Lion’s Softball Ready to Play in Second Season

Bailey Whitlock, Staff Writer

History was made when former Texas A&M University-Commerce athletic director Ryan Ivey announced the Lion athletic program would add softball to begin in the 2014-15 season.

Ivey initiated the program to help bring attention to the popularity of softball in East Texas and give players a platform to show off their skills close to home and also to satisfy Title IX requirements.

Scholarship opportunities regarding sports have to equally been given out and offered between men and women according to the law. Sex can’t be the reason for exclusion of participation nor will discrimination be accepted by any federally assisted program according to Title IX.

Ivey had to secure fundraising dollars to start the program and those funds contributed to the construction of a facility that would become the John Cain Family Softball Field.

Softball student-athletes were given a redshirt season to work on skill and conditioning during the 2013-14 season. The fall 2014 was spent competing in exhibition games which abides by NCAA rules that the team’s first season is not an NCAA season.

The Lions were the final school in the Lone Star Conference to sponsor the sport, which made A&M-Commerce’s sixth women’s sport along with five men’s sports.

The freshly minted John Cain Family Softball Field opened Feb. 1, 2015, just in time for a doubleheader against St. Edwards. It was the first game of the A&M-Commerce softball program’s history and the Lions started off with a pair of wins.

The inaugural season featured several highlights in building tradition for the program. The highlights included Tyler Oppenheim being named Lone Star Conference Player of the Week, the Lions recorded 20 wins at the John Cain Family Softball Field, the Lions were the 6th seed in the LSC championship, the team hit 45 home runs during the season and finished in the Top 50 in the NCAA.

Richie Bruister, hired to coach the first-ever softball program, brought a winning background to Commerce as the all-time winning coach in NCAA Division II softball.

Bruister’s mission for the team was to have a winning season as well as a winning GPA. He wanted to win the conference championship and go on to win the highest GPA in the conference with his team.

The program has much to offer including the ability to stay competitive with other softball programs in the conference, state of the art facilities and a sense of family support and pride from the community. Academics are also vital to the success of the program. During their first season the Lions led all LSC softball teams in GPA with a team average of 3.536.

The playing field features a section of reserved seating and a general admission section holding 800 people altogether. The facility hosts three turf batting cages with hitting stations and bullpens on each home and visitor side.

“I’m excited for our program because I know what we can become in the near future. The legacy of Lion softball will continue to grow,” catcher December Rivers said.