The Five Biggest D1 Softball Coaching Changes This Offseason
The past couple seasons of NCAA Division I softball have been filled with offseason transfers looking to make an immediate impact on a new team. The same is true for several Division I coaches, who were on the move this offseason despite the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Going into the 2021 college softball season, there are many new faces at the helm of some of college softball’s top programs and some who took different roles than they had last season.
See below for five Division I softball coaches who made big moves during what was already a wild offseason.
Head Coach at Minnesota to Head Coach at Ole Miss
Jamie Trachsel took over a Minnesota team in 2017 that was coming off one of its best seasons yet, and made an immediate impact for the Gophers. She brings proven success to Ole Miss after leading the Gophers to their first-ever Women's College World Series appearance in 2019.
Pitching Coach at Minnesota to Head Coach at Minnesota
After Trachsel departed for the job at Ole Miss, many Gopher fans were hopeful Minnesota would promote longtime assistant coach Piper Ritter. Gopher fans got their wish, as Ritter was promoted to head coach in May.
Ritter has been on the Gophers' staff as an assistant since 2008 and has helped develop some of the top pitchers in Minnesota’s history, including Amber Fiser and Sara Groenewegen. Ritter was also a talented pitcher herself for Minnesota from 2001-04.
Head Coach at UAB to Assistant Coach at Arizona State
While Kolaitis is not taking over the helm of Arizona State's program, Sun Devil fans were excited to learn that Trisha Ford was bringing on an experienced assistant for the 2021 season. Kolaitis was previously the head coach at UAB where the Blazers saw a dramatic increase in their offensive production in his two seasons with the program. Already a powerful team, Kolaitis hopes to elevate the Sun Devil offense even more in 2021.
Assistant Coach at Texas to Head Coach at Cal
Once longtime head coach Diane Ninemire announced she would be stepping down from her position at Cal due to health issues, many softball fans were curious to see who would take over for her. Cal fans were thrilled to see a familiar face rejoin the program, as Chelsea Spencer was announced as the program's new head coach.
Like Ritter, Spencer competed collegiately for the program she now coaches. The former Oregon and Texas assistant coach also helped Cal to its only national championship in program history as a player back in 2002.
Assistant Coach at San Diego to Head Coach at San Diego
In maybe the most surprising hire this offseason, San Diego announced the promotion of 25-year-old assistant coach MJ Knighten to head coach of its softball program. Knighten, a former All-American at Nebraska, is the first Black woman head coach of any program at San Diego and also the youngest active head coach in Division I softball.