RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The newest face to head up the University of Rio Grande’s softball program is one that the RedStorm faithful should be very familiar with.
Amber Bowman, the program’s starting shortstop from 2008-11, has been named the new head coach of her alma mater. Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham announced the hiring on Thursday.
Bowman replaces Kristen Bradshaw, who resigned last month after three seasons at the helm to accept a teaching and coaching position at Portsmouth High School.
“I’m definitely excited to be back at Rio after spending four years here as a player and two more as a grad assistant with coach Bradshaw,” Bowman said. “I know I have big shoes to fill, but I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
Bowman, who served as a graduate assistant coach at Rio under Bradshaw in 2012 and 2013, spent the 2014 season as an assistant varsity coach and the junior varsity head coach at the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Although she’s excited to be back at her alma mater, Bowman admitted the decision to leave UNOH wasn’t an easy one.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but the fact that it was to come back to Rio Grande made it a little easier,” she said. “I had a great bond with the coaching staff, as well as the players, at UNOH. It was hard to leave them.”
Bowman is a native of Hebron, Ohio and a graduate of Lakewood High School. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Phyiscal Education, with a minor in Health, from Rio Grande in the Spring of 2011 and also received her Master’s Degree in Education from Rio in 2013.
A four-year starter at shortstop for the RedStorm, Bowman was an All-Mid-South Conference selection as a senior and an honorable mention All-MSC pick as a junior. She was named to the All-MSC Academic Team both seasons.
As a senior, Bowman batted .356 with 11 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 33 runs batted in. She had 47 total hits, scored 28 runs and finished with a .515 slugging percentage.
Bowman finished her career with 32 doubles, eight triples, two home runs and 92 runs batted in.
“We’re very excited about the return of coach Bowman to the Rio family. Being familiar with the school and the program will be a big asset for her,” Lanham said. “I think coach Bowman will relate well with our team and will bring a positive attitude to the program. She’s had to hit the road running with recruiting and planning for the 2014-15 school year. Moving into the KIAC will be a new challenge for us, but I think she’s prepared to take us to the next level.”
Bowman said her biggest immediate challenge might well be the timing of her hiring, which came when most coaches have already finalized - or are in the process of finalizing - their schedule and recruiting efforts for the upcoming season.
“The top priority right now, definitely, has to be recruiting. I’ve also got to finish setting up the schedule for next year. But I’m just anxious to get the girls on campus and start working with them,” she said. “I know all of the upperclassmen, so I feel like I have a good working relationship with them already.”
Bowman inherits a program that hasn’t had a losing season since 2002. This year’s squad, which had just two upperclassmen on its 16-player roster, finished 30-20 overall and 21-15 in the Mid-South Conference, tying Cumberland (Tenn.) University for fourth place in the final league standings.
The 30-win season was just the second for the program in the last decade.
Bowman said her style of coaching will likely mirror that of Bradshaw and her boss this spring.
“I definitely learned a lot from both Kristen and from Tracy Coffman, the head coach at UNOH. They were very similar in their coaching styles and I think my philosophy is a lot like theirs,” Bowman said. “It’ll be interesting. We’re going into a new conference and we’ll be visiting places we haven’t been to before. I’m really excited to get started.”