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NCAA ruling gives Pacific softball players another season

May 15, 2020

Bradi Kooyman and Caitlyn Sung thought their college softball careers had ended with a painful thud.

The University of the Pacific student-athletes, on a bus headed to the airport for a flight to Phoenix, started seeing ominous text messages.

“Players we knew from other schools were texting about games or even seasons being canceled because of COVID-19,” Kooyman said. “Not long after, Coach (Brian) Kolze told us our Arizona tournament was off. Then the NCAA shut down all spring sports. I am usually not an emotional person but it was painful. Had I really just played catch for the last time?”

“We were having such a good season,” Sung said. “And it seemed like a very sad ending.”

Then came the NCAA reprieve.

The college sports governing body ruled that spring sports senior athletes, whose seasons ended because of the pandemic, could return for another season.

“They are both very special young women and strong, competitive players,” Kolze said. “I have six freshmen coming in so we had to work some things out scholarship wise. We kept the freshmen and were able to bring Bradi and Caity back. I could not be more pleased.”

Bradi Kooyman
Bradi Kooyman

Kooyman’s fifth year is a blend of academics and athletics. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and will start her master’s degree work (communications) in the fall while also serving in a teacher assistant role.

That is quite a turnaround for someone who admittedly did not take academics seriously as a freshman. Kooyman, who graduated from Jim Elliot High School in Lodi, was recruited by Pacific but instead opted to attend University of Missouri.

“I wanted to get away and go to the big public school, and I just was not serious about my school work,” she said. “I only lasted one year at Missouri and, thankfully, Brian gave me an opportunity to play at Pacific. I saw the importance of academics to my teammates. That helped turn me around.”

“I am very proud of what Bradi has done academically,” Kolze said. She had all A’s in spring semester.

Kooyman, who plays first and third base, was having a strong senior season. She was hitting .325 with eight RBI and did not commit any errors while playing the corner infield positons.

More importantly, she said, the team was having a stellar rebound season. The Tigers were 15-10 when the season ended compared to a 17-32 record in 2019.

“We want to re-capture where we left off this season,” Kooyman said. “I felt what it is like to have something taken away and don’t want that feeling again. I am going to make the best of my fifth year.”

Caitlyn Sung
Caitlyn Sung

Sung, the Tigers’ starting left fielder, had similar feelings to Kooyman when the season ended abruptly.

“The turnaround we had from the previous year pulled us together,” she said. “We were truly a team and had something very special going on. We had the sixth-best turnaround from the previous year of any team in college softball.”

Sung is on the team’s Leadership Council, which works on bonding, serves in a communication role with the coaching staff and generally watches out for the well-being of the players.

“I take the role very seriously, and I think the council is one reason we were able to turn things around this year,” she said.

Sung is from Tualatin, Oregon, outside of Portland. She is finishing her degree in Health, Exercise and Sport Science and adding a minor in sociology.

Sung was hitting .269 with 18 RBI and had no errors when the season ended.

“I did not want my career to end the way this season did,” Sung said. “I am very excited to get another opportunity to put on the uniform.”

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