User ID: Password:

September 10, 2013

Familiar Face Returns to Blacksburg

By: Jimmy Robertson

Former Virginia Tech softball pitcher Angela Tincher O’Brien has been hired as the program’s new pitching coach, returning to the place where she became one of the NCAA’s all-time greats

Maybe the greatest softball player in Tech history, Angela Tincher O’Brien returned to campus as the Hokies’ new
pitching coach under head coach Scot Thomas.

Former Virginia Tech softball pitcher Angela Tincher O’Brien was a three-time academic All-American, and she graduated from Tech with a degree in finance and a 3.84 grade-point average. As one may expect, she makes a lot of smart decisions.

But the smartest move she has made recently was deciding to keep some of her cold-weather apparel after moving to Orlando, Fla., once she got married.

“I still have a lot,” she laughed.

Tincher O’Brien may need some of those clothes this fall and winter when she starts conducting practices with Tech’s pitching staff over at Tech Softball Park. That’s because Tech coach Scot Thomas named Tincher O’Brien as his new pitching coach on Aug. 27. The native of Eagle Rock, Va., returned to her alma mater and began her new role on Sept. 2.

Tincher O’Brien replaces former pitching coach Barb Sherwood, who departed after getting the head coaching job at Portland State.

“It was a pretty easy decision for me,” Tincher O’Brien said. “Obviously, there were some things to work out logistically with us [she and her husband, Sean, a former Tech baseball player] being in Orlando and making that transition. But I knew I would be interested in getting back into coaching if it were the right program and the right fit, and Virginia Tech was obviously at the top of that list.”

Tincher O’Brien brings impressive credentials to the position. As a player, there was simply no one better.

She earned the 2008 USA Softball Player of the Year honor as a senior after leading the Hokies to their first College World Series appearance. She also beat the USA Olympic Softball team that season in an exhibition, pitching a no-hitter and ending Team USA’s 185-game pre-Olympic win streak.

The three-time All-American and three-time ACC Player of the Year went 123-35 over four years at Tech, with a 0.78 ERA and 2,149 strikeouts – the third-most strikeouts in NCAA history of softball at any level. She is one of only two players in NCAA history to record 600 or more strikeouts in two different seasons, and she led the nation in ERA her junior and senior years. Tincher O’Brien also led the nation in strikeouts her final year and tossed 14 solo no-hitters, including two perfect games, in NCAA competition. She compiled 120 double-digit strikeout games for her career, including 42 games of 16 strikeouts or more.

Following her graduation, she played for the Akron Racers, who drafted her in the first round of the National Pro Fastpitch League, who drafted her in the first round. She spent two seasons playing for the Racers, and she played one season for a team in Japan.

But Tincher O’Brien decided to give up playing relatively early in her career. At that point, she became more interested in coaching.

“I think I was just ready,” she said of leaving softball. “A lot of people thought that I retired early, but for me and where I was, I knew I was ready to be done and do other things. I had always committed so much to softball and never felt like I was missing other things. When you’re playing a sport year-round and devoting so much time to that, you do miss out on a lot of other things. Not that that didn’t bother me, but softball was always my No. 1 priority.

“But when I was starting to get to where it bothered me to miss out on so many other things in life and not be able to give other things my full attention, I think I knew then that it was time for me to make a change.”

In 2010, Tincher O’Brien served as an assistant coach at Syracuse, helping the school to the Big East title and automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The following year, she was the pitching coach at Maryland, helping that program to the NCAAs.

Once she got married, she resigned from her job at Maryland and moved with her husband to Orlando, where he held a position with The Golf Channel. While in Orlando, she continued coaching, albeit by giving private lessons, and she volunteered occasionally with the Daytona State Community College softball team, helping out that program’s pitchers when needed.

“When I was still playing the first couple of years, you need something that is flexible and still allows you to work out on your own and stay in shape,” she said. “That [coaching] was an easy decision for me because I could coach during the year and still had the summer to play. From there, it opened up a lot of other opportunities that I wanted to make use of. I thought I’d always go back to my business degree or go back to finance, but it’s hard to step away from softball.

“I do enjoy coaching. Even though I haven’t been coaching full time in college the past couple of years, I’ve been giving private instruction and working with pitchers. I’ve always enjoyed keeping that a part of my life, even though it’s changed from year to year.”

She inherits an interesting situation here at Tech, as last season’s winningest pitcher, Jasmin Harrell, graduated after a senior season in which she went 18-9 with a 2.72 ERA and pitched well in the NCAA regional. But sophomore Kelly Heinz returns after going 17-8 as a freshman with a 2.68 ERA. She struck out 169 in 156.2 innings. Also sophomore Maggie Tyler returns after pitching 60.2 innings a year ago.

Tincher O’Brien will also be doing more than coaching. She will be recruiting, which arguably may be more important than coaching.

“I think I’m going to enjoy being out there at tournaments,” she said. “It’s something I did more in the last year, go out to tournaments where I had students playing just to see how they were doing. I enjoyed being out there at the games and seeing how players were developing. So I think that will be the exciting part of it.”

She comes to Tech with high expectations, both of herself and of the Tech program, which, this spring, made the NCAA regionals for the sixth time in the program’s history. But expecting her to mold her pitchers into players as good as she was may be a little extreme. After all, she ranks as one of the all-time greats in NCAA history.

But she’s not worried about accomplishing that. Like the quintessential coach, she wants to focus more on short-term goals, like planning the fall workout schedule for her pitchers.

“The team has done well in making the postseason, and that’s something we want to continue,” she said. “Obviously, I want to be a part of that, but I think right now I’m just more excited to be back and be a part of it and looking forward to the fall and the work that we have to get done then. I look forward to taking it one day at a time as we get ready for the spring.”