CLAREMONT, Calif. - Betsy Hipple is stepping away from the softball program at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) after 12 years as the head coach of the Athenas. Hipple will be missed not only for her passion and tenacity on the diamond but her empowerment of strong women leaders throughout the CMS community.
"I want to thank all the people who brought me to CMS and have supported me the last 12 years," said Hipple. "I feel blessed to have worked with an extraordinary group of student-athletes, coaches and staff. You have taught me, challenged me, supported me, and put up with me through many ups and downs during my tenure. I am truly forever grateful."
Under her guidance, the program quickly blossomed into a contender for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title and then broke onto the national stage. She was hired in 2006, and in just three seasons, Hipple took a program that previously had a sub-.500 record to its first NCAA appearance in 2009. In the 2013 and '16 seasons, CMS was invited to and competed in the prestigious Top-25 NFCA Leadoff Classic Tournament.
During her tenure, Hipple amassed a 340-174-1 (.661) record making her the winningest coach in CMS softball program history. During that time, the Athenas won two SCIAC Championships and four SCIAC Postseason Tournament Championships. CMS earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament in six consecutive seasons from 2009-14 and then added another NCAA trip in 2016. Their deepest run in the playoffs ended in the if-necessary game in a Super Regional (top-16) against East Texas Baptist in 2014.
Hipple coached 61 All-SCIAC performances including four Newcomers of the Year, two Pitchers of the Year, and three Athletes of the Year. Harmony Palmer (CMC '13) earned First Team All-American status in each of the 2010 and '13 seasons followed by Anna Gurr (CMC '18) being named to the All-American Third Team in 2016. Three CMS softball players earned recognition as Claremont McKenna College's Female Athlete of the Year: Emily Lopez (CMC '12), Palmer, and Tara Robinson (CMC '16).
While her coaching numbers impress even the casual fan, Hipple's legacy at CMS will extend far beyond the wins. She established the program's alumni game in 2012 and the third installment of the tradition is scheduled for February 2018. Her tireless advocacy for the improvement of the facility has led to transformative changes such as the new scoreboard, backstop netting, shade covering the bleachers, field turf in the batting cages, and cardinal padding throughout. In 2015, she began a partnership with the University of Michigan's softball team and the legendary coach Carol Hutchins. The Wolverines have come back to Athena field in each subsequent season for an open practice and a chance for the Athenas to interface with the powerhouse Division I program.
Hipple championed the utilization of teaching life's lessons through sport. She founded the alliance of Athena Softball with Mountain View Elementary in a program called Stand Strong. The mentorship and empowerment program garnered recognition from the NCAA's Champion Magazine in the Spring 2017 issue. Over her 12 years as head coach, she dedicated countless hours of precious training time for the personal development of the team members like a self-defense class, working with a shaman, meditation, and yoga practice.
During her stint shepherding the program, Hipple's proudest moments did not happen on the field, but rather in the successes of each of her players. She rejoiced at each summer internship grant, completion of a difficult mid-term, graduate school acceptance, and job offer of theirs. Her love for the Athenas and the CMS program is captured by the oversized smile seen on her face at each alumni game. "It has been a tremendous honor to be part of at CMS Athletics," concluded Hipple. "I will bleed cardinal and gold forever and can't wait to watch you in the seasons to come."
The impact that Hipple has had extends far beyond just the student-athletes in her program. "When an individual has contributed so much to our colleges and students, it very difficult to encapsulate their achievements," said Director of Athletics Terry Tumey on Hipple's departure. "Our CMS community is blessed to have had Betsy lead our softball program and have such a positive impact on students. Our success is directly because of Coach Hipple the expectations of excellence she demands of all of us. Betsy is a great coach but more importantly, an amazing educator that will be missed."
The college will launch a national search to find the next leader of Athena Softball. This process will involve a multi-constituent search committee and will begin immediately.
-- Courtesy of CMS Sports Information --