9-13-2016 Lotief Honored by NFCA

Louisiana-Lafayette’s Michael Lotief named 2016 Donna Newberry “Perseverance” award recipient

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) is honored to announce Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Michael Lotief as the 2016 recipient of its Donna Newberry “Perseverance” Award.

The award, named for the longtime Muskingum College and 2008 NFCA Hall of Fame coach who died in November 2010 after amassing a 906-419-1 mark over 36 seasons, recognizes an NFCA member coach who has demonstrated extraordinary strength of will and character in the fight to overcome a physical, mental or social adversity that presented an additional challenge to the already demanding job of a coach.

Lotief joins Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf (2014) and the late John Keyes (2015), head coach at North Fort Myers (Fla.) High School as recipients of this prestigious award.

Complete release attached

9-9-2016 A Spy Editorial: Stop Killing Children


Russian bombs or Syrian regime bombs? The end game for this 5 year old? His brother died.

Oman’s future like that of the Middle East is uncertain, prospects are fragmented.


Another attempt at a cease fire

The United States and Russia said early Saturday in Geneva they had reached a landmark agreement that would lead to a cease-fire in the five-year-old Syrian civil war and pave the way for broader military cooperation in the battle against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists.

Secretary of State John Kerry called the deal a potential “turning point” in the bloody conflict, which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and forced millions to flee their homes. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the agreement in Geneva, Switzerland where negotiators hammered out the deal.

The cease-fire is set to begin at sundown on Monday. It is seen as a first step in what could become a broader military pact between Russia and the United States that has so far remained elusive.

Citing a number of recent meetings with Lavrov, Kerry said: “The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe that Russia, and my colleague, have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and to come to the table and make peace.”

“This is just the beginning of our new relations,” Lavrov said.

There are still formidable obstacles in the way of carrying out the agreement. Hundreds of factions are fighting in Syria and getting them all to cooperate will be a challenge. A previous ceasefire agreement in Syria collapsed.

This deal appears more ambitious, since it includes an agreement to seek broader military cooperation between Russia and the United States if the ceasefire holds.

The Pentagon said that a “cessation of hostilities” would have to hold for seven days before the broader military cooperation would go into effect.

“We will be watching closely the implementation of this understanding in the days ahead,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. The Pentagon has been wary of Russian military actions in Syria.

Lavrov said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is willing to comply with the agreement, according to the Associated Press.

Russia and the United States are both conducting military operations in Syria. The Pentagon is backing local ground forces and conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State..

Russia is also conducting airstrikes, but Washington has accused it of carrying out operations aimed at propping up the Assad regime by striking members of U.S.-back moderate opponents of the Syrian president. The United States wants Assad to step down because of his brutal attacks on civilians with chemical weapons and other armaments.

Russia and the United States have agreed to hold regular talks aimed at ensuring aircraft remain at safe distances from each other, but are not cooperating on military operations.

A broad agreement to cooperate could mean the two sides would eventually share intelligence and agree on which targets to strike.


The Obama administration seeks to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad, but the White House has balked at making the necessary effort to do so. The lack of resolve was evident in 2012 and 2013, when Syria crossed Obama’s “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons in the civil war and the U.S. response was to simply blur the line. Anti-Assad rebel groups have been given covert aid and arms by the CIA, but not enough to win. A separate Defense Department program seeking to train Syrian rebels from bases in Jordan collapsed.

The Kremlin showed how things should be done last fall when Russian forces intervened to defend Assad. Obama dismissed the move, claiming that it would make Russia weaker. But it decidedly made Assad stronger and changed the nature of the proxy war. The rebels were put on the defensive and pushed back into strongholds such as Aleppo. Diplomatic efforts to stem the bleeding have failed; it has been six months since Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Munich that a peace deal was on the horizon.

The U.S. failed to act when it had the chance. Now it’s just making the proxy war worse.

Omran Daqneesh in Aleppo, Syria, on Aug. 17, 2016.(Photo: Aleppo Media Center via AP)

Children suffer the most in war. Consider the compelling image of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, sitting dazed and bloody in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria, after being pulled from the rubble of a building hit by an airstrike. His 10-year-old brother, Ali, wounded in the same bombing, survived a few hours before succumbing to his wounds.

Omran and Ali personify the suffering in Syria, in which an estimated 400,000 have died in the past five years. The siege of Aleppo has been one of the most brutal episodes in the war. Syrian troops and Iranian-backed Shia militia have pounded the city, supported by Russian air power. Rebel groups, including the U.S.-backed Nour al-Din al-Zenki, have mounted a desperate and probably doomed defense.

It raises the question: To what extent is the United States responsible for the continuing carnage?

The Obama administration seeks to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad, but the White House has balked at making the necessary effort to do so. The lack of resolve was evident in 2012 and 2013, when Syria crossed Obama’s “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons in the civil war and the U.S. response was to simply blur the line. Anti-Assad rebel groups have been given covert aid and arms by the CIA, but not enough to win. A separate Defense Department program seeking to train Syrian rebels from bases in Jordan collapsed.

The Kremlin showed how things should be done last fall when Russian forces intervened to defend Assad. Obama dismissed the move, claiming that it would make Russia weaker. But it decidedly made Assad stronger and changed the nature of the proxy war. The rebels were put on the defensive and pushed back into strongholds such as Aleppo. Diplomatic efforts to stem the bleeding have failed; it has been six months since Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Munich that a peace deal was on the horizon.


POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media (by USA Today editors)

The conflict is further complicated by the parallel effort the United States is making against the Islamic State terror group, which occupies swaths of eastern Syria. The U.S. is working directly with Kurds and other groups in operations that Washington sees as part of the War on Terrorism, not the anti-Assad fight. However, Damascus views any anti-Assad forces as fair game, and this week it bombed U.S.-backed Kurds in strikes that could have wounded or killed American advisers. The Pentagon warned Syria the U.S. would exercise the “inherent right of self-defense” for American troops, even those operating on Syrian soil in a legal gray area.

The potential is growing for a clash between Syrian (or Russian) warplanes and U.S. ground or air assets, which would represent a dangerous and pointless escalation.

If the covert war against Assad were succeeding, it might be worth the effort and the sacrifice. But it is not. In addition, Washington is failing to keep the anti-ISIL effort in Syria compartmentalized from the larger civil war, setting the stage for a much more perilous conventional conflict.

The U.S. did not make the necessary commitment to win in Syria years ago when it had the chance, and it’s now giving just enough support to a losing cause to keep the war grinding on. The result is more innocent deaths, more refugees and more misery.

It is time for the Obama administration to admit that its policies are doing more harm than good. The president should seek peace the only way he can, by bowing out of the anti-Assad fight.

James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is the author of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive.


We can’t bow out of the Middle East, or even the Iran War.

But we can stop leading from behind, which is Obama’s answer. We helped create this mess by invading Iraq (Bush) and then pulling our punches (Obama).

Obama is seen around the world as feckless, and that is a kinder label than many. Personally, the man who proclaims he is a pacifist, and imposes his will on our military – and our global partners, is innately a coward. Perhaps not so much physically as psychologically. He will strike any bargain which averts any stain on his legacy.

Obama should borrow a page from Harry Truman, and lead a United Nations coalition which compels all the parties to stand down, or suffer the consequences – not just militarily, a last resort, but financially through sanctions that hurt. If we can’t remove Assad, isolate him in his palace. He and all the other belligerents have seven days. If the cease-fire doesn’t hold, there are two options. The allied nations can force a truce, or, as Bobby Kennedy said famously trying to end the fighting in Vietnam, if a cease fire doesn’t work, we can always go back to killing each other. Obama should doff his professorial robes and for once lead from the front.

Make all parties an offer they can’t refuse: lay down your arms, stand down your aircraft, or be treated as international pariahs.

Persuade through every manner possible all the nations of the world that the most fundamental belief in civilized rule begins with a simple agreement: Stop Killing Children.




9-9-2016 NFCA Announces Assistant Coach Honors

2016 NFCA Assistant Coach of The Year recipients announced

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Roger Willhite (DI / Houston Baptist), Pat Kent (DII / Wayne State University), Alicia O’Brien (DIII / Central College), Scottie Wilkes (NAIA / Auburn Montgomery, Brett Magorian (Cal JC/Sierra College) and Errica Cantu (High School / Deer Park [Texas]) are the 2016 recipients of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year award.

These awards salute the efforts of coaches from the various NFCA membership categories for their tireless dedication to the sport of softball and to the continued education, growth and development of young women, both on and off the playing field. All five of this year’s class of recipients played a pivotal role in their team’s success during the 2015-16 softball season.

NCAA Division I: Roger Willhite, Houston Baptist

Willhite, who built the softball field and everything around it, including a six-foot, three-sided Husky sculpture, will be entering his 24th year as an assistant coach at Houston Baptist, all by the side of head coach Mary-Ellen Hall. Six days before the start of the 2015-16 school year, Hall suffered a stroke leaving her paralyzed on the right side and in the hospital for 31 days. With no other assistants on staff, Willhite managed the program the entire fall and kept it going in the right direction, while still making time to visit Evans twice a day to keep her up to speed. Evans returned to school in the spring, but Willhite continued to work tirelessly taking on all the physical parts of coaching and recruiting, which included running all aspects of pregame warm up, batting practice, infield and outfield fungos. He also provided Evans with a ride to and from the office every day and made sure she was at every game in the spring.

In the words of Central Arkansas head coach David Kuhn- “I know the accomplishments for HBU Softball didn’t come in a championship. But to see, the loyalty, love, work ethic and compassion that Roger has for his university, softball team, his friend and head coach, was the best accomplishment I’ve witnessed.”

NCAA Division II: Pat Kent, Wayne State University

Kent has been associated with the Wayne State softball program since 1980, first as a player, then as a graduate assistant and for the last 31 years, assistant coach. The program’s first First-Team All-American (1983) has been a key cog over the past 33 years as the Warriors have won 1,209 games, including 50 in 2016. In addition to her role as the program’s defensive coach, Kent serves as academic advisor, creates practice plans and assists in all other aspects of the program, including scheduling, recruiting fund raising and budget preparation. She, along with NFCA Hall of Fame head coach Gary Bryce, is the driving force behind the fund raising efforts of the program and Wayne State’s pitching clinic, one of the most successful camps in Southeast Michigan. Kent has worked tirelessly for the program and all the while holds a full time job as a physical education teacher in the Clarkston (Mich.) Public Schools system.

In the words of Bryce- “I cannot express how important she is to the welfare and makeup of our team. Her energy cannot be matched by any other assistant for planning and implementing what has to be done to be successful. She has had opportunities to leave and become a head coach, but thank heaven she has stayed with our program. She would make any program better if she was a part of it.

NCAA Division III: Alicia O’Brien, Central College

O’Brien joined Central College as an associate head coach in 2006 after a highly successful head coaching career at Western Connecticut State University (18 years). Along with her coaching duties, O’Brien serves as the athletics department’s associate athletics director and senior woman administrator. Beyond the many regular duties she performs- recruiting coordinator, outfield coach, supervises study table, team travel- O’Brien has a willingness to always go the extra mile in serving the student-athlete and ensuring that every player has a successful experience at Central. One example of her selflessness is helping a recent player, who did not pan out as a player, get through college and graduate. She identified an undiagnosed learning disability and spent extra time each week, encouraging her and not only make sure she completed assignments, but was comprehending the subject matter. The student continued to seek her assistance and her graduation was a milestone day.

In the words of NFCA Hall of Famer and Dutch head coach George Wares- “The player’s graduation and continued development in life after graduation ranks as Alicia’s greatest coaching achievement.”

NAIA: Scottie Wilkes, Auburn Montgomery

Wilkes has played a key role in Auburn Montgomery’s success in just four years on the coaching staff, the last three as an assistant. Wilkes has helped the Warhawks to back-to-back NAIA national championships (2014 &15) and a final four finish in 2016. This past season also marked the first time the program won the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament and Gulf Coast Invitational. She works with pitchers and catchers, while also serving as the program’s director of operations, which includes ordering equipment, preparing scouting reports coordinating travel and umpire assignments and monitors academic study halls. Wilkes also does the leg work for the “pink out” day at AUM and coordinates all community service projects.

In the words of AUM head coach Eric Newell- “Scottie is really humble and valuable to the success of our program. Every coach desires a loyal assistant and coach Scottie shows me her commitment on a daily basis. She sometimes goes unnoticed because she does not like the limelight, but I can ensure you that she deserves a great deal of credit for the success AUM has had.”

Cal JC: Brett Magorian, Sierra College

Magorian joined the staff in 2013 as a volunteer assistant and has been an instrumental part of Sierra College’s success since. After one full season on the staff, Magorian, who works with infielder and hitters, played a key role in the program’s first State Championship title. He also assists in recruiting and according to head coach Darcie Brownell- has made the difference in our recruiting process and parents and players are intrigued by his passion for the game and Sierra College. Along with his on-the-field coaching and recruiting duties, Magorian put in the time and effort to solicit donations for and build an 800 square foot team room with customized lockers, along with walkways and landscaping. After the loss of his mother and fatal injury to his daughter in a 2014 car accident, Magorian returned after a short absence and dove right in to his responsibilities. According to Brownell It left an impression on the student-athletes and their respect for him grew tremendously. They learned a lifelong lesson from how Brett handle his tragic situation and put the game of softball in perspective for all of us.

In the words of Brownell- “He truly is my right hand man. My job has drastically changed and become easier after Brett joined our staff. Our program, facility and legacy has changed since Brett was hired. I understand that this tragic situation does not dictate an assistant coach of the year award, but what does is how you respond after a tragedy and how you do your job.”

High School: Errica Cantu, Deer Park High School (Texas)

Cantu has been a varsity assistant at Deer Park for seven years. During that time, she has been part of a program that has won two state championships (2012 & 2014) and was a state tournament semifinalist in 2013. With all the duties of the assistant coach (scouting, driving the bus and supervising managers to name a few), Cantu also juggles being a high school math teacher, mother of four children, the director of softball summer camp and administrator on duty for field use. In 2016, she had to step up in a big way after head coach Carrie Austgen was in a car accident, which limited her ability to engage in the day-to-day physical part of the job. Cantu stepped in and led the coaching staff and team with great success and the weekend the accident occurred. She was able to hold the line and guide Deer Park to an undefeated tournament, while Austgen was recovering.

In the words of Austgen- “It is these moments that we all find out what we are made of and I am very proud of the work she did and the coach she is becoming.”

The winners were nominated by their NFCA member head coach and selected by a panel of their peers on the NFCA Awards Committee. The recipients are all active NFCA members.


9-5-2016 Women Lose to Japan in Final

  • Delaney Spaulding‘s big day not enough, as USA Women’s National Team loses 9-1 to Japan
  • USA Women’s National Team fell 9-1 to Japan at Jonan Baseball Stadium on Sunday.
  • Delaney Spaulding paced USA Women’s National Team at the plate. Spaulding went 1-2, drove in one and scored one run. She homered in the second inning.
  • Yamato Fujita recorded the win for Japan. She allowed one run over four innings. She struck out two, walked one and surrendered two hits.
  • Jessica Moore couldn’t get it done on the rubber for USA Women’s National Team, taking a loss. She lasted just one inning, walked two, struck out none, and allowed five runs.
  • The game’s last lead went to Japan thanks to a first inning rally that saw four runs cross the plate on two doubles.
  • The second inning saw USA Women’s National Team score its only run on the day on a solo home run by Spaulding.
  • After a quick strike from USA Women’s National Team, Japan responded with two runs in the second. Japan scored on a two-run home run by Eri Yamada.
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9-3-2016 USA Wins 3 at Japan Cup

USA Wins 3 at Japan Cup


  • Chinese Taipei falls 9-0 at the hands of USA Women’s National Team
  • USA Women’s National Team beat Chinese Taipei on Saturday 9-0 at Jonan Baseball Stadium in six innings.
  • USA Women’s National Team hit three home runs in the win. Home runs for USA Women’s National Team came when Valerie Arioto homered in the second inning, Delaney Spaulding homered in the fourth inning, and Michelle Moultrie homered in the fifth inning.
  • Spaulding racked up two RBIs on two hits for USA Women’s National Team. She homered in the fourth inning and singled in the sixth inning.
  • Ally Carda recorded the win for USA Women’s National Team. She pitched five shutout innings. She struck out nine, walked one and surrendered no hits.
  • Ya-Chu Lee took the loss for Chinese Taipei. She lasted just 4 2/3 innings, walked two, struck out one, and allowed five runs.
  • The game’s last lead went to USA Women’s National Team thanks to a second inning rally that saw one run cross the plate on a solo home run by Arioto.
  • USA Women’s National Team pushed across three runs in both the fourth inning and the sixth. In the fourth, USA Women’s National Team scored on an RBI double by Ali Aguilar, bringing home Carda.


  • Valerie Arioto gives USA Women’s National Team late push to beat Japan, 4-3
  • Valerie Arioto drove in the go-ahead run to give USA Women’s National Team the lead in the sixth inning, as USA Women’s National Team hung on to beat Japan 4-3 on Saturday.
  • Arioto racked up three RBIs on one hit for USA Women’s National Team.
  • USA Women’s National Team would not relinquish the lead as Japan was unable to weather a three-run sixth inning deficit.
  • Japan scored on a solo home run by Eri Yamada in the sixth inning and a sacrifice fly by Yuka Ichiguchi in the seventh inning. Despite its efforts, Japan couldn’t finish the comeback.
  • Jaclyn Traina recorded the win for USA Women’s National Team. She allowed one run over five innings. She struck out three, walked one and surrendered four hits.
  • Yukari Hamamura ended up on the wrong side of the pitching decision, charged with the loss. She lasted just six innings, walked none, struck out one, and allowed four runs.
  • USA Women’s National Team closer Delanie Gourley put away the final two outs to record the save.
  • Japan jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. A solo blast by Yamada started the inning off.


Valerie Arioto lifts Team USA to 3-1 win over Australia at 2016 Japan Cup

Box Score


Takasaki City, Japan  — Behind a 2-for-3 performance from Team USA veteran Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.), the USA Softball Women’s National Team captured a 3-1 win over Australia to open up play at the 2016 Japan Cup.  In addition to Arioto’s strong performance at the plate, USA’s Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) came out hot in the circle, issuing just three hits and one run through five innings en route to the win.


Click here for live stats and a game schedule for the 2016 Japan Cup


“We played pretty good today, and our pitchers threw really well,” said Assistant Coach Howard Dobson.  “Jess threw a really great game , keeping her pitch count to under 60 through five innings, and then Delanie came in to shut them down.  They both did a great job of minimizing the momentum and didn’t let the Australian offense get anything going.  Our offense swung the bat really well.  When we had the opportunity to drive in runs we stepped up and got it done.”


The game was scoreless through the first inning of play despite both offenses putting runners on base.  In the top of the first, Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) singled with one out but was stranded at first as the American side was retired with a pair of strikeouts.  For Australia, a single and fielder’s choice allowed two runners on base before Janie Takeda (Placentia, Calif.) recorded a double play on a fly ball to center field to end the at-bat.


The U.S. would strike first in the top of the second inning after Kasey Cooper (Dothan, Ala.) led off with a single to center.  A sac bunt by Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) advanced Cooper to second before Bianka Bell (Tampa, Fla.) was hit by a pitch to put two runners on base.  On a 1-0 count, Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) singled to bring Cooper home.  Takeda followed suit with a single to center field, plating Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.), who entered the game for Bell.


Team USA recorded their second double play of the game in the bottom of the second after a one out single.  A hard chopper to Cooper at third base presented the opportunity for the out at second and Stewart fired the ball to Carda at first to record the third out of the inning.  The game remained at a 2-0 lead for Team USA until the bottom of the fourth when Australia would send out a solo home run.  Moore fired back, however, keeping Team USA’s lead through the next two innings of play.


The U.S. added to their lead in the top of the sixth inning after capitalizing on a bases loaded situation.  Arioto led off the U.S. at bat with a single and moved to second after a walk to Cooper.  The bases would become loaded after Carda was hit by a pitch, setting up the opportunity for pinch hitter Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)  Spaulding delivered, sending a deep fly ball to left field to record a sac fly and make it a 3-1, U.S. ball game.


Delanie Gourley (Lakeside, Calif.) entered the game in relief in the bottom of the sixth and picked up right where Moore left off.  Gourley issued two strikeouts, a walk and a single through two complete innings to secure the U.S. 3-1 win.


Moore got the “W” for the U.S., allowing just three hits, one walk and one run while issuing two strikeouts in five innings of work.  Arioto led the offense, going 2-for-3 with one run scored, while Stewart was 2-for-4.


The U.S. will return to action tomorrow for a doubleheader to close out round-robin action at the 2016 Japan Cup.  First up, the Red, White and Blue will face Chinese Taipei at 3 p.m. JST (1 a.m. CT) and will close out the evening with host country Japan at 6 p.m. JST (4 a.m. CT).  Fans at home can follow along with live stats, recaps and more at ASAUSASoftball.com.