College 2024 Preview: Lindenwood University Lions look for continued Growth in 2024

By Jeff Strange

2023 Overall Record                                     2023 Ohio Valley Conference Record

                        16-32                                                                           8-15

Coming off a 16-32 season – their first at the Division 1 level – the Lindenwood University softball team heads into the 2024 campaign returning two all-conference athletes (Jr. OF Irelynn West and So. IF Dallis Darnell) and according to Head Coach Erin Brown, a better idea of what to expect as they enter their second season in the Ohio Valley Conference. After a very successful run at the Division 2 level – the Lions finished out 2022 with a 35-13 overall record – Lindenwood was able to earn a berth in the OVC tournament last May as a first-year D1 program, with several highlights along the way.

Coach Brown enters her third season leading the Lions program, and her 18th season overall as a head coach in the collegiate ranks. Getting her start in 2004 running NCAA DIII Westminster College, Brown spent 2 years at the helm in Fulton, MO before heading to her alma mater at Truman State University, where she had previously carved out a successful playing career. Brown was the head coach at Truman State for 13 seasons, rejuvenating the program en route to a career 348-302 record along the way. Brown took over at Lindenwood University in 2021-2022 and has enjoyed six NCAA tournament appearances through her years leading three programs.

Top Gun Events Media caught up with Coach Brown to get her feedback on several key elements for the Lindenwood Lions Softball Program:

The Lindenwood softball program made the leap last season into the NCAA Division 1 ranks, joining the Ohio Valley Conference. Going from a very successful season in 2022 as a Division 2 program in the GLVC to a new conference at the Division 1 level, can you discuss some of the adjustments that your program had to make and endure?

“We’re still making the adjustments and I think will be for a few years. We decided to keep our team as it was, meaning we did not replace them with “DI” players. That first year we tried to get a few transfers that might make a difference right away but were limited to our 7.2 scholarships for NCAA DII programs. For the 2024-2025 year we are getting a scholarship bump, so we feel like that will help us recruit more players who are able to help us compete in the OVC. From an athlete’s perspective, I think last year was challenging for that team because they did not always know if they were “good enough.” We had a lot of conversations about focusing on what we had control over and that it was the same game they’ve been playing since they were little. I think it took a while for them to believe they could have success and once they did, then we could see a shift in our overall mindset, which resulted in more success as a team. The season had some ups-and-downs, but we have a better idea of what to expect for this upcoming season. Getting players to understand it can be hard and to expect that and embrace the challenge is something we talk about often. The pitching is more complete at this level; most pitchers have a changeup and 2-3 great pitches with command. We faced some great pitching at the DII level but they might not have/or need to throw a changeup to be dominate. Defensively most teams seem to have great overhand velo and it seems like everyone has above average speed as well. It’s just adjusting to who is playing the game, like at any level bump that players experience in their career.”

Lindenwood University Head Coach Erin Brown walks off as the Lady Lions celebrate a big win

Can you give some background information on your coaching staff?

“My assistant Ali Brems is from Wisconsin and played at Lewis University; I coached against her while at Truman. She had a successful career at Lewis and went on to become a Graduate Assistant there before coming to Kirksville, MO to be my assistant for my last two years at Truman. She has her master’s in both leadership and counseling. Ali is the magic behind all our social media posts and organizes our recruiting. Ali was a lefty hitter and right-handed pitcher. She had two different surgeries from pitching, including thoracic outlet. She is passionate about injury prevention as a result and has worked closely with OGX (formerly S2 Breakthrough in Chicago) to learn more about biomechanics and coaching strategies that honor each player’s individual body. Ali works with our pitching staff.

Christa Reisinger played for me at Truman State. She was a lefty slapper/power hitter -I know, doesn’t happen too often – and played OF. She was an All-American and could have played at the DI level. We got lucky that she came to Truman. It helped that she grew up on a farm and majored in agriculture. Christa works with our outfield and hitters.

I work with the infielders, catchers, and hitters.

Can you hit on some key points/highlights from this past season?

“I think a big highlight for us was sweeping Eastern Illinois, who went on to win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and represent the OVC in the NCAA tournament. We made the conference tournament our first year in the league, beating out other teams who have been at the DI level for years. We had a couple of players earn all-conference. When we made the jump, we entered 4 years of being unable to compete in the NCAA tournament. We can compete and win the OVC tournament but could not move forward with a bid. Making the NCAA tournament is a great experience so when we did not have that opportunity, I wanted to provide them with some other experience moments and traveling to play Oregon was a great opportunity. Playing at their facility, hitting & lifting there was incredible and then making sure we got to the Pacific coast was on our list. It was a busy few days, but the girls really enjoyed that experience.”

The Lindenwood Lions taking time to celebrate National Student-Athlete Day while at Jane Sanders Stadium in the University of Oregon

Playing in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament for the first time in 2023, can you describe some of your thoughts on the event?

“The OVC tournament had a similar feel to the NCAA tournaments I’ve been to in the past. Choccolocco Park is a great facility. The OVC tournament is moving to Peoria for the 2024 season. We will play our games at the Louisville Slugger complex on Bradley University’s field. We’re looking forward to a shorter drive because the location was the toughest part of the event in 2023. You get a practice day before the tournament starts so we had to travel down the day before our practice day to get there in time – which meant that we had to leave on a Monday after playing our last regular scheduled game on Sunday. I’m looking forward to this new venue for 2024 and to see how it might change the feel of the OVC tournament.”

Can you give some analysis/perspective on your team for 2024?

“Staying healthy will be key, especially for our pitchers. We have one pitcher who is injured and out for the season, so we have brought a current outfielder and former pitcher back to the circle to potentially add some depth for our staff. We’re graduating a lot in the 2024 class. We have eight seniors (2 who are 5th years), 6 juniors, 5 sophomores & 5 freshmen. We have four pitchers, three catchers and nine infielders, five outfielders and three true utility players who have several options defensively. We have a couple of players who are injured and won’t be playing this spring. In total, we have a roster of 24, but 22 who will be able to play. We have more depth this year than we did last year. Last spring, we had some injuries and ended up shifting people around to make it work – it was a challenge. Having the depth this year is great and we will likely keep a roster over 20 moving forward for that reason.”

Your facility is undergoing upgrades; can you elaborate on those?

“Our facility was one of the nicer ones in the OVC and we just got new turf and new batting cages. New netting/padding in front of our dugouts is scheduled to go in before our home opener this spring. In addition to that, we have had to make some facility adjustments for ESPN+ streaming and video replay for umpire review. We will have the capability for umpire review this year, but the ESPN+ streaming will be live for the 2025 season. From the facility standpoint, I believe now we are one of, if not the best facility in the OVC.”

What are your short-term goals for the program?

“Short term goals are to continue to win more games and continue to finish higher in the OVC standings each year…start winning some recruits that our competitors are also recruiting. We’ve seen that a little in the 2025 recruiting class. Ultimately we also want to provide our players with a great experience while they are at Lindenwood.”

Infielders Tori Hatton (left) and Dallis Darnell (right) are two key components returning for the 2024 season

What are your long-term goals for the program?

“We want to be able to compete for the OVC championship when we are eligible to earn a bid, by 2027. We want to be one of the top programs for our size in the Midwest by 2027. We want to continue to provide our players with a top-notch experience…potentially taking a trip to Europe along with scheduling opponents that give our players the opportunity to play at incredible facilities and unique locations.”

Lastly, do you have any information to share for prospective athletes in regards to camp information for 2024?

“We will be having camps in May, June, August, and November/December. Specific dates have not yet been confirmed, but those should be out within the next several weeks.”

*The Lindenwood Lions will open their season on February 9th at the UIW Kickoff Classic in San Antonio, TX squaring off against Prairie View A&M University and University of the Incarnate Word that Friday afternoon.*

Recommended Posts