Familiar Face New Softball Assistant
Alabama Softball Coach Patrick Murphy has named former Crimson Tide All-America Stephanie VanBrakle as the new pitching coach, he announced Tuesday. VanBrakle returns to Tuscaloosa after spending one season as the head coach at Samford.
"Aly (Habetz) and I are both very excited to have Stephanie as our first former athlete to join the coaching staff," Murphy said. "She led us to new heights as a player and we are hoping she can do the same thing as a coach. Her competitiveness and work ethic as an athlete were two of her biggest assets. If those two qualities can rub off on our current pitchers, they will be better because of it."
VanBrakle replaces her former pitching coach at Bama, Vann Studemann, who recently was named head coach at Mississippi State.
Bama will have a bit of rebuilding to do in the pitching department since the Tide graduated two-time Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Kelsi Dunne.
VanBrakle returns to the circle to help guide the Alabama pitchers, where she once dominated as a two-time NFCA All-American. VanBrakle became the first Tide hurler to be named the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year (2006).
Before her only season at Samford, she spent the previous two seasons as the head coach at Birmingham-Southern College. She posted a record of 57-14 in her two seasons with the Panthers, for an impressive .803 winning percentage.
Samford's athletics director, Martin Newton, is new on the job after having been director of operations for basketball at Kentucky. Newton is the son of legendary Alabama and Vanderbilt Basketball Coach C.M. Newton, who was later athletics director at his alma mater, Kentucky.
In her first season as a head coach in 2009, VanBrakle led the Birmingham-Southern Panthers to a remarkable 32-5 record. The team broke 13 program records, including the mark for number of wins. Her first team posted a .364 team batting average and 1.19 ERA. In 2010, VanBrakle's team finished with a record of 25-9 overall and 12-4 in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Prior to becoming head coach at Birmingham-Southern in 2009, VanBrakle spent the 2008 season as an assistant coach on the BSC staff. That season, VanBrakle helped lead the Panthers to a 32-28 record for the first 30-win season in program history. She also helped coach four All-Big South Conference players and two CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees.
She played professionally for the Philadelphia Force prior to being hired at Birmingham-Southern. She also served as a student assistant coach at her alma mater, The University of Alabama.
VanBrakle had a stellar career as a softball player at Alabama from 2003 to 2006, helping the Crimson Tide to its first Southeastern Conference regular-season title in 2006 and the SEC Tournament championship in 2003 and 2005. She earned SEC Tournament MVP honors in 2005.
She helped her team to Regional and Super Regional appearances during all four of her years at Alabama, as well as to three NCAA College World Series appearances (2003, 2005, 2006).
VanBrakle, a native of Chambersburg, Pa., was named NFCA Second-Team All-American in 2005 and 2006. She was named SEC Pitcher of the Year and was a Top 10 Finalist for Collegiate Player of the Year as a senior in 2006. She was also named to the SEC Honor Roll and the Academic All-SEC Team all four of her years at Alabama.
She was named Region VIII Tournament MVP in 2003, NFCA All-South Region in 2003, 2005 and 2006, and NFCA All-American in 2005 and 2006. She also earned All-Conference honors each of her four years at Alabama, and was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2003.
VanBrakle earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Alabama in May 2007.
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