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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trine University, which won its first NCAA softball championship this season, was voted by member coaches as the 2023 ATEC/NFCA NCAA Division III National Coaching Staff of the Year, the Association announced Monday.

The Thunder, led by head coach Donnie Danklefsen and assistants Sydnie Foster and Dennis Smith, were the unanimous choice of voters as the No. 1 team in the final NFCA Division III Top 25 Coaches Poll of the season last week. They went 46-6 and defeated Salisbury in the best-of-three NCAA Division III championship series on June 6-7 at East Texas Baptist’s Bell Park at Taylor Field.

Trine topped Salisbury — which had been the nation’s No. 1 team for the past 10 rankings — twice on the final day, including 1-0 in the finale of the best-of-three NCAA championship series.

After the Sea Gulls won the first game of the series, 4-2 on June 6, on Abby Mace’s two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, Trine won twice the following day to claim just the second championship for a Trine team since the Thunder joined the NCAA in 2004.

Anna Koeppl shut down the Salisbury for the majority of game two, taking a perfect game into the sixth. Alexis Michon came on in the seventh to get the final two outs, then tossed a two-hit shutout in game three, outdueling Sea Gulls ace Lindsey Windsor.

The lone run came on Carolyn Biel’s two-out single to left, which scored Emma Beyer in the bottom of the seventh. Beyer had opened the frame with a single and was sacrificed to second by Scarlett Elliott.

Like top-seeded Salisbury, Trine played elimination games all week after dropping their respective finals openers. With no margin for error, the Thunder won four games in three days — including beating Coe twice to reach the championship series.

Trine set a school record for wins this season, and reached the Division III championship series for the second straight season after finishing runner-up to Christopher Newport in 2022. The Thunder won 17 consecutive games heading into the eight-team NCAA finals, including sweeping through the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament, NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals for the second straight season. Trine beat Wartburg in this year’s NCAA Regional final and defeated Concordia Wisconsin in the Super Regionals.

Trine was previously honored as the ATEC/NFCA Division III Regional Coaching Staff of the Year for Region VII. The other nine regional honorees this season were Simmons (Region I), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Region II), Rochester (Region III), Rowan (Region IV), Salisbury (Region V), Berry (Region VI), Concordia Wisconsin (Region VIII), Coe (Region IX) and Linfield (Region X).

Celebrating 40 years in 2023, the NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded All-Region and All-America awards, the NFCA also educates and supports softball coaches on a variety of different levels: from podcasts to a comprehensive drills database, to in-person events and a National Convention.

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