The Central College Softball Field
The Central College softball field, site of several NCAA Div. III regional tournaments as well as the 1992 national finals, was extensively renovated in 2001. A new infield was installed, along with a new, irrigated outfield, new fencing and warning track and new dugouts.
George Wares is the winningest softball coach in NCAA Division III history.
In 2011, Wares guided the Dutch to their 23rd NCAA Division III tournament berth in the past 26 years. In 27 seasons as Central College head coach, Wares has compiled a 909-303-3 record (.749) and established the mark for all-time Division III wins.
In 2007, Wares was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame.
Wares has piloted the Dutch to national championships in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 2003 with national runner-up finishes in 1986 and 2001. His 23 NCAA playoff teams have finished in the national top five 12 times. The Dutch were third in the NCAA in 1990, 1994 and 1995, fourth in 1987 and 1989, and fifth in 1997. Central has won or shared 11 Iowa Conference titles (1986, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2011).
Wares and his assistants were named the NFCA Div. III coaching staff of the year in 2003, after taking regional honors in 2001.
In 2011 Wares was named winner of the Iowa Conference coach of the year award. He’s won or shared the honor eight times (1990, 1993, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2011).
Wares is in his second 3-year term on the NFCA Division III All-America Selection Committee, serving two years as chair.
A 1976 Central graduate, Wares spent seven years as girls’ softball coach at NESCO High School in Zearing , Iowa , posting a 214-94 record and piloting three squads to state tournament berths. He was named all-area coach of the year three times.
Wares also served as a high school boys’ basketball coach for 18 years, including seven at NESCO and 11 at Pella High School . He compiled a 259-106 career record, earning four state tournament berths, with two state runner-up finishes. He served for four seasons as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Central.
A highly regarded motivational speaker, Wares received a master’s degree in counseling from Iowa State University. He worked as an at-risk counselor at Pella High School and as an academic counselor at Central.
Associate Head Coach
After 17 seasons as a highly successful head coach at Western Connecticut State University , Alicia O’Brien is in her sixth year as associate head coach at Central. She also serves as the athletics department’s senior woman administrator and works with the college admission office as transfer student coordinator.
At Western Connecticut State O’Brien posted a 423-213-3 (.664) softball record, guiding the Colonials to a 28-18 mark and their eighth NCAA Division III tournament berth in 2006. She piloted Western Connecticut State to the NCAA finals in 2002 and her teams posted 20 or more wins 13 straight seasons, capturing Little East Conference championships three times since 2001. She served as the school’s associate athletics director and senior woman administrator as well.
O’Brien has helped Central compile a 156-60 (.722) mark over five seasons, giving her a 579-273-3 (.679) career record. She received the Easton Victory Club Award for her 500th win at the 2009 NFCA convention.
A Western Connecticut State University graduate and two-sport team captain, O’Brien also earned a master’s degree there in counseling. She served on the school’s Hall of Fame Committee and was a member of its Wellness Initiative. She served a five-year term as a Title IX consultant with the Danbury , Conn. school system. The long-time director of the Western Connecticut Softball Camp, O’Brien was also an NFCA Division III Regional All-America Committee member.
In 2001 she was inducted into the Connecticut Softball Hall of Fame and in 2008 she joined the Danbury (Conn.) High School Athletics Hall of Fame.
O’Brien is the wife of Dutch head coach George Wares.
Veteran instructor Gary Grimes is in his second season as pitching coach for the Central College softball team.
Grimes served as pitching coach at Grand View Univ. for two seasons (1996-97) and at Drake Univ. for two seasons (1999-2000). He was also head softball coach at Colfax High School (1998-99) and is entering his sixth season as head coach at Newton High School. He has also offered private pitching instruction for many years and has also worked at summer camps.
Grimes was also a high school head wrestling coach and assistant track and football coach at North Polk, Newton and Whitewater (Wis.).
Two of Grimes’s three daughters were collegiate softball pitchers. Casey pitched for three years at the Univ. of Oklahoma. Emily was the Iowa high school player of the year while at Pella Christian, then was a two-time all-America pick at Central, helping the Dutch win two NCAA Division III championships while earning four NCAA tourney berths.
Former collegiate standout player and coach Laura Espenmiller North is in her second season as assistant softball coach at Central College.
The two-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) player of the year was a four-time NCAA Division II national tournament participant while competing for Nebraska-Kearney. She served as a team captain for two seasons, helping lead her team to a national runner-up finish in 1999, her senior year. North was the Nebraska-Kearney Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1999 and earned third-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors. She was named to the RMAC All-Century Team in 2009.
The former Logan-Magnolia High School star was an assistant there for two seasons before spending a year as co-head coach at Holdrege (Neb.) High School. She was an assistant at Lincoln High School in Des Moines for a year and head coach for one season at Cloud Community College (Kan.).
North earned a master’s degree at Nova Southeastern Univ. (Fla.) before moving to Oskaloosa with her family.
Volunteer Assistant Coach
Denise Barnard is in her third season on the Central softball coaching staff. She served two seasons as an assistant from 2004-05, before becoming a volunteer assistant in 2012. A 2002 Central graduate, Barnard was a four-year letterwinner for the Dutch. She participated in four NCAA Division III tournaments and was a member of the 2001 national runner-up squad.
Barnard, an Oskaloosa native, received a master’s degree in sport and exercise science with an emphasis in sport psychology at the University of Northern Colorado and earned a master’s in counseling at Arizona State University. She received athletic training certification and has served as an athletic trainer at Central and at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix.
She’s now the assistant director of career services at Central.
Volunteer Assistant Coach
Teresa Thompson rejoined the Central staff in 2012 as a volunteer assistant after serving as an assistant coach from 1999-2005. A 1996 Central graduate, Thompson was a four-year letterwinner for the Dutch. She participated in four NCAA Division III tournaments and was a member of Central’s 1993 national championship squad.
A Pella native, Thompson spent two seasons as head softball coach at Pella Christian High School. She earned a master’s degree in counseling at Drake University and is a guidance counselor at Pella High School.