Vanderpool’s hitting prowess helped lay foundation for OC softball success

Amy Vanderpool was one of the top hitters in both OC and NAIA softball history and still holds numerous school records.
Amy Vanderpool was one of the top hitters in both OC and NAIA softball history and still holds numerous school records.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of stories telling the stories of the 2014 inductees into the Oklahoma Christian Athletic Hall of Fame.

By Murray Evans
OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 19, 2014) – In the early days of Oklahoma Christian softball, it wasn’t uncommon for coaches Tom Heath and Steve Gault to conduct offseason open tryouts, which often resulted in the addition of junior-varsity players to the OC roster.

They never expected to find a future All-American, but when Amy Vanderpool showed up, they knew they’d stumbled upon a special player. Vanderpool, now known by her married name of Amy Sievert, is one of six former OC standouts who will be inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday.

Sievert grew up in the northwestern New Mexico town of Farmington, a softball hotbed. She knew she wanted to play collegiate softball and wanted to attend a Christian college. She and her family did some research and determined that OC would be a possibility, so they contacted Heath to see if she could come in for a tryout.

“We had our tryout and we had only about five or six (players),” Heath said. “I was telling them, we appreciated everybody coming and we could offer everybody a JV scholarship and we hoped they’d come here. Then I said, ‘Amy, I need to see you in my office. We need to talk,’ because when we saw her, she was unbelievable, just a great talent.”

As a prep and club softball player, Sievert had mastered the art of slap bunting, pioneered by longtime University of Arizona and USA Softball coach Mike Candrea.

“Being from the west, we had access to that (teaching), so I grew up doing that,” she said. And with her speed, slap bunting proved to be especially effective.

As a freshman, she hit .426 with three home runs, 37 RBIs and a school-record 31 stolen bases, earning NAIA All-America second-team honors in the process – the first OC softball player ever to make any All-America list.

After hitting .372 with 29 RBIs and 15 stolen bases as a sophomore, she put together a season for the ages as a junior, hitting .470 – at the time one of the best single-season batting averages in NAIA history and still OC’s single-season record. Her 86 hits that season also remain an OC record. Not surprisingly she became OC’s first first-team All-America pick.

As a senior, she was a second-team All-America pick after hitting .348 and leading the team in hits (71), runs (38) and total bases (79). Her career .403 batting average remained a school record until Christin Dobbs (2006, 2008-2010) surpassed it by finishing with a .414 mark. As recently as three years ago, Sievert still ranked in the top 10 on the NAIA career hitting chart.

Sievert still holds OC career records for hits (308) and singles (284) and her 17-game hitting streak in 2000 remains tied for the longest in OC history. She remains OC’s only three-time All-America pick.

“Her speed was the key to a lot of Amy’s success,” Heath said. “Offensively, from the left side, she could just lay down bunts and they couldn’t throw her out. Then, in the outfield, she would dive after any ball. She would just get down and get dirty.

“Her greatest asset was her competitiveness. Her competitive nature was what made her. That came out. It was a confident attitude that Amy had and that spread throughout the team.”

She was the perfect complement to standout pitcher Leah Carrell, who entered the program at the same time. Carrell, when she was inducted into the OC Athletic Hall of Fame two years ago, predicted Sievert soon would follow. The duo twice led the Lady Eagles within a game of the NAIA national tournament, a step the program took the two years after their graduation.

“You’re just fortunate to get those type of players together,” Heath said. “It was just good fortune. We tried at that time to just put together the best competitive players we could with the money we had to give. … We needed those kids to get this program on its way to where it needs to be. They, along with several others, got us on the map for softball.”

But more than the honors, Sievert said she remembers games and trips with teammates including Carrell, Leah Richey, Katie Jacobsen, Stephanie Gault, Rebecca Robinett, Ginny Herndon, Fawn Maddux, April Sheppard, Neala Shepherd, Jamie Watson, Tiffany Willis, Keri Kidd and many others.

“Softball is a team sport and to be successful every player has to buy in on the team's success,” Sievert said. “I was blessed to play with some wonderful players and make lasting friendships.”

She also credited Heath and Steve Gault with helping her grow not just as a player, but as a person.

“Coach Heath and coach Gault not only coached us, but they were surrogate parents at times when we were learning how to be independent women of God,” she said. “I cannot show my gratefulness enough to those men who dedicated so much time and effort not only to the program, but in us as players. I know without a doubt that I would have not gotten that wonderful experience playing anywhere else.”

She graduated in 2001 and moved the next year to north Texas. After working in an insurance agent’s office for a few years, she became a stay-at-home mom who also is a substitute teacher.

She has remained active in softball, serving as an assistant coach for her daughter’s team “and still trying to live out the glory days by playing recreational softball.”

It’s been a while since she’s been on the OC campus and she’s looking forward to visiting the campus’ newest facility, Tom Heath Field at Lawson Plaza, the university’s $3.9 million softball palace.

“OC was the highlight of my softball career and I am so honored to have been able to play with such wonderful people,” she said. “I loved being at OC and pray that God's plan is to have my girls attend as well.”