By Tom Mauldin
Nearly 20 years after concluding a record-setting and All-American softball career, Nicole Christian has come full circle. The former Eastern Oregon University softball standout is the new Mountaineer head coach.
During her playing days at EOU (1996-2000), Christian was one of the best players in program history. In 2000, Christian enjoyed one of the best single seasons in EOU history, hitting .492 with 62 hits, 13 doubles and 50 runs batted in.
Christian was inducted into the EOU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013, earning All-American honors twice (1999, 2000) and CCC Player of the Year in 1999. She ranks top-10 in numerous categories in the program record book, including No. 1 in career hits (200), runs batted in (137), total bases (321) and walks (83).
And now she brings nearly 20 years of coaching experience to the LaGrande campus.
Christian has coached at McLoughlin High School in Milton-Freewaser since 2008, leading the Pioneers to nine-straight state tournament appearances, two Oregon state titles (2014, 2015) while earning 4A Coach of the Year honors during both those seasons.
Christian said she’s starting to settle in and in addition to “changing the culture” at EOU, she’s looking for an outfield and a pitching coach.
“I’m super excited,” said Christian. “There’s a tremendous amount of work to do and I am super excited.
”She added she is also recruiting to fill her roster.
Prior to her time at McLoughlin, Christian was the head softball coach at Umatilla High School (2005-08), head coach at Blue Mountain Community College (2003-05) and began her coaching career at La Grande High School shortly after graduating.
Christian, who graduated from EOU in 2000, is the sixth head EOU softball coach in program history.
Q&A with EOU head coach Nicole Christian:
Q – What are your most successful practice drills (hitting, fielding, base running, pitching -- indoor or out)? Can you explain it and tell us what the benefit is?
A - Oklahoma (a drill ran with all players focusing on fungos, fielding,shagging, and positive team work) . You have 6 hitters, 3 fielders, and 6 shaggers by each hitter. A group consists of 2 hitters, 2 shaggers and a fielder. One hitter and shagger will be on first base path to 2nd. The other hitter and shagger will be on 3rd base path to home. One fielder will be in the middle of the base paths. Each hitter will be hitting fungos to the fielder in the middle. After receiving a hit fungo the fielder turns around and receives a fungo from the other hitter. Working on quick reaction, hand eye coordination, fungo hitting, fielding, and communicating. Each player will receive 5 fungos from each hitter and then they will rotate.
A – (two coaches throwing bp from behind the screens) One pitcher will throw left hand and the other right hand. Right hand pitcher is working on inside pitches alone and left hand pitcher is working outside pitches to RH hitters. Two hitters will be up at the same time and there will be a screen in the middle. One hitter is working on inside other is working on outside.
Q – What information do you want from potential recruits.
A - Grade point average, majors, what are looking for from a potential college program, and what is your ultimate goal while attending college.
Q – What advice would you give a young player, say 13 or 14, who dreams of playing college softball?
A - Never let someone tell you that you aren't good enough. Continue to work hard and compete every chance you get. Play as long as you love the game of softball.
Q – What is your most memorable softball/baseball experience (coaching or playing)?
A - Player-finishing 4th place at Nationals for Eastern Oregon UniversityCoaching- Winning back to back state title and 4 straight appearances in the the State Championship games.
Q – When you are recruiting, what attributes in a player are you seeking?
A - Success in the classroom, hard worker, and great teammate. I look for a mixture of speed and power.
Q – If you weren't a softball coach, what would you be doing?
A - Physical Education and Health Teacher.
Q – And, finally, what is it about softball you love?
A - I love that young women of all ages and sizes can play softball. I love the competition because players and coaches to be the best team at the end of the day.