When Jamie Pinkerton left Montana to accept the head coaching position at Iowa State, he wasn’t the only one to bow out of Missoula. Sydney Stites, the other now-former Grizzly to follow the path to Ames, Iowa, may have just as much of an impact at her new school as her coach.
The hiring of Pinkerton was heralded across the board in softball circles, celebrating the team’s ability to bring in one of the game’s top coaches for the second season in a row (following the hiring in 2016 of Jamie Trachsel, now the head coach at Minnesota).
Stites’ transfer escaped much of the same fanfare, but her addition to the Cyclone lineup could have a substantial impact on both her new team and the Big 12 race in 2018 and beyond.
The 2016 Big Sky Freshman of the Year, Stites’ .383 batting average in her first season wowed spectators and pundits alike. Though her statistics took a slide in her sophomore campaign – including a batting average of .256, seven home runs, and thirty-three runs scored – numbers don’t tell the whole story, and she played a role in helping the Grizzlies to their first-ever NCAA tournament berth.
As she follows Pinkerton to Ames, Stites will now look to form a sharp 1-2 punch of standout underclassmen, along with ISU’s own golden youngster from a season ago, Sami Williams. The star second baseman posted a .363 batting average with twenty doubles, eight home runs, and a .615 slugging percentage in her inaugural season, en route to all-conference and all-region first team honors.
Iowa State finished a distant fifth in the Big 12 conference standings in 2017, winning just one-third of their conference games. It was the first time that the Cyclones had finished above the conference cellar since 2011.
The tandem of Stites and Williams, along with breakout hitter Rachel McFarland, should put some fear into opposing pitchers and hasten the Cyclones’ ascent to conference relevance once again.
Photo via Montana Athletic Communications