Softball announces nine signees for 2017-18 season
COMMERCE– The Texas A&M University-Commerce softball team has announced nine signees as part of its 2017-18 signing class. Transfer Bri Sims highlights the class of Division I including A&M-Commerce Track & Field record holder Alexandra VanSickle and seven incoming first-year students.
“One of your goals in the recruiting process is to bring in better players and to get better every year,” said head coach Richie Bruister. “We are in a very tough conference. You’ve always got to get better. That’s what we feel like we’ve done with this recruiting class. We have gone above and beyond with our recruits. We are very excited about them.”
Sims, a junior from Rowlett, comes to the Lions after spending two seasons at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a Division I school in the Western Athletic Conference. As a freshman for the Kangaroos, Sims was named First Team All-Conference after hitting .315 with 31 RBIs and 20 runs scored. In the field, Sims showed off her defense, recording 239 putouts with a fielding percentage of .996. She was named team Defensive MVP. As a sophomore, Sims again showed off her defensive skills, helping turn 16 double plays with a fielding percentage of .990 and 298 putouts. She was second on the team drawing 25 walks and had an on-base percentage of .348 in 43 starts. Sims was also a two-time Academic All-Conference recipient.
Sims was a four-year letter winner at Rowlett HS as a pitcher. She was a three-time First Team All-District selection and was named District MVP as a junior. She was also named Honorable Mention All-State as a senior. As a freshman, she pitched a no-hitter in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’ve got our first true Division I transfer,” Bruister said. “We are excited about Bri Sims coming and joining our team. She was an All-Conference player her freshman year. We are excited for her to come back home and play in front of her friends and family.”
VanSickle, a graduate student from Winfield, Kan., joins the A&M-Commerce softball team after spending two years competing with the Lion track & field team, participating in the shot put, discus, hammer throw, and weight throw. She holds the school record in both the indoor and outdoor shot put throw. VanSickle was a two-time All-Region selection and was named Second Team All-LSC during the 2017 indoor season. She qualified for the NCAA Division II Championships three times in the shot put. She had four first place finishes and 12 top-three finishes in her career. She was also a two-time Academic All-Conference selection.
Before her time in Commerce, VanSickle competed in track and field at Southwestern University as a freshman and Hutchinson Community College as a sophomore. She was named an NJCAA All-American in the shot put as a sophomore. In her time at Winfield HS, VanSickle was a three-time letter winner in softball as a first baseman and an outfielder.
The Lions have also signed seven freshmen, including six from the state of Texas: Destinee Lewis from Durant, Okla., Samantha Martinez from Ennis, Kimber Neal from Atascocita, Emily Otto from Richmond, Taylor Pruitt from Emory, Jenna Rhoades from Arlington, and Allie Thompson from Lindale.
“As you read through these players’ stats and accomplishments, you can see all the highlights and how talented this group is and the awards they have won,” Bruister said. “From a three-time All-Area Pitcher of the Year to Offensive MVPs, Defensive Players of the Year, and All-State selections, this is a very talented class. We are excited to see them coming here to work and fight for a starting job.”
Lewis was a four-year letter winner in softball and track and field and a three-year letter winner in basketball at Durant HS. She hit .490 with a .923 slugging percentage and a .607 on-base percentage in her career. She hit 52 career home runs, a Durant school record, and drove in 170 runs. Lewis was named First Team All-District three times as a first baseman, was named Offensive Player of the year as both a freshman and a senior and was named Player of the Year as a junior. She was a four-time team captain and four-time team MVP. Her team was three-time regional champions and was the state runner-up in her junior year.
Martinez was a four-year letter winner at Ennis HS. She hit .531 with an on-base percentage of .552 as a senior. She had 34 hits with five home runs and 21 RBIs. She was named Player of the Year and Offensive Player as well as First Team All-District as a senior third baseman. She was named Academic All-State all four years of her high school career. Her team qualified as a state finalist in her freshman season.
Neal was a four-year letter winner at Atascocita HS as a catcher and a utility player. She hit .330 with an on-base percentage of .422 as a senior, earning First Team All-District honors as her team finished as regional quarterfinalists. She hit a career-best .348 as a junior, earning Second Team All-District honors with her team finishing fourth in the State Tournament. Neal was named Honorable Mention All-District as a sophomore and was MVP of her junior varsity team as a freshman. For her academic work, the National Honor Society also named Neal as a member.
Otto was a four-year letter winner in softball as a pitcher and a one-year letter winner in volleyball at Lamar Consolidated HS. She pitched 606.1 innings and recorded 913 strikeouts in her career, averaging more than 1.5 strikeouts per inning. She had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 10.5-to-1 for her career and had a cumulative ERA of 1.67 and a WHIP of .876. Otto pitched a perfect game against SA Kennedy High School in a playoff game, threw three no-hitters and pitched 26 shutouts in her career. As a batter, she hit .410 with an on-base percentage of .482.
Otto was a two-time District MVP, a three-time All-District selection, a three-time All-Area Pitcher of the Year and a three-time First Team All-Area selection. She was named Second Team All-Greater Houston Area as a junior. Otto was ranked seventh by Max Prep’s in the state for the softball season as a senior. VYPE Magazine named him as a top 50 softball player in the Greater Houston Area. She rewrote the record books at Lamar, setting single game, season and career records for strikeouts, fewest walks, ERA, innings pitched, WHIP, wins and batters faced.
Pruitt was a four-year letter winner as an infielder and a two-year letter winner in volleyball at Rains HS. She had a .363 batting average with a .867 slugging percentage. Pruitt hit 24 home runs, which set a school record and had a fielding percentage of .934. She was a three-time First Team All-District selection and a four-time Academic All-District recipient. As a sophomore, Pruitt was named Offensive Player of the Year and was a TXSWA Honorable Mention selection. Her team won the District Championship in her freshman season and qualified for the Bi-District Tournament in all four of her seasons.
Rhoades was a three-year letter winner at James Martin HS. She had a career batting average of .504, with a career-high average of .520 in her senior season. She upped her average to .579 over her career in district games and hit .667 in district games during her senior season. She was named First Team All-District as a senior and Second Team All-District as both a junior and a sophomore. She was named District Offensive Player of the Year as a senior. Rhoades was also a three-time Academic All-District selection. Her team went undefeated on their way to a district title and a regional semifinal appearance in her sophomore season. Her team also won the district title during her senior season.
Thompson was a four-year letter winner as a catcher and a two-year letter winner in cross country at Lindale HS. She was named First Team All-District as a junior and a sophomore. She was named team MVP as both a junior and a senior and was named Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. She was also a four-time Academic All-District selection. Her team won a Bi-District Championship during her senior season.
The Lion team added these nine recruits after finishing the 2017 season with a 34-20 record, advancing to the conference tournament for the third consecutive season. The Lions lost one senior from the team last season but return the majority of last year’s squad. With a returning All-American, two All-Region players and five returning All-Conference and Golden Glove winners, Bruister is excited to begin a new campaign for the fourth-year program’s first LSC Championship.
The Lions’ 2017 fall schedule will be released shortly.