Firecrackers Rico Alumni 2022 Season Update - Volume Three

Kraig King

The 2022 NCAA softball season is cruising right along as we hit the mid-March point on the calendar. As the weather begins to warm up some of our Firecrackers Rico Alumni are heating up as well. It was an exciting week full of firsts, homeruns, hits, wins, awards and more. As we do each week lets drop in on some of our alumni and see who shined on the diamond.

Sophia Nugent - Oklahoma

What better place is there to start off than in Honolulu, Hawaii with Oklahoma freshman catcher Sophia Nugent (2021). On Saturday evening March 12, 2022 Nugent launched her first career homerun for the #1 ranked Sooners in the top of second inning, during a (5 inning) 9-0 victory over the host Rainbow Warriors. The victory improved Oklahoma to a perfect 20-0 record and boosted the confidence of Nugent as the season moves into BIG XII Conference play.

Firecrackers Softball: Congratulations on hitting your first collegiate homerun in Hawaii last weekend. Can you describe the feeling?

Sophia Nugent: Thank you! Hitting my first home last weekend felt, honestly quite amazing. It felt like all the hard work I have been putting in had paid off.

Firecrackers Softball: How crazy is it living, playing and traveling with the defending National Champion Oklahoma Sooners?

Sophia Nugent: It is very crazy playing with the defending National Championship team. We have so many talented athletes that have accomplished so much. It pushes all of us to be better because they strive for excellence here at Oklahoma.

Mary Iakopo - Texas

M ary Iakopo (2017) was back at it again this week in Austin, Texas for the suddenly hot Texas Longhorns. The senior catcher went 7 for 16 (.437) with 2 homeruns, 10 RBI’s and 5 runs scored at the Bevo Classic as Texas went (4-0-1) on the weekend. Iakopo raised her overall average up to .329 with a total of 5 homeruns and 20 RBI’s for the season. Texas improved their overall record to (16-9-1) as they enter their final week of the non-conference schedule.

Firecrackers Softball: The statistics show you had a great weekend at the plate this past weekend at the Bevo Classic. What did you think of your performance and how do you feel about your season up to this point?

Mary Iakopo: Last weekend I just wanted to do my job. Whether that’s getting on base, scoring runs, moving a runner over etc. I wanted to do what would be the most beneficial to the team. Every weekend I am playing with a new team, and I mean this in the best way possible. We aren’t the same Texas softball people heard about two weekends ago. We are putting the pieces together at the right time and I couldn’t be more excited for us.

Firecrackers Softball: Being a super-senior how much of a leadership role falls on your shoulders and do you feel any more pressure to succeed with it being your final season?

Mary Iakopo: I think being a catcher has put me in a leadership role since I was younger whether I liked it or not. It’s something I have embraced now, and I am happy to spread my knowledge and I don’t mind keeping people in line when need be. I think there is pressure regardless of whether it’s your first year or your last. 2020 being taken away from my team has allowed me this extra year of eligibility and has only made me appreciate every moment because you never know when it’s going to be your last anything. So yes, there is pressure to succeed but it’s all about perspective and whether it’s going to instill fear or fire into you.

Brooke Vestal - Ole Miss

Ole Miss junior Brooke Vestal (2018) has had a nearly perfect month and season in the circle for the Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The Oklahoma transfer has a sub one era at 0.50 with an overall 5-0 record in 28 innings pitched for the (21-4) Rebels. The highlight of the week was a 12-strikeout performance in the Ole Miss, 6-2 home win over Stephen F. Austin. With the experience Brooke brings in big games the Rebels should feel confident when they play at rival Mississippi State this weekend.

Firecrackers Softball: You are off to a great start at Ole Miss and you look comfortable even though you are new to the team. How has the transition been for you? Has the move been easier than you thought or more difficult?

Brooke Vestal: Honestly anytime you make a transition it’s difficult. Whether you are a freshman in college or a transfer, change is hard and it’s difficult to leave behind what is comfortable. That being said, my teammates and coaches have made this transition so much easier than I ever could have hoped for. They welcomed me with open arms and quickly made me feel like a part of the team.

Firecrackers Softball: How excited are you to pitch in the always tough SEC and what are you looking forward to the most?

Brooke Vestal: Since high school I have been a softball super fan. I watch as many games as I can, and I have always been drawn to SEC games. Every weekend feels like a super-regional and I can’t believe I finally get to be a part of it. I am most looking forward to competing with my teammates at the highest level, but I am also very excited for the post season atmosphere that’s present in the SEC.

Other Notable Performances

  • For the second time this season Bella Espinoza (2021) has been named the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the week at San Diego State. Bella went 7 for 14 (.500) with 2 RBI, 4 runs scored and one stolen base while the Aztecs won 3 out of 4 for the week.

  • Allee Bunker (2018) just keeps on hitting for the (19-3) Oregon Ducks. Allee went 4 for 10 (.400) on the weekend with one homerun. 5 RBI’s, 4 runs scored and one stolen base. On the season Bunker is batting .413 with 5 homeruns and 25 RBI’s.

  • Freshman Angie DeLeon (2021) had four hits in six at bats (.666) while hitting the first homerun of her college career at Ole Miss this week. Angie also had four RBI’s while scoring two runs for the Rebels.