Linda Bushinski and Kristi Kuntz, who went from standout high school softball players in Spokane in the mid-1980s to All-American women’s modified pitch players in the ’90s, have been voted into the USA Softball Region 9 Hall of Fame.
They’ll be inducted at the region’s annual meeting in early 2018 and will bring to 17 the number of Spokane men and women in the regional shrine.
After playing through the transition from slowpitch to modified pitch during their school days – Bushinski at Rogers, Kuntz at North Central – they easily gravitated to the higher-level women’s major modified played nationally and formed an instant championship partnership.
Seven times in an eight-year period (1995-2002) they led teams to top-three finishes in Amateur Softball Association national championship tournaments, including winning titles in 1998, ’99 and 2002. During that span, they combined for eight first-team All-America honors, four second-teams and one third.
Bushinski earned five first-team honors, the 1999 award augmented by being named the tournament MVP while batting .700. The shortstop/outfielder also collected two second-team awards and only batted below .400 once – .397 – and four times hit .500 or above.
In 1999, she “doubled up,” earning third-team All-America recognition in the Women’s B Fastpitch National Championship tournament.
Kuntz collected three first-team awards, two seconds and one third, missing out in 2002 despite hitting .487 for the national champions. She led the tournament in hitting in 1998, batting .678, and hit .538 in 1996 and .444 in 1999, the ’98 and ’99 teams national champions. She primarily caught and played third base.
They both also regularly played in women’s fastpitch tournaments, earning all-star recognition. A fastpitch highlight was an appearance on a local all-star team that played an exhibition against the touring U.S. Women’s Olympic team in 2008.
With women’s modified and women’s fastpitch nonexistent in our neighborhood, they continue to fuel their competitive drive in local adult slowpitch programs.
Kuntz was inducted into the Inland Empire Softball Hall of Fame in 2005 and both were in the initial class inducted into the Spokane Metro Softball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Vern Ziegler of Spokane, who sponsored some of the most dominant teams in men’s fastpitch in the Northwest in the 1970s and ’80s, was inducted into the Region 9 Hall of Fame in the Class of 2017.
His Ziegler’s teams won six league championships from 1975-81, four Metro championships and finished in the top five in the Northwest Regional Tournament four consecutive years. He was inducted into the Inland Empire Softball Hall of Fame in 2009 and Ziegler’s was selected the 1970s Men’s Fastpitch Team of the Decade in 2013.
Tim Floyd, a four-time All-American (two first team), one-time MVP, twice a batting champion and once a home-run champion on the national stage in men’s and coed slowpitch, was inducted into the regional shrine in 2016. In nine appearances, Floyd played on four national champions with seven top-four finishes.
Brett Rypien, the former Shadle Park standout who is the junior quarterback at Boise State, is one of 146 nominated by the American Football Coaches Association for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for 2017.
While Rypien has been honored for his accomplishments on the field – he’s on the Maxwell Award watch list for a second straight season – the Good Works award is for involvement off the field in charity and/or community service activities while maintaining high academic standing.
Rypien has been involved with the Boise Rescue Mission, St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital and the Shine Prom program among his volunteer activities. In the classroom, he received the Mountain West Conference Scholar-Athlete Award in 2016.
The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team was established in 1992 to recognize the extra efforts made by college football players and student support staff off the field.
The Maxwell Award, in its 81st year, goes to the nation’s top overall player. In two years at Boise State, Rypien has thrown for nearly 7,000 yards and 44 touchdowns and led the Broncos to a 19-7 record and two bowl appearances. There are 85 nominees for the Maxwell.
Spencer Blackburn, a redshirt junior from Bellingham, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Eastern Washington Larry Hattemer Offensive Lineman Scholarship. Blackburn, penciled is as the starting center for the 2017 football season after earning Sophomore All-America honors in 2016, is the third recipient of the scholarship in the name of the former longtime EWU offensive line coach. The scholarship was created in 1991 as a way for former Eastern offensive linemen and others associated with the football program to give toward an endowment that will provide perpetual scholarship funds to Eagles players. It has matured to the point that monies can be distributed. The Eastern athletic department and EWU Foundation are hopeful others will contribute. Hattemer was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013 after serving as an assistant football coach and administrator for 12 years before retiring in 1990. More information on the scholarship and a link to the fund’s giving page is available at http://goeags.com/HattemerScholarship.
- Eleven Eastern Washington and nine Idaho student-athletes with area ties have been selected to Big Sky Conference All-Academic teams for spring quarter with grade-point averages of 3.20 or higher. All the Eastern recipients are in the track and field program: Men – Matthew Hommel, junior, Central Valley; Dawson Lack, freshman, Medical Lake; Evan Sanford, fr., Mead; Steaven Zachman, sophomore, Cheney. Women – Samantha Baker, senior, Mead; Dominique Baker, sr,. Lewis and Clark; Erin Clark, sr., Cheney; Kaelah Corrigan, fr., North Central; Kendra Hamm, sr., University; Megan Murphy, jr., North Central; Johanna Sherman, jr., Cheney. Idaho: Men’s track and field – Josiah Anderson, fr., Logos (Moscow); Mack Baxter, fr., West Valley; Rikki McCaw, so., Lake City; Zion Stuffle, so., Lewiston; Levi Wintz, so., Logos (Moscow). Women’s track and field – Kaleala Bass, so., Grangeville; Emily Callahan, Fr., Coeur d’Alene; Krista Story, fr., Coeur d’Alene. Women’s golf – Amy Hasenoehrl, sr., Lewiston.
- There were 12 area athletes at other Big Sky schools who also were named to spring All-Academic teams: Montana men’s track and field – Luke Hilmes, so., Mead; Montana women’s track and field – Olivia Ellis, so., Lewis and Clark. Montana softball – Anne Mari Petrino, so., Pullman. Montana State women’s golf – Kelly Hooper, fr., Gonzaga Prep. Montana State men’s track and field – Samuel Bloom, so., Ferris; Alex Lewis, jr., Moscow; Noah Martin, fr., University; Andrew Vandine, so., North Central. Montana State women’s track and field – Jessica Chrisp, sr., Riverside; Megan Ralstin, jr., Lewiston. Idaho State women’s track and field – Anna Gardom, fr., Timberlake; Taylor Hewett, graduate student, Culdesac/University of Idaho.
- The Eastern Washington and Gonzaga men’s basketball teams have been honored with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Team Academic Excellence Award. It’s the fourth straight year Eastern has received the honor after compiling a team cumulative grade-point average of 3.46 for the 2016-17 school year. Gonzaga had a 3.17 team GPA in the fifth year of the award. To be eligible, teams had to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above. Eastern and Gonzaga are the only NCAA Division I schools in Washington to receive the honor. Idaho State and Montana join EWU from the Big Sky Conference. GU, the only Final Four team among the 209 honored at all levels, and BYU are the only West Coast Conference schools on the list. Nigel Williams-Goss of GU was an Academic All-American and the WCC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. EWU’s team included Academic All-America nominees Ty Gibson and Jesse Hunt.
Ben Duchow, a sophomore-to-be at Ferris, won the bronze medal in Youth 14 Men’s Epee at the United States Fencing Association National Championships in Salt Lake City that ended Monday.
Duchow finished third out of 197 fencers, losing to the eventual champion, Michele Bodon of Bend, Oregon, 15-11 in the semifinals.
Duchow and three other members of Spokane Fencers Unlimited – brother Henry, a recent Ferris graduate; Ryan Hueter; and Kari Sobisky of Seven Mile – participated at the national championships and July challenge.
Henry placed 60th out of 163 qualifiers in Division 1A Men’s Epee at the national championships and Ben was 79th. Ben also was 47th out of 162 in the Cadet (under 16) Men’s Epee in the Summer Challenge, losing to Bowen Wang of China 15-12 in the round of 64. Henry also participated in Junior Men’s Epee.
Hueter, in his first national championship, fencing in the Youth 14 Men’s epee, finished 182nd after losing a closely contested 15-14 bout.
Sobisky competed in the Vet-50 Women’s Foil and finished 22nd out of 24.
The national championships and companion Summer Challenge and July Challenge are the largest fencing competition in the world.
Fuzzy Buckenberger of Spokane, who has been involved in softball for more than half a century and coached men’s and women’s teams to national championships, is going back on the national stage with a 12U Junior Olympic girls all-star team.
Buckenberger has been selected as the head coach of the Region 9 Red team for the inaugural USA Softball All-American Games Aug. 18-20 at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
“This is something new and it’s pretty exciting,” said Buckenberger, who coached two men’s and three women’s teams to major modified pitch championships under the banner of USA Softball’s predecessor, the Amateur Softball Association. “It’s quite an honor.”
The Spokane commissioner since 1995 and long retired as a player in a career that gained him induction into three halls of fame, Buckenberger continues to coach at the youth level. Last weekend his Spokane Diamonds team won the Idaho State 16U championship in Boise.
Region 9, which encompasses nine associations in the Northwest and Mountain states, will have two teams in the 24-team tournament. The Red team will have players from Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, including four from the Spokane/North Idaho area. The Region 9 Blue team will include players from Seattle/Tacoma, Portland, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
The Red team will hold a tryout Monday at 6 p.m. at Mead High School.
The All-American Games are designed to provide national exposure to 360 elite 12U athletes from across country.
“If it’s a success, and it grows, they’re talking about adding other age levels” in the future, Buckenberger said. “The big thing is, it’s all about the kids.”
Each of 10 Regions will select teams (30 players and four coaches) to represent their geographical area. Additional at-large selections are given to regions with the highest registrations.
Track and field
Dave Nielsen, the head track and field coach at Idaho State for 31 years before retiring in March 2016, is coming out of retirement to join the Eastern Washington staff as jumps and multievents coach.
Nielson led the ISU men’s indoor team to four Big Sky Conference championships and also coached the ISU women to their first title during the 2007 outdoor season. He was a five-time Big Sky coach of the year and the 2000 Nike Coach of the Year for Track & Field.
He coached Amber Welty, who was the first ISU athlete to win an NCAA championship, capturing the women’s high jump in 1988, and Stacy Dragila, who won the women’s pole vault in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, after he started her in the event.
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