With a new softball season comes a new head coach. Coach Shelly Hoerner will begin her first season as the head coach of the Tech softball team this coming season. After a disappointing season last spring, which saw Tech finish with 25 wins and 30 losses, Athletic Director Mike Bobinski decided to hire a new coach.
Hoerner, who was the head coach at the College of Charleston for the past eight years, saw the position as a great opportunity for her career, and knew she had made the right choice after a visit to Tech.
“Once I stepped foot on campus here, it was phenomenal. The administration, to the atmosphere, and to the academics obviously, that was huge. Just what Tech softball has done in the past intrigued me and obviously it’s a great conference and school to be at,” Hoerner said.
The fifth full-time head coach in Tech softball history, Hoerner replaces Sharon Perkins, who had seven successful years at Tech. Perkins led the Jackets to three ACC Championships, won three ACC Coach of the Year awards and made consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament her first six years.
“It’s a tough act to follow,” Hoerner admitted.
Hoerner also praised Tech for its long history of great coaches. Ehren Earleywine, the coach before Perkins, ran Tech’s program for five seasons at Tech and went on to run a top program at the University of Missouri.
Hoerner comes in with solid credentials as well. She led the College of Charleston to three consecutive 37 win seasons, including two finals appearances in the Southern Conference Tournament. In 2007, Hoerner won the Southern Conference Coach of the Year award.
Hoerner hopes to lead Tech to the post season and make appearances in the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals.
“We want to continue the success that’s been here, but even take it a step further,” Hoerner said.
Hoerner has also brought in two new assistant coaches with her. Assistant Coach Jake Jury comes in from Hoerner’s staff at College of Charleston as an outfielder coach.
“We’ve worked together for five years. And trusting in coaches is important,” Hoerner said.
She noted that the trust amongst the coaching staff will help to make this team successful. Charlotte Morgan, who was an All-American at the University of Alabama, will be the new pitching coach. Overall, Hoerner is excited to see what this coaching staff can do.
“This team has blue collar players and blue collar assistants who just want to get down to it and work hard,” Hoerner said.
While the Jackets may not have had the results they wanted last year, their roster is still a strong one. Senior shortstop Ashley Thomas won the ACC Player of the Year award last year as a junior, making her the fourth consecutive Jacket player to win the award. Coach Hoerner sees seniors Thomas, catcher Aslysha Rudnik and outfielder Hayley Downs as the team’s leaders.
“They’ve been here when this program has won. They’ve been here through the hard times. They are very hard workers, which are my kind of players. They want to win, they know what it takes to win, and they want to have fun, and they also just want to enjoy the game,” Hoerner said.
She also noted that Thomas, Rudnik and Downs have responded positively to a new coach in their final season, and that their work ethic has set a good example for the rest of the team.
“I want to see what they can do on a daily basis,” said Hoerner, when asked about Tech’s schedule this season.
Tech will face tough competition in ACC play as well as against successful programs at the University of Arizona and the University of Alabama. However, Hoerner stressed that the team treats each game the same.
“I want us to get better every game,” said Hoerner.
Hoerner also had a message to the fans.
“Come out and support us. We are a blue collar, hardworking team,” Hoerner said. “We are excited when we play and that will transfer over to the fans. You will enjoy watching us play, because our team is going to be fun to watch. We like to run and we can hit the long-ball.”
The team begins its season on Feb. 8 at home against Missouri State.