LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- The National Fastpitch Coaches Association has named the Trine softball coaching staff the NCAA Division III Central Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
Head coach Don Danklefsen and assistant coaches Dennis Smith and Brittney Harvey earned the honor for the second year in a row. The trio guided the Thunder to its second appearance in the NCAA Division III Softball Championship. Along the way, Trine won its second Super Regional championship, as well as its second consecutive Regional title and third in the last four years. The team concluded the season 37-10 overall and ranked No. 8 in the nation in the final NFCA Division III Top 25 poll.
A school record 19-0 start to the season was a harbinger of things to come for the Thunder. A tough schedule provided numerous tests during the regular season as Trine earned a 10-6 mark against teams that went on to earn NCAA postseason bids. The tough schedule resulted in the Thunder earning an at-large bid to the NCAA postseason after placing fourth in the MIAA.
The team swept through the Whitewater Regional, defeating Greenville, Whitewater and Hope by a combined 17 runs. Trine then returned home to host a NCAA Super Regional at SportONE/Parkview Softball Field for the second straight year. The team swept Wisconsin-Oshkosh in a pair of tight games to earn the trip to Oklahoma City. The team was eliminated in the National Championship by eventual champion Virginia Wesleyan.
For the third time in the last five years, the Thunder finished as the NCAA Division III statistical champion in home runs per game. Trine belted 59 homers in 47 contests, a rate of 1.26 per game. Junior Kaylee Fox (Vermilion, Ohio / Edison) finished second in the nation with 16 homers on her way to NFCA All-Central Region and All-MIAA First Team honors. She became the school's all-time leader in career home runs.
Contributions from seven freshman helped pace the success, with five of those freshmen earning postseason accolades. Pitcher Danielle Ray (Hamilton, Ohio / Badin), shortstop Carly Bachna (Elyria, Ohio / Elyria) and outfielder/second baseman Makenna Hartline (Niles, Mich. / Brandywine) were honored on the NFCA All-Central Region Second Team. Outfielder Michaela Hartline (Niles, Mich. / Brandywine) and second baseman/designated player Claire Ryan (Union Grove, Wis. / Union Grove) earned All-MIAA Second Team recognition.
Trine graduated just one senior from this year's roster, catcher Catherine Porter (Canton, Mich. / Plymouth Canton). Porter was a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree who earned NFCA All-Central Region Third Team and All-MIAA Second Team recognition. Porter caught every inning this season to tie a NCAA record.
This season marked the 10th consecutive NCAA postseason appearance for the Thunder under Danklefsen. He earned his 400th career coaching win in a victory over Olivet this season. All of Danklefsen's wins have come at Trine. The Thunder have averaged 32 wins a season under Danklefsen.
The NFCA Coaching Staff of the Year awards are voted on by NFCA-member coaches in each of the NCAA's eight regions. The eight regional staffs of the year advance for consideration for National Coaching Staff of the Year honors. The winner will be announced June 12.