July 18, 2024

Who is next for Memphis Softball?

Credits - Memphis Softball

Who is next for Memphis Softball?

Credits – Memphis Athletics Webpage{gotigersgo.com}

As we reported this week, former coach, Stephanie Prothro, has left the Memphis program as she was named the new pitching coach for the Florida Gators. With this, the administration will search for the 4th coach in program history. For a program that debuted in 2006, the hire is vital to compete in the American Conference and nation.  We look at some options for Memphis as the administration claws its next coach from the nationwide search. 

Helen Pena 

Helen Pena is a name Memphis Softball fans will recognize as Pena is a former assistant from 2018- 2022. While in Memphis, Pena would work with pitchers and hitters. She brings a wealth of knowledge both as a pitching coach and head coach, currently at Ball State University

Before Ball State, Pena led the Middle Tennessee State Softball program as their Associate Head Coach and worked with pitchers. Her work did not go unnoticed as they were named the 2023 NFCA Mideast Regional Coaching Staff of the Year after a 42-win season and second-ever C-USA Championship

More importantly than the proven track record of winning, Pena has become known as a coach who focuses on academics. In addition, she understands what it takes to lead a program with a short tenure of playing. She is currently the 11th all-time coach at Ball State which finished this season at 24-24 and won 4 games in the WAC Conference Tournament. Pena is a coach that we think Memphis will, and should, contact. 

DJ Sanders 

Another name familiar to Memphis fans is DJ Sanders. Sanders, who would start her coaching career, in 2020, at Missouri is one coach we consider a wild card in this process. After two seasons in Columbia, Sanders would move to SEC country and Mississippi State.

At Starkville Sanders, a Columbus, Mississippi native, would return to her home state. The Bulldogs would benefit greatly under the learning of their hitting coach in Sanders as  Mississippi State broke the single-season record in home runs and turned in top-five marks in program history in both runs (312) and RBIs (282) while on a historic run to the 2022 NCAA Super Regional. 

After Starkville, Sanders became the hitting coach in Memphis and serve in this role last season. Furthermore, Sanders would scout the opposing pitchers as well as aid the Tigers in working with outfielders in her lone season in Memphis. On top of all these stops, Sanders also brings a knowledge of the professional level as she continues to play for Athletes United after being drafted, 21st overall, in the 2018 NPF Draft. Memphis would have to snag Sanders from the SEC as she recently joined the Ole Miss staff. This is Coach, Sanders, who is a seasoned coach with nationwide and professional connections that Memphis may tap into during this process.

Credits – Memphis Softball

Kristin Ryman

The Tigers do not have to look far to see where this option hails from. Kristin Ryman, head coach of Lipscomb, would be a great fit for a program that needs stability. She has been the leader of the Bisons since the 2006 season and her track record of wins proves she should be a target. Ryman will not be easy to acquire. 

The former Bison, and Hall of Fame member, had a decorated career on the softball diamond as well as the volleyball court. Furthermore, her husband, Brian, is the Director of Baseball Operations for the Bison baseball program. Ryman has been a lifelong Lipscomb member who has built this program through academics first along with scheduling the nation’s best on a yearly basis. 

In her third season, Ryman would lead the Bison to a 15-6 record in ASUN play and earn the first-ever regular season title. Just two short years later, the Bison would seal its first ASUN title outright, as well as the Conference Championship, which resulted in a first-ever NCAA Appearance. The former ASUN coach of the year, in 2008,10,19} would win her 500th game at the helm of the Bison, in 2022, over Nicholls and would schedule Virginia, North and South Carolina, Northwestern, and #15 Louisiana in route to a 20-32 season. The reason is simple for Ryman, since 2008 her teams have won two ASUN regular season titles, and appeared in five ASUN Championship finals with two Championship trophies. Over and above that, Ryman has led her teams to three NCAA Regional appearances which is something Memphis softball hasn’t seen since 2011. 

Daryn Miller 

In a theme in this piece, this is another coach with direct ties to Memphis. Daryn Miller understands what it means to be a Memphis Tiger. Miller is a former Tiger on the baseball diamond, in 1996-7, as well as has ties to the area through coaching. Miller, who was on staff this past season for Memphis Softball, came to Memphis after a stent in high school and college coaching.

Miller would spend the six seasons prior to Memphis working with Hardin County High School, in Savannah, Tennessee, In his time there he would assist in leading the Tigers to multiple state championships and a third-place finish in 2022. This tenure could be utilized in recruiting as Miller knows the area and can tap into the talented players. 

Prior to Hardin County High, Miller would work with Heartland Community College, in Normal, Illinois. While with the Hawks, Miller would serve on teams that would have three national tournament appearances, a 2008 third-place finish, and a National Title in the 2009 season. Miller is a coach who can keep continuity in the program and more importantly the recruiting and portal classes being recruited. 

Dj Gasso 

In every coaching search the athletic department has a list of coaches to contact. In this case, this coach is current Arkansas assistant DJ Gasso. Gasso, the hitting coach for the Razorbacks, has his name to draw instant attention. Gasso is the son of Oklahoma coach, Patty, and would get his coaching start there, from 2018-19, as a graduate manager. 

From Norman, Gasso would join the Utah Utes staff, in 2021, as its hitting coach, and the results were immediate. In his first season, the Utes would hit 46 home runs which was most by any Utah team since 2012. Moreover, the Utes scored 237 runs which was the most by the program since the 2017 season. 

In 2023, under Grasso’s leadership, Utes increased their batting average by nearly 40 points compared to their mark in 2022, a .289 average, and finished 15th nationally in scoring with a 6.05 per game average. Plus, Utah would gather single-season program records in numerous offensive categories. The Utes would score 351 runs, have a .483 slugging percentage, 84 doubles, and 99 steals. In addition to the program’s most home runs, with 47, and most since the 2006 season en route to the last, as we have known it, Pac-12 Championship and Women’s College World Series appearance. The appearance at the WCWS was the first for the Utes since 1994.

Gasso would be promoted to associate head coach of the Utes in 2022 and now in Fayetteville, this would be a stunning move for Memphis. 

Credits – Memphis Softball

As mentioned at the onset, the next hire is vital. Memphis Softball needs this hire. Yes, there have only been three prior but it’s time to get on board with this program. The University should allow the players to wear the logo and further their education and dreams of being a D1 athlete.

Moreover, these women deserve the proper tools to be the best they can be!

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