At 55 years old, most would be hesitant to add another job.
Ben Tyree jumped at the opportunity.
Having coached softball on the traveling circuit and at the high school level for more than 30 years, Tyree wanted to try his hand at the college level. So three years ago, in addition to his current full-time job as transportation manager for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), Tyree grabbed the reins of Trevecca Nazarene's softball program — a part-time job in title only.
Three years later, Tyree has the Trojans on track to contend for an NAIA national championship.
Tyree, now 58, was named the TranSouth Athletic Conference Coach of the Year on Monday and on Thursday his Trojans take their 42-3 record into Henderson, Tenn., to begin the conference tournament.
“Obviously it is more than I dreamed of or thought it would be as far as outside of just coaching between the lines,” Tyree said. “It was just something that I was intrigued about at the time, and I thought that might be a good thing for me to go to work and do what I want to do my whole life.”
Tyree, who has worked at TDOT for 35 years, had been a basketball referee for more than 30 and was waiting until his daughters Tracy and Allison graduated from high school to get into high school coaching. A graduate of Overton High School and Middle Tennessee State University, he served short stints as a softball coach at Paige and Brentwood high schools before the Trevecca job came open. He replaced Ernie Reynolds, who not only coached with and against Tyree on the softball circuit but who also coached Allison at Brentwood.
Tyree inherited a program that had made three consecutive trips to the NAIA national tournament and built on that success. After a 21-19 record in 2009, the Trojans captured the 2010 TranSouth regular-season and tournament titles and reached the eight-team championship bracket in the national tournament for the fourth time in five years.
This season Trevecca is ranked fifth in the country and once again is the TranSouth regular season champion with a 29-1 league record.
The Trojans are led by a loaded lineup — eight of the nine everyday starters bat better than .333 — and two dominant pitchers in Lauren Baker (22-0, 1.91 ERA) and Riley Mashburn (18-3, 1.93 ERA). Baker was named the conference’s pitcher of the year. Her fellow Beech High grad, Haylee Rogers, was named freshman of the year. Rogers is leading the team with a .431 batting average and 15 home runs — primarily out of the sixth spot in the lineup.
With that sort of balance, this could be the season Trojans finally break through and win a game in the double-elimination championship round.
“Everybody wants to get above where we have never been before and it means all the way to the top,” Tyree said. “We think we have the team to do it. We think we have the skilled people, the hitting, the pitching ... our goal — a quiet goal — is to win and it doesn’t stop at the final eight.”
It doesn’t have to stop this year, either. Trevecca will lose four seniors — two Reynolds recruited — but 10, including four freshmen, are expected to return. Tyree said recruiting at the college level was a transition but he realized early “the program sells itself.” And after waiting more than three decades to get this chance at competitive coaching, it might be a while before Tyree calls it quits.
“I enjoy both of them [working at TDOT and Trevecca] and as long as I can juggle both of them I might continue for a while,” Tyree said. “The more I get into it with the softball and the direction that I feel like our program is going ... I want somebody to tell me the time to stop, I guess. I have been doing it so long that I just get up in the morning and I go home every night. That is what I do. I got a family that has put up with me and knows this is something I really enjoy doing. They have given me the freedom to do that and I appreciate that a whole lot.”
• Rose Park opens: Belmont played its first baseball game at the newly renovated E.S. Rose Park nearly a week ago, but it wasn’t official until Tuesday.
In between a doubleheader against Murray State, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Belmont President Bob Fisher and Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation Department Interim Director Tommy Lynch cut the ribbon in a ceremony at Rose Park.
Rose Park and its new sports complex, which is located on Edgehill Avenue near 12th Avenue South, will be used by not only Belmont and Metro Parks but by the Easley Center, Carter Lawrence Elementary School, Rose Park Middle School and several local neighborhood organizations.
The Belmont baseball team previously practiced and played its home games at Shelby Park in East Nashville.
• Homefield tournament advantage: The Vanderbilt lacrosse team will host the American Lacrosse Conference tournament, which begins Thursday. The six-team event features Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Penn State, Johns Hopkins, Florida and Northwestern. The Commodores will open the tournament at 3 p.m. Thursday against Ohio State.
“We are really hoping for a huge turnout for the ALCs,” Vanderbilt coach Cathy Swezey said. “I hope Nashville will support us and come out and follow us and see some great lacrosse.”
No. 19 Vanderbilt is led by junior All-American Ally Carey. The native of Bel Air, Md., has been nominated for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given annually to the top men’s and women’s lacrosse players in the country.
Vanderbilt is 8-7 overall and 1-4 in conference action. Consistency has been an issue for the Commodores, who have been hurt by injury. They have lost back-to-back games only once this season. However, they have won consecutive matches just once. Even if the Commodores win the ALC tournament, they are not guaranteed an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
“We just need to have intensity in every single game and I think that would help,” Swezey said. “Two senior captains are injured before we even start our season. [There was] a loss of leadership in last year’s class and then the loss of leadership to injuries. So, yeah, it has been tough.”
• Postgraduate scholarship: Lipscomb senior women’s basketball player Jenna Bartsokas has received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. She is just one of six NCAA women’s basketball players to earn the $7,500 scholarship.
Bartsokas, a graduate of Independence High School in Franklin, wrapped her collegiate basketball career a couple months ago. She is expected to graduate later this month with a degree in exercise science/pre-physical therapy. She will attend Walsh University (Ohio) to pursue a doctoral degree in physical therapy.
Bartsokas earned a 3.95 grade point average at Lipscomb and made the dean’s list six times. She was also a member of Alpha Chi Honor Society and has twice been named to the First Team All District Capitol One Academic Team. On the court, Bartsokas leaves the Lady Bisons as the school’s NCAA-era career leader in assists and is second in steals and points.
The NCAA awards just 174 postgraduate scholarships annually — 87 for men and 87 for women. A total of 58 — 29 for men and 29 for women — are given out each sports season (fall, winter and spring). The scholarships are one-time, non-renewable grants.
• Awards haul: In addition to Lauren Baker being named the pitcher of the year and Haylee Rogers honored as the freshman of the year, Trevecca Nazarene had eight players earn All-TranSouth Athletic Conference honors.
Baker, Rogers, catcher/third baseman Karli Rush, outfielder/catcher Brianna Zeis, outfielder Heather Shuler and starting pitcher Riley Mashburn were named to the first team. Infielders Kelsey Lantrip and Kari Mason were named to the second team.
Cumberland had four receive all-conference accolades. Pitcher Allison Blackwood was named to the first team while infielders CaSarah Gilliam, Megan Lavery and Stephanie Gutierrez were tabbed to the second team.
• Conference baseball honors: Cumberland and Trevecca Nazarene dominated the All-TranSouth baseball teams, which were announced on Sunday. Cumberland put six on the first team and three on the second team, while Trevecca had five earn first-team honors and one tabbed to the second team.
Trevecca’s third-year head coach Jonathan Burton was named the league’s coach of the year. With the conference tournament to begin on Thursday, Burton leads the 24th-ranked Trojans in with a 34-20 overall record and an 18-6 mark in league play. They sit behind only fifth-ranked Cumberland, which is 42-12 and 20-4 in the TranSouth.
Representing Cumberland — the defending national champion — on the first team were catcher David Fanshawe, second baseman Tommy Crews, outfielder Cory Farris, designated hitter Mike Mandarino and starting pitchers Will Locante and Aaron Wilkerson. First baseman Greg Appleton, third baseman TJ Murphy and shortstop Tommy Winegardner earned second-team honors.
For Trevecca, first baseman Mitch McClay, infielder Chad Reynolds, outfielders Jordan Foreman and Matt Tidwell, and relief pitcher Dylan Kuhn were named to the first team. Named to the second team was starting pitcher Craig Stern.