eight years old. I have to thank this sport for the endless amount of friendships that will last forever.”

“To us as parents, we are always proud of Madison, whether it’s on the softball field or in the classroom. It doesn’t mean so much to us where Madison is playing, DI or at a Junior college. We are most proud that all of her hard work has paid off. She has spent endless hours at the softball field working to get better. She’s a kid who doesn’t believe in defeat, so we are proud that she gets to live out her life long dream of playing college softball.”

At the Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament, she was a recipient of the Easton Offensive Player Award and received an Easton stealth bat.

“I personally feel like that weekend was one of the most influential events I have ever attended,” Madison said. “There were so many great coaches and role models there to remind me why I fell in love with softball in the first place. I learned a lot from the event that I will continue to use as I play this sport. Let’s not forget that it was also a lot of fun and I was able to interact with some great athletes from around the world.”

College Spotlight – California State University, Fullerton

California State University, Fullerton

Division: NCAA I

Conference: Big West

Nickname: Titans

School Size: 37,677

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6810, Fullerton, Calif., 92831

Team Site: Cal State, Fullerton Softball

Head Coach:

Kelly Ford –softball@fullerton.edu

Program Highlights:

  • The 2016 season is Coach Ford’s fourth with the Titans
  • The program’s first Big West Player of the Year selection came in 2014
  • Fullerton hosts the Titan Classic every year
  • Four Titans earned NFCA All-Regional honors following the 2016 season

Schedule Highlights:

The Titans finished the 2016 regular season with a 34-5 record.

The Titans full 2016 schedule can be found here.

Information on Titan Softball Camps can be found here.

To fill out a recruiting questionnaire, click here.

Sophomore Rainey Already Drawing Interest From Top College Programs

Savanna Rainey

Basketball is in her blood, but softball is in her heart. She had been playing basketball since kindergarten, but when Savanna Rainey was in the fourth grade she bought a bat and a glove and went to Verona Little League tryouts. The rest of her story is still being written, but there’s no doubt that her talent is going to take her places.

Savanna eventually gave up basketball to play on more competitive travel softball teams and so that she could attend camps across the country. The young catcher’s talents were recognized by Softball Factory coaches at her first College PREP event in 2013 and again at the Softball Factory Christmas Camp and Tournament in December of 2014.

Kristina Hilberth-Wyatt was an On Field Director at the 2014 Christmas Camp and Tournament and was able to evaluate Savanna’s performance. 

“Savanna understands the game, makes good adjustments, and wants to get better every day,” said Hilberth-Wyatt. “Her hard work and passion for the game will have an immediate impact on a talented team.”

The Softball Factory Christmas Camp and Tournament is a high level invite-only event held every year at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.

“The Softball Factory Christmas Camp was a great experience for me. I appreciated being coached and taught by the highest level of players like Hannah Rodgers,” says Savanna. “I also met a lot of awesome players from all over the country that I continue to stay in touch with. It is fun to watch who is committing and to where.”

Her parents, Andi & Reggie Rainey, echo Savanna’s thoughts: “The Softball Factory Christmas Camp was a great investment. We appreciated how well the camp was run as well as the tournament portion. We loved the one-on-one interaction our daughter received with Lea Ann. We continue to stay in contact with her and she has been helpful in the recruiting process for Savanna.”

Although she cannot officially be recruited until September 1st of her junior year, Savanna has been invited to camps and on unofficial visits by Division 1 programs including Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, the University of Central Florida, Washington and Syracuse.

Senior Director of Softball Factory Lea Ann Jarvis said that she knows Savanna will be very good anywhere she chooses to go.

“I think Savanna will be a great prospect, a great player, anywhere.” Jarvis said. “She’s very athletic, she’s got a great mindset for the game, extremely coachable, does things the right way…in reference to the game and off the field, and she’s got just a really good head on her shoulders.”

College Spotlight – University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Division: NCAA I

Conference: Southeastern

Nickname: Wildcats

School Size: 30,000

Mailing Address: Lexington, KY 40506

Team Site: University of Kentucky Softball

Head Coach:

Rachel Lawson –kentuckysoftball@uky.edu

Program Highlights:

  • Coach Lawson enters her ninth season with the Wildacts carrying a 276-199 record, 89-117 SEC
  • In her time at Kentucky, Coach Lawson has lead UK to its first-ever appearance in the Women’s College World Series, three NCAA Super Regionals the last four seasons, and a program-best 50 wins in 2014
  • Kentucky has made the NCAA Tournament each of the last six seasons, being one of just 21 schools nationally to do so
  • Coach Lawson, who also serves as the pitching coach for the Wildcats, has guided three different pitchers to throw no-hitters against top-25 teams the last three seasons alone
  • Kentucky has 12 career no-hitters, all of which have come under Lawson’s tenure
  • In her eight years with the Wildcats two players have been named All-Americans, 27 have received All-SEC Honors, and 116 players have been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll
  • The Wildcats actively participate in community service programs around Lexington, logging over 1,500 hours since 2006 with eight players having been named to the SEC Community Service team
  • Twenty-seven Wildcats have been honored with the Frank G. Ham Society of Character award, which is the highest honor any UK student-athlete can receive from the university

Schedule Highlights:

The Wildcats are 31-5 through the first half of the 2016 season

The Wildcats full 2016 schedule can be found here.

For more information on Kentucky Softball Camps, click here.

To fill out a recruiting questionnaire, click here.

College Spotlight – University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida

Division: NCAA I

Conference: American Athletic

Nickname: Knights

School Size: 63,002

Mailing Address: 4000 Central Florida Blvd. Orlando, Florida, 32816

Team Site: University of Central Florida Softball

Head Coach:

Renee Luers-Gillispie- rgillispie@athletics.ucf.edu

Program Highlights:

    • Coach Gillispie enters her 15th season leading the Knights
    • The Knights are coming off the best season in program history, winning a school record 50 games and setting 11 single season records
    • In 2015 UCF led the nation with a 0.93 ERA and posted a .979 fielding percentage that ranked second in the nation
    • Since starting the program in 2002, Gillispie has led the team to four conference championships, including the program’s first regular season and conference titles in 2015

Schedule Highlights:

The Knights are 23-13 through their first 36 games in 2016

For information on camps, click here.

For the Knights full 2016 schedule, click here.

To fill out a recruitment questionnaire, click here.

College Spotlight – University of Missouri

University of Missouri

Division: NCAA I

Conference: Southeastern

Nickname: Tigers

School Size: 35,448

Mailing Address: Columbia, MO 65211

Team Site: University of Missouri Softball

Head Coach:

Ehren Earleywine- earleywinee@missouri.edu

Program Highlights:

    • Coach Earleywine enters his 10th season as head Tiger with a 411-138 record
    • The Tigers have averaged 45.7 wins per season in Coach Earleywine’s nine seasons in the dugout
    • The Tigers have made three Women’s College World Series appearances, recorded the first three 50-win seasons in school history and have advanced to seven NCAA Super Regionals since Coach Earleywine took over the program in 2007
    • The 2015 Tigers squad set program-best marks for total RBI (355), runs scored (395), walks (264) and combined batting average (.320)

Schedule Highlights:

The Tigers are 22-4, 2-1 in conference play, through their first 26 games in 2016

For information on camps, click here.

For the Tigers full 2016 schedule, click here.

To fill out a recruitment questionnaire, click here.

College Spotlight – University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota

Division: NCAA I

Conference: Big Ten

Nickname: Gophers

School Size: 51,150

Mailing Address: Tucson, Arizona 85721

Team Site: University of Minnesota Softball

Head Coach:

Jessica Allister- candrea@arizona.edu

Program Highlights:

    • Coach Allister enters her sixth season with the Gophers, coming off a 49 win 2015 season
    • The Gophers are 191-88 with Coach Allister leading the team
    • The Gophers set program records in 2015 in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles and home runs. The pitching staff set a record for most strikeouts
    • Minnesota also had the 2015 Big Ten Player of the Year along with 14 total players being earning Academic All-B1G Honors

Schedule Highlights:

The Gophers are 19-9 through their first 28 games in 2016

For information on camps, click here.

For the Gophers full 2016 schedule, click here.

To fill out a recruitment questionnaire, click here.