Courtesy: OSU Sports Information
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University Director of Athletics Bob De Carolis announced Monday the hiring of Laura Berg as the new head softball coach. She becomes the eighth head coach in the program’s history. In addition, assistant coach Geoff Hirai has been promoted to associate head coach. Both served as assistants on last year’s staff.
“In the world of softball, this is a home run for Oregon State,” De Carolis said. “Coach Berg is an accomplished player and coach at the highest levels of the sport. I’m very impressed with her approach to the game and I look forward to many great seasons for our program with her at the helm.”
Spending the 2012 season working primarily with the Beavers’ slappers and outfielders, Berg helped the team reach its first NCAA Regional since 2007. The Beavers’ renaissance included the team returning to the national polls for the first time since 2008, defeating a total of 10 ranked opponents and claiming a number of defining wins, including an extra-innings upset of No. 3 Arizona State and a road victory over No. 14 UCLA in April. OSU defeated its opponent by at least 10 runs on five occasions and scored more than 10 runs eight times, the second-highest totals in those respective categories in the 38-year history of the program.
“I accepted the position at Oregon State because of the history of the program and the tradition,” Berg said. “It’s a winning program and everybody here bleeds Orange and Black.”
Berg previously had two stints as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Fresno State, from 2000-03 and 2005-06, stepping down to train with the U.S. Women’s National Team in the interim. During the summer of 2012, Berg also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team in its run at the ISF XIII World Women’s Championships in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.
Berg is one of the most decorated American softball players in history. Joining the national team as a center fielder in 1994, she owns three Olympic golds (1996, 2000, 2004) and one silver (2008). Her eighth inning at-bat drove in the gold medal-winning run in the United States’ 2-1 victory over Japan at the 2000 Sidney Games. She has won 11 total medals while competing in the Olympic Games, ISF Women’s World Championship and the Pan American Games.
A 1998 graduate of Fresno State, Berg’s name is littered throughout the NCAA, WAC and school record books. She ranks second all-time in career hits in NCAA history (396), 12th in runs (245), and 23rd in triples (25). Berg finished her career with a .414 batting average and as the WAC and school leader in career hits, runs, triples and stolen bases.
Berg was a four-time All-American whose collegiate career was highlighted by a NCAA Championship title in 1998. She led her squad to three Women’s College World Series appearances, two Western Athletic Conference crowns and helped Fresno State to a 206-60 (.774) record in her four-year career.
Hirai’s promotion to associate head coach comes after his successful first season as an Oregon State assistant. As the team’s hitting coach, Hirai coached the Beavers to a .273 team batting average, the fourth-best in program history. The team also set school records in RBIs (269) and runs scored (301) while stealing 70 bases, third best in Beaver history.
“He is phenomenal at what he does,” Berg said. “With the recruiting and the hitting game, he definitely knows the game of softball and how to motivate the players.”
Hirai set the bar high with the team’s offensive performance in the season-opener. The Beavers used a 16-run, five-home run second inning to defeat BYU, 22-5, setting school records for runs and home runs in a game. The 16 runs scored are the sixth most in NCAA history in any one frame and the five long balls hit in that second inning tied an NCAA record.
Prior to Oregon State, Hirai served as an assistant coach at Virginia and Washington, helping those schools to a combined four NCAA Tournament appearances. He also served as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds for three years.