LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Six NAIA programs were selected by their peers as the 2023 ATEC/NFCA Regional Coaching Staffs of the Year, the Association announced on Thursday afternoon.
Representing each of the NAIA’s six NAIA regions, these respective coaching staffs – Georgia Gwinnett College (Region I), Our Lady of the Lake University (Region II), Midland University (Region III), Park University Gilbert (Region IV), Baker University (Region V) and University of the Cumberlands (Region VI) - are now eligible for the ATEC/NFCA NAIA National Coaching Staff of the Year award, which will be announced on June 12.
Five programs – Georgia Gwinnett, Our Lady of the Lake, Midland, Baker and Cumberlands – are competing at the 2023 NAIA Softball World Series at the South Commons Complex in Columbus, Ga.
Regional (respective region only) and National Coaching Staffs of the Year are voted on by member head coaches.
Region I – Georgia Gwinnett
Head Coach: Kat Ihlenburg
Assistant Coaches: Ashley Razey, John Ihlenburg
Steered the Grizzlies to their third NAIA Softball World Series, first since 2019, and earned the No. 5 seed … Finished with a 45-12 record and ranked eighth in the final NAIA Coaches poll of the regular season … Hosted and swept the NAIA Opening Round Lawrenceville Bracket with wins over St. Mary’s-of-the-Woods, Indiana Tech and No. 18 Coastal Georgia … Posted a 2-2 mark at the World Series with wins over ninth-seeded Baker and eighth-seeded Central Methodist … Kat Ihlenburg, who earned her 400th career victory on April 22, was named Continental Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Region II – Our Lady of the Lake
Head Coach: Bruce Lenington
Assistant Coaches: Jody Armijo, Katrisha Arocha, Jim Bray
Student Assistants: Ysa Gonzales, Sarina Gonzalez
Guided the Saints to their first-ever NAIA Softball World Series appearance as the No. 2 overall seed … As the hosts of the NAIA Opening Round, OLLU rallied from a tournament-opening defeat with three straight victories, two against No. 23 Hope International, to capture its first opening-round title ... Set a program record with 51 wins and was ranked No. 2 in the final NAIA Top 25 poll of the regular season … Bruce Lenington was named Red River Athletic Conference Coach of the Year … The Saints were the top offensive team in the RRAC, leading the league in almost every category including 72 home runs, which was 56 more than their nearest conference foe.
Region III - Midland
Head Coach: Beth Singleton
Assistant Coaches: Erin Sharpe, Bobbi Singleton
Registered its most successful season in program history with a fourth trip to the NAIA Softball World Series … Entered World Series unranked and earned the No. 10 seed … Collected two wins over No. 6 seed Science & Arts of Oklahoma (No. 10 in NAIA Coaches Poll) and the No. 2 s eed Our Lady of the Lake (No. 2 in NAIA Coaches Poll) before falling to the top overall seed and national runner up Oregon Tech … Won the Oklahoma City Opening Round, eliminating the host and 11-time NAIA champion OCU … Won the Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament title … Finished with a 41-15 record.
Region IV – Park-Gilbert
Head Coach: Brandon Telesco
Assistant Coaches: Marisa Stankiewicz, Ashley Smuda
Volunteer Assistant Coach: Callie Dutton
In his first season, Telesco guided the Buccaneers to a 36-14 overall record and 22-6 in California Pacific Conference (Cal Pac) play … The overall and conference win totals were the most in the four-year history of the program … The 36 wins is two more than the 34 combined over the first three years … Qualified for its first Cal Pac tournament as the No. 2 seed and posted a 2-2 mark with wins over Antelope Valley and Simpson … Brandon Telesco was named Cal Pac Coach of the Year.
Region V - Baker
Head Coach: Dana Goss
Assistant Coach: Steve Keel
Graduate Assistant: Alexis Reed
Earned the program’s first trip to the NAIA Softball World Series as the No. 9 seed … Clinched a share of the Heart of America Conference regular-season crown … Reached as high as No. 4 and finished the regular season ranked seventh in the NAIA Coaches Poll … Matched the school record with 47 wins (47-12) … The host Wildcats won the Baldwin City Opening Round Bracket as they knocked off the top-seeded College of Idaho (No. 6 in Coaches Poll) twice, including a 5-3 triumph in the winner-take-all-game.
Region VI - Cumberlands
Head Coach: Bailey Dillender
Head Assistant Coach: Alyssa Richards
Assistant Coach: Mia Aldridge
National semifinalists and finished third at the program’s first-ever NAIA Softball World Series … As the No. 3 overall seed, the Patriots posted a 2-2 mark in Columbus, Ga. with wins over No. 6 seed Science & Arts of Oklahoma and No. 7 seed Marian (Ind.) … Both defeats came against national champion Southern Oregon and national runner up Oregon Tech … Finished with a program-best 49-5-1 record and also set single-season marks for home runs (38), hits (512), batting average (.347), RBI (324), ERA (1.80), and saves (tie with 10) … UC became the first team in Mid-South Conference (MSC) history to go undefeated in league play at 21-0 and took home both the regular season and tournament titles … Ranked No. 3 in the final NAIA Top 25 poll of the regular season … Bailey Dillender and Alyssa Richards earned MSC head coach and assistant coach of the year honors.
Celebrating 40 years in 2023, the NFCA is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded coaches polls and All-America awards, the NFCA also educates and supports softball coaches on a variety of different levels: from podcasts to awards, to in-person events and National Convention.
ATEC/NFCA NAIA Regional Coaching Staffs of Year