Texas A&M University-Commerce extends Bruister’s contract through 2021.
COMMERCE – Texas A&M University-Commerce has announced a multi-year contract extension through the 2021 season for head softball coach Richie Bruister, effective immediately.
Bruister – the only head coach in the program’s four-season history – has compiled a record of 142-75 (.654) with the Lions, leading A&M-Commerce to two NCAA Division II Championship appearances and the program’s first South Central regional championship.
“In just four years of competition, Richie Bruister has established a Best In Class legacy of success for Lion softball,” Tim McMurray, A&M-Commerce Director of Athletics noted. “As the only head coach in program history, his commitment to student-athlete success, player development, and the community of Commerce make him an ideal fit to continue leading our program. We are thrilled that he, Kim, Cole, Anna Claire, and Logan will continue to be part of our Lion Athletics family.”
In the Lions’ four seasons of competition, Bruister’s program has had four national players of the year honors. There are nine All-American honors, ten all-region honors, a Lone Star Conference Player of the Year, 18 all-Lone Star Conference selections including eight first-teamers, nine LSC Golden Gloves, a CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year, two CoSIDA Academic All-Americas, five CoSIDA Academic All-District selections, and 38 NFCA Scholar All-Americans. The Lions have won over 70 percent of their home games, with a 57-24 record at the John Cain Family Softball Complex.
“I cannot express how excited I am to have the opportunity to continue to lead the Lion Softball program,” Bruister said. “My family and I are truly blessed to be a part of all of the excitement surrounding Lion Athletics and Commerce. All of the hard work that Dr. Ray Keck and Tim McMurray and his executive team put in on a daily basis makes A&M-Commerce the place to be. The leadership of our university is amazing, and I am extremely excited about the future of Lion Softball.”
The Lions recently completed the most successful season in school history, with the 2018 team reaching the South Central Super Regional Championship series after the team won its first Regional Championship. The Lions finished with a 42-12 record, the most wins in program history. The team finished 23-7 in the Lone Star Conference, placing third, their highest finish in program history. The team earned its first-ever top-25 ranking in the NFCA Coaches Poll and was nationally ranked in all 13 polls during the season, reaching as high as 6th in the nation.
The team would go on to win its first-ever LSC Tournament game and advanced to the South Central Regional Tournament for the second time in program history. The Lions defeated No. 3 Colorado Mesa on its home turf and also knocked off LSC rival Tarleton State twice to win the South Central Region 1 Championship. The team would go on to fall to Angelo State in the Super Regional series.
Bruister’s 2018 squad was one of the top offensive teams in the nation, leading all of Division II in on-base percentage, and finishing second in home runs per game, third in slugging percentage, fourth in scoring average, sixth in batting average and seventh in stolen bases. The Lions led the LSC in steals for the fourth consecutive year and led the conference scoring, on-base percentage, and RBIs and finished second in batting average, slugging percentage, fielding percentage and home runs.
Under Bruister, Mariah Jameyson became the best catcher in Division II softball and one of the best hitters in the country. She was named CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year, D2CCA National Player of the Year, Fastpitch News National Player of the Year, and NFCA Catcher of the Year and was named a First Team All-American by four different organizations (NFCA, D2CCA, FPN, CoSIDA). She was also a top-10 finalist for NFCA National Player of the Year. Mariah led the nation in on-base percentage and was second in batting average, slugging percentage and RBIs, third in total bases, fourth in walks and fifth in homers. She was also the first player in program history to be named LSC Player of the Year. Kinsie Hebler also shined for the Lions, earning NFCA and D2CCA First Team All-America honors as a designated player. She was third in the nation in RBIs, sixth in home runs and 10th in slugging percentage and total bases. She was a top-25 finalist for NFCA National Player of the Year. Ciera Nunez and Baylea Higgs joined Hebler and Jameyson as All-Region selections. All four of those players were named First Team All-Conference. Emily Otto won Second Team All-Conference honors, and Kayla Kilcrease was a Third Team All-LSC selection. Otto, Nunez, and Higgs were named Gold Glovers.
During the last game of the 2017 regular season, the program reached its 100th win in just its three-year history, becoming the fastest start-up program to reach the 100-win mark. The team once again qualified for the LSC Tournament with a 34-20 record and narrowly missed a berth into the NCAA Tournament. For the third consecutive season, Bruister’s team led the conference in stolen bases with 162. The team also led the LSC in fielding percentage with a percentage of .973. The team finished in the top 25 in the nation in several categories including slugging percentage, scoring, home runs, double plays turned, on base percentage and stolen bases.
2017 marked a season of firsts for Bruister’s Lions. Hebler pitched the first two no-hitters in program history. Jameyson was named NFCA National Player of the Week, the first such award recipient in school history. Hebler and Jameyson were named First Team All-LSC, and they became the first two A&M-Commerce softball players to be named to the All-Region teams. Jameyson also became the program’s first All-American, winning Second-Team honors from the NFCA, the D2CCA, and FPN. Ciera Nunez, Baylea Higgs, and Chealsea Slider also received All-Conference honors and Higgs, Slider, and Tyler Oppenheim received Golden Gloves.
Bruister reached the 400 win mark in the 2016 season in his 11th season as a head coach, finishing the season with 412 career wins. The team made history in 2016, becoming the first team to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only its second season. The Lions made the South Central Regional tournament and had one win, ending the season with a 37-19 record. The team twice received votes in the NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll for Division II softball, gaining national recognition from coaches across the country.
The team led the conference with 173 stolen bases and finished third in the NCAA with 3.09 stolen bases per game. The team finished second in the LSC in batting average, RBIs, and win-loss percentage. The team finished 35th in the NCAA in batting average, ninth in scoring and fourth in pitching. Under coach Bruister, Luci Ponce was named First Team All-LSC, Kylene Hatton named Second Team All-Conference, and Baylea Higgs was named Third Team All-Conference. Ponce also received a Golden Glove Award for her play at first base. Right fielder Magan Lynch also earned a Golden Glove.
In addition to excellence on the field, Hatton and teammate Monica Cherry also received CoSIDA Academic All-District and All-Academic Lone Star Conference honors. Hatton would go on to become the program’s first-ever CoSIDA Academic All-America honoree. 13 members of the team were named NFCA Division II Scholar All-Americans, maintaining a 3.5 GPA during the 2015-16 academic year.
During the inaugural 2015 season, Bruister and the Lions had a winning season with a record of 29-24, including an 18-16 record in the LSC. It is the best first-year start to a program in modern NCAA Division II history.
Eleven Lions were named NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete, while Tyler Oppenheim was named First Team All-Conference and awarded a Golden Glove award. Lynch, Ponce, and Aundria Zuniga-Romero were named Third Team All-Conference. The team led the LSC and ranked sixth in the NCAA in stolen bases, with four players finishing in the individual top 100 in stolen bases. Pitcher Courtney Moore led the LSC and was second in the NCAA in total saves. The team was fourth in pitching and fourth in fielding in the NCAA.
Before being named the head coach at A&M-Commerce, Bruister was the head coach at Texas Woman’s University from 2009-13 (183-97 record) and at Henderson State University from 2004-08 (163-93). He was named the Lone Star Conference and National Fastpitch Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2013.
Before his tenure at Henderson State, Bruister worked for three seasons (2001-03) as the assistant softball coach at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Miss. He got his start in coaching with student assistant coaching stints at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss., and Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss.
Bruister received his associate’s degree from Hinds in 1997 and then went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in 1999 and his Master of Science degree in 2000 from Mississippi State. He and his wife, Kim, have three children: Cole, Anna Claire, and Logan.