WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – For the third time in the last ten years under head softball coach Diana Pepin, Eastern Connecticut State University has been voted by the regional membership of the National Softball Coaches’ Association (NFCA) as the Division III New England Regional Coaching Staff-of-the-Year, released Monday.
Eastern (36-13) was among five regional champions and national tournament qualifiers to be named as a regional Coaching Staff-of-the-Year. The coaching staff’s of Pepin’s two previous national tournament qualifiers in 2010 and 2011 were also voted as New England’s top staff.
Pepin’s three assistant coaches this year included Tom Madera, Mark Correia and Dawn Brolin. Madera completed his sixth season with the program, Correira his second and Brolin her first. Pepin (1988-91) and Brolin (1989-92) each played on four regional championship teams –three as teammates -- as undergraduates at Eastern and were teammates on three teams which reached the national championship round – the 1990 team winning the title.
Eastern won its first nine games in Little East Conference and NCAA post-season tournament play to advance to the program’s 15th national tournament since 1981, where it upended top-seeded University of St. Thomas (MN) in the first round to make it ten straight victories before losing to eventual national champion Texas Lutheran University on the second day of the national tournament. Seeded eighth in the eight-team nationals, the Warriors remained alive with an elimination game win over second-seeded Illinois Wesleyan University the following day before losing in eight innings in the national semifinals to Emory University. Including a two-game sweep of Rowan University in the Willimantic, CT Super Regionals, Eastern’s final six games of the year were decided by one run, with Eastern winning four.
Coming off three straight losing seasons, Eastern returned all but one starter and all of its pitching in 2019 and was also aided by two freshman who would be named first-team All-Little East. The Warriors outscored four LEC tournament opponents 20-0 to capture their fifth LEC tournament title in ten years as the No. 3 seed. Also seeded third in the four-team Medford, MA Regional, Eastern outscored three opponents 13-4 to advance to the Super Regionals, where it swept nationally-ranked Rowan at home.
The top coaching staff in each of the nation’s eight regions vie for the national honor in voting of NFCA members and will be announced June 17.