Pitt head softball coach Holly Aprile announced on Tuesday that Amanda Buchholz, who most recently served on Ohio State’s coaching staff, will be joining the Panthers as an assistant coach for the 2018 season, according to a press release from the university.
“She brings a wealth of experience in both recruiting and in the day-to-day operations of a Power Five softball program,” Aprile said. “Amanda has a track record for developing top-notch defensive teams and strategies. Without a doubt, she has the experience and expertise to help us continue to build a consistent winning program.”
Buchholz’s defensive prowess goes back to her days as a standout shortstop at Nebraska, during which she led the Cornhuskers to a College World Series appearance in 2002 and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. She eventually became an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), where her team set a program record with a .975 fielding percentage in 2010.
She achieved similar results at Ohio State, as her Buckeyes put up a .969 fielding percentage in 2017 and a .974 fielding percentage in 2016. For comparison, Pitt’s fielding percentage was .975 in 2017, which ranked 16th in the nation. So this addition should allow the Panthers to stay the course in that respect.
With that said, this move doesn’t address two of the more glaring areas of need for the Panthers, such as their .261 team batting average, which ranked an abysmal 201st in the NCAA in 2017, and their 4.11 ERA, which ranked 191st.
If the goal is to catch up to ACC rivals like Florida State (which batted .329 in 2017 with a 1.47 ERA) or even Syracuse (.307 batting average, 3.07 ERA), then the Panthers are going to have to do more to step up their performance at the plate and on the mound.
However, as Aprile noted, where Buchholz could really make a difference is on the recruiting trail, and that’s of vital importance to Pitt.
The Panthers attracted a solid recruiting class after a stellar 37-21 season in 2015, but they quickly regressed. While that 2016 class ranked 14th in the nation, according to FloSoftball, Pitt followed that up with a class that didn’t rank among the top 70 in 2017.
Since then, Aprile has shown improvement by assembling a 51st-ranked 2018 class and a 42nd-ranked 2019 class. But considering conference rivals like Notre Dame, Florida State and Boston College have consistently ranked above Pitt in recruiting, the program still needs to strive for better results.
During Buchholz’s tenure, Ohio State regularly reeled in impressive recruiting classes that ranked among the best in the nation. Its 2018 class is currently ranked 29th by FloSoftball, and 2017’s ranked 33rd.
While recruiting student-athletes at Pitt is traditionally more difficult than it is at Ohio State, if Buchholz can provide the Panthers with even a modest boost in their recruiting efforts, it could give them a leg up on teams like Syracuse and Louisville that haven’t excelled in recruiting lately but have bested Pitt in conference play over the past two seasons.
And with Pitt finishing 10th out of 11 ACC teams in 2017 despite having the seventh-best overall record in the conference, gaining ground on beatable conference opponents should be the goal heading into 2018.
That alone could be the difference between finishing one game above .500 and posting a 30-win season — which is another thing teams coached by Buchholz have a knack for.