Who’s Going No 1?


On this edition of In The Circle, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson break down the 2017 NPF Draft with Justin’s World’s Justin McLeod including:

  • Who likely to go Number 1 in the Draft?
  • What is strength of the Draft?
  • Effects of USA Softball ties with players in the draft?
  • Who are sleepers of the draft?

In The Circle  NPF Draft Preview Episode 86

You can follow the NPF Draft on Monday April 24th right here.

Below is the list of all the Number one picks in the NPF Draft’s History.



Rachele Fico talks Balancing Coaching and Playing Career

Rachele Fico in her 2nd season as Asst Coach at Georgia. Photo Courtesy of Georgia Athletics.

On this edtion of In The Circle,  Eric Lopez talks to Rachele Fico about coaching in college softball as Fico in her 2nd season as Asst Coach at Georgia. Fico compares coaching to playing softball.  Fico also discusses the following.

Fico was honored in 2015 with Banner at Tiger Park. (Photo by Nick Torina)
  • Who inspired Fico during her softball career?
  • Balancing Coaching with playing in the NPF
  • Advice Fico would give softball players who wants to coach and play
  • What it was like to return to LSU as an opponent in 2015 as Asst coach at South Alabama and get honored before the game?
  • What is it like to coach at Georgia and in the SEC?
  • What is Fico’s Coaching philosophy in coaching pitchers?
  • Reflecting on LSU Career
  • What it was like to return to LSU as an opponent?
  • Playing for Akron Racers
  • Comparing making WCWS as a Player at LSU to making WCWS as an Asst coach at Georgia

   Interview with Rachele Fico Episode 83

Fico was a two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American at LSU as well as a three-time NFCA All-South Region First-Team member and three-time all-Southeastern Conference honoree. 
During her freshman season with the Tigers in 2010, Fico was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Year. Fico led LSU to the Women’s College World Series in 2012. Fico ended her Tigers career among LSU’s top five in appearances (149), starts (104), complete games (82), innings pitched (774.0), wins (78), saves (8), opposing batting average (0.195), shutouts (32), strikeouts (797) and strikeouts per seven innings (7.21).

Rachele Fico plays for Akron Racers in the NPF. Photo Courtesy of NPF.

Fico was the the No. 1 draft pick in the  2013 National Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Akron Racers where she has played her entire career highlighted by being An All-NPF Team selection in 2014.

While Fico has been playing in the NPF, Fico began her college coaching career  serving as an assistant coach at South Alabama during the 2015 season. Fico helped the Jaguars take the Sun Belt Conference crown and advanced to its fourth-straight NCAA Regional Tournament. Under Fico’s guidance, the USA pitching staff held a 2.51 ERA that was top 30 in the NCAA.

Fico went from South Alabama to Georgia for the 2016 season where in her first year with the Bulldogs, Fico helped the pitching staff to a 2.27 ERA, as the team collected 46 wins. Fico got to work with  Chelsea Wilkinson, who led the SEC with 28 victories and a NFCA All-Region selection. The Bulldogs would advance to the program’s third Women’s College World Series appearance which included knocking off defending National Champions Florida in the Super Regionals in Gainesville.

Here is my Interview with Rachele Fico during her rookie year in the NPF in 2013 as she played with former LSU Teammate Brittany Mack at Akron.



Amanda Williams Paz Talks Marshall, NPF Career

Amanda Williams Paz was part of the Thundering Herd coaching staff in 2013 when Marshall won CUSA Championship Tournament  (Photo Courtesy of Amanda Williams-Paz)

On latest In The Circle,  Eric Lopez talked to Amanda Williams Paz about her career at Marshall as a player from 2003-2006 as well as her coaching career at Marshall from 2006-2013.  Williams also reflected on her National Pro Fast Pitch Career.  Williams-Paz also discussed the following.

Amanda Williams and her twin sister Jessica Williams played together at Marshall and were both drafted by the Chicago Bandits
  • Growing up in Softball with her twin sister Jessica Williams
  • Currently working with her sister
  • Going to Marshall to Play Softball
  • Playing for Shonda Stanton
  • Going into Coaching
  • Balancing Playing & Coaching Softball Careers
  • Being part of Marshall’s 2013 CUSA Championship
  • Winning NPF Championships with Rockford Thunder and Chicago Bandits
  • Going against her twin sister Jessica Williams in the NPF

In The Circle  with Amanda Williams Paz  Episode 81.

Williams Paz was a four-time first team all-conference selection during her playing career at Marshall, including three first-team all-Mid-American picks and a first-team all-Conference USA honoree in 2006. Williams Paz was a three-time first team all-region honoree, and also picked up a second-team all-region nod, Williams won MAC Freshman of the Year in 2003.

Williams Paz was drafted by the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) and played her rookie year in 2006, winning a regular season title with the Bandits. She played for the Rockford Thunder from 2007-09, helping them to winning the NPF Championship in 2009. Williams-Paz was also being an NPF All-Star playing for the Tennessee Diamonds in 2010, before returning to Chicago, where she captured her second NPF Championship in 2011.

Marshall winning Conference USA Championship over Houston 


Lonni Alameda Talks FSU 2017

On this edition of In The Circle, Eric Lopez talks to Florida State Seminoles Head Coach Lonni Alameda about the high expectations entering the 2017 season.

Lonni Alameda taken Florida State to WCWS 2 times in last 3 seasons.

Alameda enters her 9th season coaching the Noles coming off second trip in three seasons to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series reaching the semifinals for the third time in school history and ending with a 55-10 record with a No. 4 national ranking, which tied for the highest final NFCA ranking ever for FSU.

Alameda has led the Seminoles to ACC Championship titles in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Among the topics Alameda talks about include :

Jessica Burroughs leads Noles Pitching staff.(Photo Courtesy of FSU)
  • Expectations of 2017 season with almost entire team back from WCWS appearance.
  • Learning from experience in Oklahoma City in 2016
  • Depth on the roster on offense and pitching.
  • Being the target in the ACC and in the country
  • Jessica Burroughs leading the pitching staff
  • Leaders passing on the tradition from senior class to senior class under Alameda.
  • Being Head Coach in the NPF with USSSA Pride
  • Being involved with Canadian National team in 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
  • Softball back in the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Interview with Lonni Alameda Episode 74

Alex Powers leads deep Offense attack ( Photo Courtesy of Tallahassee Democrat)

Alameda won ACC Coach of the Year for the fourth straight season in 2016 as Jessica Burroughs and Alex Powers earned ACC Pitcher and Player of the Year honors, respectively in the ACC. FSU set an ACC record with six members on the All-ACC First Team as Burroughs and Powers were joined by Ellie Cooper, Meghan King, Morgan Klaevemann and Jessica Warren. Burroughs, Powers and Warren were named NFCA All-Americans, marking the sixth time that FSU had three All-Americans in the same season.

2017 is the first time in program history the Noles return three All-Americans from a previous season.

Alameda spent summer of 2016 being the Head Coach of USSSA Pride in 2016 leading them to the best record in the NPF in regular season and took them to NPF Championship Series before falling to the Chicago Bandits in 3 games for the championship.  Balancing multiple coaching jobs is nothing new for Alameda.

Lonni Alameda coached USSSA Pride in 2016 in the NPF.(Photo Courtesy USSSA)

Alameda helped the development of Canada’s National team from 2004 to 2008 aiding Canada up until the 2004 Summer Olympics and resumed as an assistant following the  2005 season when Alameda was  the Head Coach at UNLV. In the summer of 2006, Canada qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, after its strong showing in the World Championships. Alameda spent the summer of 2008 with the Canadian team which ended its quest for the gold with a fourth-place finish at the Beijing Olympic Games.


Frank Griffin Talks 2017 Hatters

On this edition of In The Circle, Eric Lopez chats with Stetson Hatters Head Coach Frank Griffin about the upcoming Stetson Hatters 2017 season. Griffin entering his  21st year as head coach of the Stetson softball program.

Frank Griffin begins his 21st year at Stetson in 2017

Griffin has 898 career victories during his 27 seasons of coaching softball which currently ranks him 24th among active NCAA Division I coaches and 38th on the all-time Division I coaches list.

During his 20 years at Stetson, Griffin has led the Hatters to 673 wins, 18 appearances in the A-Sun Softball tournament, two regular season championships, two conference tournament titles and two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Among the topics Griffin talks about in the interview include:

  • Experience returning in the pitching staff in 2017
  • Overall outlook of the 2017 Hatters season
  • 2017 Schedule
  • A-Sun Conference outlook
  • Having his coaching staff together for a long time with Vanessa Bataille & J.J. Payette.
  • Advice Griffin would give to people going into coaching softball
  • Renovations upgrades to Patricia Wilson Field

Frank Griffin Interview Episode 73

The Hatters are coming off a 30-24 season in 2016 and will be led offensively by Senior second baseman Jessie TenBroeck  and senior leftfielder Kelsey Waters who were each selected to the  A-SUN 2017 preseason all-conference team.  TenBroeck was voted as one of the league’s Preseason Defensive Players of the Year.

Jessie Ten Broeck leads Hatters on offense and defense.(Photo Courtesy of Stetson )

TenBroeck batted .343 in 2016 with 59 hits, 30 runs scored, and 33 stolen bases in 2016  earning first team all-conference honors. Waters also earned first team all-conference honors in 2016 after batting .308 with seven doubles, two triples, a home run, and 16 RBI.

The Hatters return experience in the circle with pitchers Chelsea Hostetler, Curstin Taylor, Brooke Hutto, and Tori Perkins all return from last season.

Perkins made A-SUN All Freshman team last season and was tied for team lead in wins with 12 with Hutto who also made all-Freshman team last season.

This season, Griffin added former UCF standout hitter Jessica Ujvari as a volunteer coach. Ujvari won the 2015 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year at UCF played 3 seasons at UCF (2014-2016) returns to the A-Sun Conference where Ujvari played her first season in 2013 at USC UpState.

Ujvari joins an experience staff that includes Associate Head Coach Vanessa Bataille who entering her 18th year at Stetson and J.J Payette who begins her 11th season with Hatters on coaching staff after playing for Griffin for previous four years (2003-2006).

For more information on Hatters Softball, go to GoHatters.com and follow on twitter @StetsonSoftball

Jenn Salling Talks Washington Softball

On this edition of In The Circle, Eric Lopez talks with  Graduate Asst Manager Jenn Salling who played at Washington being part of the Huskies 2009 National Championship team.

Among the topics Salling discussed in the interview include :

Jenn Salling played in the NPF from 2011-2014 winning NPF Championship with the USSSA Pride in 2013. (Photo Courtesy of USSSA)
  • Outlook for the 2017 Huskies
  • What got Salling into coaching?
  • Being part of 2009 National Championship team
  • Playing with Danielle Lawrie
  • Being part of Canadian National team
  • Playing in the NPF
  • Softball back in the Olympics

Jenn Salling Interview

Salling joined the Huskies program as a player  on April 2, 2009 after transferring from Oregon. Salling  started every game at shortstop to help Washington win their first National Championship in program history.

In  2010, Salling earned first team NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-America, All-Pacific Region and All-Pac-10 honors. She was named a top-25 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

As a senior in 2011, Salling  earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and left Washington ranked in the Husky career records for batting average (T-10, .342), triples (T-eighth, 7), slugging percentage (ninth, .543),  on-base percentage (fifth, .474).

Salling would go on to play in the NPF as Salling was selected 3rd overall in the 2011 NPF Draft by the USSSA Pride where Salling played with from 2011-2013. Salling was part of the Pride’s 2013 NPF Championship.  Salling played 2014 season with the Pennsylvania Rebellion.

Salling is part of Canadian Softball team. Been involved since 2006 (Photo Courtesy of Canada Softball)

Salling left the NPF after 2014 season. Salling decided to return to Washington  joining the coaching staff as its graduate assistant coach in the fall of 2015. Salling still plays as a member of the Canadian National Team which she has been involved with since 2006. Salling was part of Canadian National team that participated in Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Among the highlights of her career with Canada, Salling   won the gold medal in the 2015 Pan American Games.

Washington coming off a 2016 season where the Huskies finished 39-15 advancing to the Super Regionals before falling at Alabama. The Husky program is celebrating their 25th season as an NCAA sport under 13th year head coach Heather Tarr as they enter the 2017 season.

The Huskies offense will be led by  Ali Aguilar,Casey Stangel and Taylor Van Zee.

Washington’s pitching will be led by duo of Madi Schreyer and Taran Alvelo in the circle.

For more on the Washington Huskies softball program. Go to GoHuskies.com  and follow on twitter @UWSoftball.



Sammy Marshall Talks , Chicago Bandits, St Leo

Sammy Marshall begins 2017 as Grad Asst Coach at St Leo. (Photo Courtesy of Saint Leo)

On This edition of In The Circle, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson talks to 2-time NPF Champion of Chicago Bandits Sammy Marshall who beginning her first season as Graduate Assistant Coach at St Leo.

Among the topics Marshall discusses in the interview include:

  • Getting into Coaching at Saint Leo.
  • Adjusting from playing into coaching
  • Saint Leo’s 2017 outlook

    Sammy Marshall help lead the Chicago Bandits to 2nd straight NPF Title in Summer of 2016. (Photo Courtesy of Bandits)
  • Winning two NPF Championship seasons with Bandits but in different way.
  • Comparing 2015 championship versus 2016 championship
  • Going from rookie on team in 2015 to one of veterans in 2016
  • Impact of Pitcher Angel Bunner had on Bandits after joining team during 2016 season.
  • Impact Shelby Turnier made on Bandits
  • Playing in the Bandits-Pride rivalry
  • What it was like getting drafted 18th overall in 2015 NPF Draft by team she grew up watching?

In The Circle-Episode 63 with Sammy Marshall

Marshall was selected 18th overall in the 2015 NPF Draft by the Bandits out of Western Illinois. Among the accomplishments Marshall had at Western Illinois included.

Marshall played at WIU From (2012-2015) (Photo Couresy of WIU)
  • Becoming just the third player from WIU to ever be drafted to play professionally
  • Owns program and Summit League records in stolen bases (134) and runs scored (168)
  • Broke WIU and conference record for career batting average (.456), also ranking in the top 10 in NCAA history
  • 2x Summit League Player of the Year
  • 4x All-Summit League First Team selection

Marshall would help a Veteran Bandits team that included Monica Abbott, Amber Patton, and Tammy Williams  knock off the then two-time defending NPF Champions USSSA Pride  in 2015 NPC Championship.

Below is Victor Anderson’s outlook on Saint Leo’s 2017 season.

2016 saw the Lions have one of the most dominant seasons in school history as they started 37-1 in route to their second Sunshine State Conference championship in four years. However, the ending will serve as motivation as Saint Leo finished 2-7 in their last nine and fell to eventual National Champion North Alabama in the South 1 Regional. This year, the Lions are the heavy favorite to repeat as SSC champions under Head Coach Erin Kinberger. In her first two seasons, she already has the highest winning percentage (.796) in program history. The majority of last year’s roster returns including Sunshine State Conference Pitcher of the Year Stephanie Adkins and Player of the Year Rachel Heath. They will look for a little payback for the only team who beat them in a conference series last year; Rollins. They close the season with the Tars at home on April 27th and 28th.

Did You Know: Saint Leo went an incredible 48-1 in a 49 game stretch that dated back to the 2015 season which saw them win 11 in a row to close the season.

Shelby Turnier Talks Coaching at UNF and winning NPF Championship

In Part 1 of the special two-part interview. Shelby Turnier discusses her NPF rookie season in helping leading the Chicago Bandits and then taking asst coaching job at University of North Florida.

Turnier is in her first season as an asst coach with the Osprey getting the job a month after completing her first season with the Bandits in the NPF winning the NPF Championship in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on August 23rd defeating the USSSA Pride.

On September 20th, Turnier was officially announced as the new pitching coach with the Osprey.

Shelby Turnier begins her 1st season as an asst coach at UNF. Photo Courtesy of UNF Athletics.

“We are excited for Shelby to join our coaching staff,” said UNF Head Coach Marcie Hickey in UNF Press Release. “She had valuable postseason playing experience at UCF as well as the experience of winning a championship in the NPF with the Chicago Bandits. She has a competitive mentality and wealth of knowledge that will greatly benefit our pitching staff. We are very fortunate to add someone with her credentials to our staff.”

Turnier will be reunited with Jeff Conrad who enters his 2nd season as UNF Asst Coach. Conrad and Turnier have UCF Connections as Conrad was Volunteer coach for the Knights in 2015 when UCF went 50-9 winning American Conference Regular season and Tournament title.

Turnier that year was first player in UCF Softball history to be All-American first team pitcher. Turnier led the NCAA in ERA with an 0.87 ERA.

In the Interview, Turnier discusses many topics including:

  • When did she think about getting into coaching?
  •  What led her to UNF?
  • What her coaching philosophy?
  •  What was her rookie season in Chicago like?
  •  How did she fit in with the team?
  • When was the turning point of the season for Bandits?
  •  What was it like going pitch for pitch against Monica Abbott?
  •  What was the feeling getting the last out to win NPF Title?
  •  Difference playing in Pro League vs College?

Part 1 Interview with Shelby Turnier


Turnier played a big role in helping the Bandits winning the championship in her rookie season after getting selected 11th overall in the 2016 NPF Draft.

“Shelby was a huge addition to our staff in 2016, especially since we had more of a staff approach” said Chicago Bandits General Manager Aaron Moore. “She got better and better as the year went on, and you started to see a very confident pitcher”.

Turnier was used as a starter early in the season but as well as a reliever which would be the role she would have going into the NPF Championship series.

“By the time the playoffs started, we knew she would be a huge piece to our success”. Moore said about Turnier. “The way she can pitch with the bases empty, people on base, early or late in the game made her a very big weapon”.

Bandits v Dallas June 10 2016
Shelby Turnier pitching for the Bandits v Dallas on June 10 2016.(Photo Courtesy of  Chicago Bandits)

In Game three of the NPF Championship Series Semi-Finals  between the Bandits and Scrapyard Dawgs, Turnier came in relief early in the game and was involved in a pitching duel with Monica Abbott. Turnier and the Bandits would win 2-1 to advance to the NPF Championship Series against the USSSA Pride.

The Pride and Bandits split the first two games of the series. In Game three with the Bandits leading 2-1. Turnier came in relief  the bottom of the seventh and retired the Pride in order on three fly balls to the outfield to win the championship. Turnier had two saves to go along with a win during the NPF Championship.

“I’ve seen a lot of pitchers in the league, and I can easily say she pitched with the same demeanor as the great ones like Cat and Jennie.” Moore said about Shelby. “She was unfazed at the biggest times, when it mattered most”.

Shelby Turnier help the Chicago Bandits win NPF Championship in 2016 ( Photo Courtesy of NPF)

Turnier became the third player coming out of UCF to win the NPF Championship joining Stephanie Best who won with Monica Abbott and the Washington Glory in 2007 and Allison Kime who won with Cat Osterman  and  Rockford Thunder in 2009.

“Shelby mentality reminded me a lot of Allison Kime from my time with the Thunder” said Moore who was the General Manager of the Thunder and signed Kime as a free agent rookie in 2008. “Allison is another pitcher that wasn’t fazed by much, and she always wanted the ball in big situations. Allison was always a pitcher that kept our team in the game and ways wanted the ball”.

Turnier future in the NPF is very bright according to Moore. “If Shelby continues to grow and learn the hitters, she is going to be damn good for many years!”

One of the other highlights of Turnier rookie season was her return trip to Orlando when the Bandits took on the Pride in Disney on Weekend of July 16.

Here below is Interview with Shelby Turnier following Turnier win against the Bandits on July 17th where she won in relief with her former UCF Head Coach Renee Luers-Gillispie as well as friends and relatives.


Below are other links and stories from Turnier’s rookie season with Bandits:

June 26,2016-  Shelby Turnier faces her former UCF Teammate Kahley Novak.

June 15,2016 –  Shelby Turnier’s 1st NPF Win.

May 28,2016-  Shelby Turnier signs her contract with Bandits.

Here below is Shelby Turnier interview with Chicago media personality who covers the Bandits from June 20th.

Look Back at 2016. Look Ahead to 2017


On this edition of In The Circle podcast, Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson talk to Justin McLeod of Justin’s World to recap the year in softball and look ahead to the potential storylines in 2017 in both College and NPF softball.

  • Is Oklahoma the team to beat in 2017?
  • Who is the best college softball player going into 2017?
  • Who were some of the best coaching moves in the off-season?
  • The year that was in the NPF and what in store for the league in 2017?
  • Impact of Softball returning into the Olympics.
  • Early look at some of the storylines in the SEC, Big 12, Pac 12, Big 10, American Conference and more.

In The Circle Podcast episode 58 with Justin McLeod.

Check out Justin’s work at Justin’s World.

Also in case you missed the most recent episodes of In The Circle check out below.

Mackenzie Audas on her UCF Career and new career in Photography.

Stephanie Best on her Hall of Fame career at UCF. Her career in the NPF and ProSwings.com company.

Tiffany Lane on participating in The World Championships this summer.

2016 NPF Championship Series recap 

You can follow In The Circle on Twitter @InTheCircleSB & on facebook.


Stephanie Best Talks UCF,NPF and Pro Swings

Stephanie Best had one of the “Best” Careers anyone could have in the sport of Softball.When you think of UCF Softball, one of the first people that comes up is Stephanie BestBest help built UCF Softball program as being the first ever recruit to commit to UCF and help lead the program to the first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2005 winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship. Best led the NCAA in Home Runs in with 26 in 2005. Best ended her career with 71 home runs which still ranks her in the top 20 all-time in college softball.

Best would go to play in the National Pro Fast pitch getting drafted  in the fourth round of the NPF Draft by the New England Riptide in 2005. Best would play in the NPF from 2005-2008 with the highlight coming in 2007 winning the NPF drafted in the fourth round of the NPF Draft by the New England Riptide.

Stephanie Best won the NPF Championship in 2007 with Washington Glory

Best would go on to win the NPF Championship with the Washington Glory in 2007 playing with  US Olympians Monica Abbott and Kelly Kretschman.

Stephanie Best spoke to Eric Lopez and Victor Anderson about many topics including the following:

  • How did Stephanie Best came up with idea of Pro Swings?
  • Being inducted into UCF Hall of Fame in 2015

    Stephanie Best was the first UCF Softball player to be inducted into UCF Hall of Fame in 2015
  • Playing with Monica Abbott winning NPF Championship in 2007
  • Playing against Cat Osterman
  • Seeing Shelby Turnier lead Chicago Bandits to NPF Championship this past summer.
  • Comparing Allison Kime , Mackenzie Audas and Shelby Turnier.
  • How Pro Swings made impact on developing players.
  • Growth of UCF Softball program
  • Growth of Softball popularity.

Stephanie Best Interview Podcast


 Pro Swings will hold  Thanksgiving weekend camp.