State turning into hotbed for softball college prospects

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 5, 2014 - 8:37 PM

More softball players are being recruited nationally now because of club teams and expanded training.

hide

Prior Lake’s Justus Perry, who plays first and third base for the Lakers, is only a sophomore but she has already committed to Auburn, a school in the SEC, a premier softball conference. She started visiting colleges in eighth grade with her family. Recruiters liked her powerful bat.

Photo: Bruce Bisping • bbisping@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Following a trend that already has taken place in other girls’ sports, Minnesota is fast becoming fertile recruiting territory for college softball coaches. The number of local players moving on to Division I softball is growing, led by a group of five metro-area high schoolers who have risen to the top and made verbal commitments to big-time softball programs.

What’s more, none of them are seniors.

Fastpitch softball in Minnesota has taken a huge step forward in recent years, owing to a surge in the number of club teams and year-round training facilities, and colleges around the country are taking notice.

“The Minnesota player is becoming a legitimate recruit,” said Jack Thibault, an Orono assistant coach and board member and coach for the Minnesota Renegades club program.

With its unfavorable climate and number of competing sports, Minnesota might never produce the sheer numbers of elite level softball players who come from states such as California and Texas. But this is more about quality than quantity.

Three of the five will make the leap to the SEC, college softball’s premier league. Maple Grove junior pitcher Sydney Smith, dominant with a vast array of dependable pitches, committed to Louisiana State last year. Prior Lake sophomore infielder Justus Perry is headed to Auburn, having switched from Arizona State when the coach who recruited her took the Auburn job. Rosemount freshman Gabby Sprang, a 6-foot lefthander, selected Tennessee over Florida last fall.

Two others are staying closer to home. Roseville’s 6-3 junior pitcher Emma Hylen turned down Oklahoma and Georgia to commit to Iowa State. And Benilde-St. Margaret’s junior hitting machine, Maddie Houlihan, is following her dream to play for Minnesota. Both made their commitments after their sophomore seasons.

They all recognize that they are pioneers, helping Minnesota gain a foothold at the highest levels of college softball.

“With so many of us Minnesotans committing, we’re setting a new standard,” Smith said. “Girls are thinking, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’ ”

Getting noticed

Minnesota already has become a recruiting hotbed in women’s hockey, basketball and, more recently, volleyball. Softball’s arrival was thwarted by Minnesota’s weather severely limiting player development and players having few opportunities for national exposure.

The recent growth of indoor facilities, like those in Rosemount and West St. Paul, have helped make year-round training possible.

“With all of the domes that have popped up, Minnesota is catching up quickly,” Prior Lake coach Matt Haefner said.

Even more important has been the proliferation of traveling club programs. Teams such as the Renegades and the Minnesota Sting play in summer tournaments around the nation, allowing college coaches to see local players first-hand.

“The opportunities are all because of summer ball,” Rosemount coach Tiffany Rose said. “Even just a few years ago, we only had one or two teams from Minnesota traveling. Now, there are more premier tournaments and more opportunities to be seen.”

Starting young

In softball, perhaps more than in any other team sport, the pressure to be recruited starts early. Many of the top softball players receive their first contacts before they even enter high school.

  • related content

  • Maple Grove’s Sydney Smith wanted to play college softball somewhere it’s warm. She chose Louisiana State. “We’re setting a new standard,” Smith said, referring to her talented peers.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - B. Colon 6:05 PM
Washington - T. Roark
Baltimore - U. Jimenez 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - B. McCarthy
Kansas City - Y. Ventura 6:05 PM
Cleveland - D. Salazar
Seattle - F. Hernandez 6:07 PM
Toronto - R. Dickey
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll 6:08 PM
Detroit - D. Price
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 6:10 PM
Miami - H. Alvarez
Pittsburgh - G. Cole 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Wood
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 6:10 PM
Cincinnati - J. Cueto
Tampa Bay - A. Cobb 6:10 PM
Boston - C. Buchholz
Houston - B. Oberholtzer 7:05 PM
Texas - N. Martinez
St. Louis - S. Miller 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
Arizona - A. Chafin 7:10 PM
Minnesota - K. Gibson
LA Angels - W. LeBlanc 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke
Colorado - J. De La Rosa 9:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New England 9/29/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Carolina 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
Columbus
Boston 6:30 PM
Montreal
Nashville 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Toronto
Detroit 7:30 PM
Chicago
San Jose 8:00 PM
Vancouver
Arizona 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Vancouver 9:30 PM
San Jose
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Time left for great deals

Bid thru Sept. 29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which struggling team is in the worst shape?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close