HEAD COACH JAMIE TRACHSEL

Jamie Trachsel was named head coach of the University of Minnesota softball team on July 24, 2017.

Trachsel comes to Dinkytown from Iowa State, where she led the Cyclones for one year following six at the helm of perennial NCAA Tournament contender North Dakota State. Her hiring at Minnesota will be official after a standard university background check is completed.

"Jamie is one of the country’s premier young softball coaches and we’re excited to bring her to Minnesota to lead our program and build on the success we’ve had in recent years,” said Athletics Director Mark Coyle. “Jamie’s leadership has consistently produced winning results. That track record, paired with her Midwestern roots and proven ability to develop the skills of her student-athletes throughout their collegiate careers, makes her the perfect fit for the Gophers.”

“I could not be more humbled and honored to lead the Gophers softball program, and I want to thank Mark Coyle and search committee for this tremendous opportunity,” Trachsel said. “While the decision to leave Iowa State was challenging, the opportunity that lies ahead at Minnesota to continue building a national powerhouse while returning to my home state is one that I could not pass up. The foundation that is in place is truly remarkable, and I look forward to meeting the team and helping these young women thrive as student-athletes. As a native of this great state, I have always admired how the University of Minnesota offers an athletic and academic experience that is second-to-none in the nation, and I am eager to work with our team and the University community to begin the next chapter of Gopher softball.”

A Duluth, Minn., native and former standout at St. Cloud State., Trachsel led the Cyclones to a fifth-place finish in the Big XII last season, garnering their highest conference win total in eight years along with the best regular-season league finish since 1994. Trachsel’s squad also saw improvement in the circle, dropping their team era by nearly two runs per game to the lowest since 2010.

Two Cyclones earned NFCA All-Region First Team honors in Kelsey McFarland and Sami Williams, the latter selected to the All-Big 12 First Team as well, one of only three freshmen league-wide to earn that award. ISU finished the season strong, winning six of its last seven league games along with a six-game overall winning streak. Two records were set last season, with 99 team stolen bases along with Williams’s 20 doubles breaking previous school marks.

Trachsel arrived in Ames following 14 seasons at North Dakota State, including the final six as co-head coach. In those half-dozen seasons, NDSU compiled a 221-109 overall record (.670), a 98-19 mark (.838) in the Summit League and advanced to NCAA Regional play five times. The Bison won their conference regular-season championship and the tournament championship five times each with Trachsel as co-head coach.

North Dakota State won at least 30 games – including a school-record 45 in 2015 when it climbed as high as 41st in the NCAA Percentage Ratings Index (RPI) – for 10 straight seasons.

The Bison advanced to the NCAA Regionals seven of the last eight years. The 2009 club won the Norman (Okla.) Regional to advance to the NCAA Super Regional in Tempe (Ariz.).

Her tenure with NDSU began with two seasons (2002-04) as a graduate assistant, followed by three (2005-07) as an assistant coach, three (2008-10) as associate head coach and the last six (2011-16) as co-head coach.

Through the course of her career, Trachsel has coached four All-Americans, 21 All-Region players and 55 All-Conference student athletes. She has also been on coaching staffs that were honored seven times, including NFCA Division I Midwest Region Coaching Staff of the Year twice (2009 and 2015). Trachsel is well respected among peers and lectured at the 2015 National Fastpitch Coaches Association convention on training drills for outfielders. She was featured in an ESPNW story for her tactical defensive skills.

Trachsel also helped transition the Bison program from Division II to Division I. After placing seventh and third at the Division II national championship in 2002 and 2003, North Dakota State moved up to the highest level in college softball.

As a player at St. Cloud State (1998-2000), she led the Huskies to three straight NCAA Division II tournament appearances and one conference title. Trachsel made the 1999 NCAA Division II All-Region Tournament Team and received All-Academic honors from the NFCA twice. SCSU won 127 games during her career.

As a prep athlete, Trachsel earned 17 letters (softball 6, tennis 5, basketball 5 and soccer 1) at Duluth (Minn.) Central High School. She is also a nine-time national champion in racquetball (1988-93 and 2003-05).

Trachsel earned a B.S. degree in sports management (minors in coaching and human relations) from St. Cloud State in 2001. She added a Master of Education degree (in athletics administration) from North Dakota State in 2006.

 

CATHERINE HEIFNER
ASSISTANT COACH

Catherine Heifner enters her first season on the Gopher softball staff, after being announced the new Minnesota hitting coach on August 8, 2017.

Heifner comes to Midwest from New Mexico State following 14 years on the Aggie staff, 11 of which she served as associate head coach.

"It is an honor to be a part of the University of Minnesota family,” said Heifner. “I'd like to thank Coach Trachsel for her confidence in me. Gopher softball is on the cusp of something very special and I look forward to doing my part to help the program reach its potential."

She helped lead the Aggies to four Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season champions, three WAC tournament champions and three NCAA Tournament appearances in the Tucson regional. Primarily in charge of one of the nation’s best offense, under Heifner’s guidance New Mexico State ranked ninth nationally in batting average and 10th in on-base percentage during the 2017 season. In 2009, the Aggie offense ranked first among NCAA Division I programs recording a .341 batting average. It was the first time a team from the WAC led the country in that category.

Over her 14 year span in Las Cruces, New Mexico, she produced 56 All-Conference selections, six WAC Player of Year honorees, four WAC Coaching Staff of the Year awards, 32 NFCA All-West Regional Selections and four NFCA All-Americans.  The all-time winningest coach at New Mexico State in all Aggie sports has also served on the Regional Ranking Advisory Committee for the NCAA West Region.

Prior to New Mexico State, Heifner served as an assistant coach for two seasons at Angelo State. Prior to ASU she was an assistant at Midland College and El Paso Community College.

During her years of junior college coaching experience, Heifner won three conference and regional championships and advanced to the NJCAA World Series three consecutive years. Heifner coached three teams to consecutive top 10 rankings for team batting average as well.

Heifner received her bachelor’s degree in English from UTEP in 1997. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in sports psychology from the University of Texas – Permian Basin. Heifner was born in Landstuhl, Germany.

 

PIPER RITTER
ASSISTANT COACH

Former Minnesota pitcher Piper Ritter is in her eleventh season with the Gophers as pitching coach, having developed three of the top hurlers in Minnesota softball history in Brianna Hassett, Sara Moulton and Sara Groenewegen.

Ritter guided Groenewegen to Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors in 2014, making the White Rock, B.C. native the third player in conference history to win both awards in the same season. Groenewegen finished the season with the nation's top strikeouts-per-seven-innings rate at 11.6 and was a top-10 finalist for the inaugural NFCA Freshman of the Year Award. She helped Groenewegen become the third player in conference history to win Big Ten Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year awards in her career after another solid season in 2015. Groenewegen was named a NFCA Second-Team All-American and finished the season with an ERA of 1.67, best in the Big Ten. The 2015 Gophers had more strikeouts than any other season and posted a team ERA of 2.34.

In 2016 Groenewegen again was dominant in the circle under Ritter's guidance. She went 31-7 with a 2.03 ERA and 336 strikeouts. She threw three no-hitters including a perfect game against FAU. For the second straight  year she earned NFCA All-American honors being named to the First Team and earned three national player of the week awards and five B1G Pitcher of the Week accolades.

Groenewegen went on to become the first Gopher to ever win All-American honors in three seasons after an impressive 2017 season. She went 31-4 with a 0.63 ERA and 307 strikeouts. The ERA was the second lowest in the NCAA and second lowest ever recorded in Gophers history. Groenewegen graduated as the all-time Gophers strikeout lead with 1,214 in her career. Besides Groenewegen, Ritter also mentored freshman Amber Fiser to a strong freshman season. Fiser went 14-0 with a 1.68 ERA and 83 strikeouts.

Ritter coached the Gophers to the third lowest ERA in the NCAA in the 2017 season with a 1.19 ERA as a staff. With the success in the circle the Maroon and Gold went a program best 56-5 overall. They broke a record for longest win streak to start a season with 19 and longest win streak ever with 26 straight. Prior to the 2017 season the Gophers were never ranked in the top-10 in either major polls. They reached No. 1 in the USA Today/NFCA Cnoaches poll and No. 3 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. They won their first regular season Big Te title since 1991 and their third Big Ten tournament championship in four years. Along with head coach Jessica Allister and associate head coach Jessica Merchant Ritter was part of the NFCA Great Lakes Regional Coaching Staff of the Year in 2017.

Ritter helped Minnesota make a dramatic turnaround by mentoring Moulton, who left Minnesota with program records for wins, appearances (178), innings pitched (1,017), complete games (108), no-hitters (five) shutouts (47), and at the time strikeouts (1,184). Moulton went on to earn NFCA Second Team All-America honors after being selected fifth overall in the 2013 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft. She was a four-time All-Big Ten honoree, a top-25 finalist for the 2014 NFCA National Player of the Year Award, and was a top-30 finalist for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award.

As a staff, Moulton, Groenewegen, and Nikki Anderson set single-season school records for shutouts with 22 and strikeouts with 487, both marks that put the Gophers in the top three nationally in the 2014 season. Minnesota went on to post its winningest season in 15 years, capture the Big Ten Tournament title, and seal its first-ever NCAA super regional berth, posting a team ERA of 2.00.

In 2013, Moulton set Minnesota's single-season wins record with a 32-12 record, and tied another record with 14 shutouts. The All-Big Ten First team selection threw two consecutive no-hitters during the season. Moulton led the Big Ten in ERA (1.57), strikeouts (308), wins (32), starts (45) and innings pitched (275.5).

Ritter has also been instrumental to Minnesota's success in the classroom, with 61 student-athletes earning Academic All-Big Ten honors over the past five seasons.

Ritter also tutored Hassett to one of the best seasons in program history in 2009. Hassett set program records by racking up 414 strikeouts and pitching 39 complete games. Her strikeout mark was more than 100 better than the previous record, set in 2004 by Ritter. Hassett also spent 307.0 innings in the circle in 2009, becoming just the second Golden Gopher ever to pitch over 300 innings in a season. Hassett thrived in two seasons under Ritter, finishing among the top-five in six career pitching categories, including a school record 88 complete games.

Ritter also guided Hassett to a record-breaking 2008 season in her first year in charge of Minnesota's pitching staff. Hassett went 21-8 with a 1.82 earned run average that season. At the time, Hassett's 276 strikeouts were the third-most in a single season in Minnesota history, trailing only Ritter's totals of 311 during 2003 and 301 during 2002.

During her four-year playing career with the Gophers (2001-04), Ritter became one of the most accomplished pitchers in program history. She left the university with career records for strikeouts (1,122), innings pitched (921.1), games (173), wins (88), shutouts (33), and complete games (85). Her career strikeout mark ranked third all-time in the Big Ten and 14th in NCAA history. Ritter threw a record-tying five career no-hitters for the Gophers, including two perfect games.

Ritter earned All-Big Ten honors all four years at Minnesota, including a first-team selection in 2003 when she posted 11 shutouts and what was then a single-season record 311 strikeouts. She also garnered NFCA All-Mideast Region accolades three times during her career and led the Gophers to the NCAA Regional Tournament two times (2002 and 2003).

Prior to joining the staff at Minnesota, Ritter served as pitching coach at the University of Northern Colorado for the 2006 season and was an assistant at North St. Paul High School during 2005. After graduating from Minnesota in 2004 with a degree in kinesiology, she played and coached for one season in the Netherlands. Ritter also played one season in the National Pro Fastpitch League for the Texas Thunder, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.64 ERA.