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Behind the leadership of head coach Jayne Clem, the Wallace State fast pitch softball program is a national champion on the field and in the classroom. Wallace State softball won its second National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I National Championship during the 2013 season, adding to the first crown the program won in 2008. The Lady Lions were also national runner-up on two other occasions (2009 and 2010) and third in 2012.
Wallace State enters the 2014 season seeking a repeat. The Lady Lions feature a new-look roster for the most part, but still have sophomore leadership scattered throughout their lineup.
Sophomores Kori Benson and Madeline Lee return to pace the Lady Lions this season. Benson racked up the accolades as a freshman after setting a Wallace State single season record with 23 homers. The Oak Grove native was a NFCA All-American, the 2013 NJCAA national tournament defensive MVP and the ACCC/Region 22 state tournament MVP. She also hit .352 with 69 RBIs.
Lee was just as vital to Wallace State’s success. The Lady Lions’ second baseman hit .385 with nine homers, 37 RBIs, 15 doubles, 19 steals and a .428 on base percentage. She was an all-tournament selection at the national tournament in St. George, Utah.
Other sophomores returning to the fray this season are Sabrina Russell, Ashleigh McClure, Kelsey King and Annie Holcomb.
King and a slew of freshman pitchers will be called upon to pick up the slack from last season’s departed duo of BreAnna Blevins and Lindsey DeFee, each who won 26 games. DeFee was the NJCAA national tournament MVP and Most Outstanding Player.
Clem believes freshman hurlers Rachel Ragland, Amanda Medders, Misty Doran and Paige Browning will each provide quality innings for the Lady Lions this season.
Freshmen expected to contribute heavily at the plate are Andrea McKenzie, Isabella Campbell, Mackenzie Hill and Brooke Kinsey.
Jeff Benson enters his first year as a Wallace State assistant.
Wallace State put together a dominant postseason in 2013, breezing through the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC)/Region 22 state tournament undefeated before advancing to the NJCAA national tournament in St. George, Utah. The Lady Lions, an No. 8 seed, won five of six games at the national tourney and defeated Salt Lake City (Utah) CC by a 7-3 score in the championship game. Wallace State, which knocked off the No. 1, 2 and 5 seeds en route to the title, clubbed eight homers in the tournament and scored 33 runs in six games.
Wallace State, which finished the season 55-12, advanced to the national tournament after going a perfect 4-0 at the ACCC/Region 22 state tournament in Alabaster. The Lady Lions defeated Shelton State in the championship game. Benson was named tournament MVP and Katie Gentle, DeFee, Blevins, Paige Rowland and Libby Olinger were All-Tournament team selections. The state title marked the Lady Lions second in a row, sixth in seven seasons and eighth overall.
Wallace State's Gentle and Blevins each earned NJCAA First-Team All-American recognition in 2013, while Benson, Gentle, DeFee and Blevins earned NFCA All-American nods.
DeFee, Benson, Blevins, Gentle, Victoria Frith and Laken Hancock were all named to the ACCC All-North team, while Lee and Rowland were selected to the second team.
Fast pitch softball at Wallace State dates back to 1997 and has been led by Coach Clem since 1999. Clem is committed to a winning tradition at Wallace State, and that drive is evident in her teams' accomplishments.
Clem surpassed the 700 career win milestone in 2013 and maintains a 717-177 (.802 winning percentage) career record after 14 seasons with the program. She has been named ACCC Coach of the Year 11 times (2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002) and has helped the school win eight conference championships (2013, 2012, 2010-2007, 2005, 2003) in addition to its 2008 and 2013 national crowns.
Since Wallace State won its first national championship in 2008, the Lady Lions have finished no worse than third upon advancing to the NJCAA tournament. During a dominant three-year run to the NJCAA Division I title game (2008-10), the program compiled a 193-27 record (68-8 in 2008, 63-10 in 2009 and 62-9 in 2010), captured three ACCC championships and produced six combined NJCAA 1st-Team All-Americans.
Clem, an Athens native, and Tracy Grindrod were named the NFCA NJCAA Division I Coaching Staff of the Year in 2010 and 2008, and Clem was also named the Karen L. Sykes Outstanding Coach of the National Tournament in 2008 and 2013.
Wallace State's softball team has excelled academically as well. The team finished with a 3.68 grade point average for the 2009-10 academic year after posting a 3.72 GPA as the 2008-09 NJCAA Academic Team of the Year.
For more information, contact Coach Clem at 256-352-8355 or email at Jayne.Clem@WallaceState.edu.