FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2011
Ali Higgs named JU head softball coach
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The Jacksonville University softball team didn’t have to look far for its new leader as assistant Ali Higgs has been promoted to head coach, Director of Athletics Alan Verlander announced today.

Higgs replaces Amanda Lehotak who recently took the head coaching job at Texas-San Antonio and for whom Higgs has been the top assistant since 2007.

“After a national search, Ali was the best choice to lead our softball program,’’ Verlander said. “She has been a big reason for the recent success and she knows the expectations now placed on JU softball. She is a tireless worker and a tremendous recruiter. I look forward to working with her to build our softball program into a nationally ranked team.” The former pitching coach inherits a team she helped build and one that went to the NCAA Tournament earlier this year. The Dolphins beat Bethune-Cookman but were eliminated by UCLA in the first round.

The Dolphins won the Atlantic Sun championship this season with an 18-2 record and were 44-16 overall.

“I want to thank Alan, (Senior Women’s Administrator) Marsha (Haskew), President (Kerry) Romesburg and the Board of Trustees for giving me this great opportunity,’’ Higgs said. “I am grateful for the chance to remain a part of the JU family and continue the success of JU softball.’’

The team’s pitching staff has improved each season under Higgs to the point that since 2008 the team ERA has dropped from 2.97 to 1.48.

In 2011, junior Sarah Sigrest received conference Pitcher of the Year honors by setting single-season records in wins (27), ERA (1.10), shutouts (10) and strikeouts (208). She also posted 12 wins in her final 13 appearances before the NCAA Tournament to earn second team Louisville Slugger/NFCA all-region honors alongside sophomore Olivia Kline.

Sigrest will be among at least a dozen players returning in 2012 from the NCAA Tournament team.

“ I look forward to my first season as a head coach, leading a very talented group of returners and a strong incoming freshman class in the 2012 season,’’ Higgs said. “I am excited about where this program is headed and look forward to building on the foundation that Coach Lehotak helped to establish.’’

Higgs graduated cum laude from Iona College in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and received her master’s of business of administration from JU in 2009.

After graduating from Iona, Higgs played professionally in the National Professional Fast Pitch League and in Australia.

Earlier this year, Higgs was inducted into the Iona College Hall of Fame.

She holds the Iona program record for appearances (96), wins (56), ERA (1.34), strikeouts (512) and shutouts (13). She also is the school’s all-time leader in at-bats (512) and hits (164) and was a two-time Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Northeast Region first team selection. In 2004, she was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year.