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Coaching change at FHSU




Curtis Hammeke didn't have to look far to find a new head coach for the Fort Hays State University softball team.

Assistant coach Erin Kinberger was promoted to head coach in a news conference Monday morning.

Also Monday morning in a news conference in Emporia, Julie LeMaire, FHSU's head coach for the last three seasons, was introduced as the new head softball coach at Emporia State University.

LeMaire, 92-76 in three seasons at Fort Hays, resigned on June 14. Kinberger was offered and accepted the position the same day. Kinberger's salary will be $39,000, the same as LeMaire's in her first year as head coach.

Hammeke, the athletic director at Fort Hays, didn't open the search process, instead promoting from within. Hammeke said Kinberger was the choice to take over, and if the school opened the search process, the delay in doing that could have meant losing Kinberger to another school looking for a head coach.

"We felt confident in Erin's ability to take and lead this program," Hammeke said.

Kinberger, 26, has been an assistant all three years under LeMaire.

A native of Clearwater, Fla., Kinberger came to Fort Hays after one year as a graduate assistant at Saint Leo (Fla.) University, where as a player she was the team's catcher for four years.

Kinberger said coaching with LeMaire for the last three seasons will help her in her first collegiate head coaching position.

"I feel really fortunate working with Julie and the environment she created as a staff," Kinberger said.

Fort Hays was 30-22 last year, making it to the finals of the MIAA postseason tournament for the first time. Kinberger is ready to build on last season's finish.

"I'm eager, I'm ready to get to work," Kinberger said. "I think that we have a good thing going here at Fort Hays, ... that's why I wanted to stay here, be a part of it."

Kinberger said there will be some changes next season, in games and in practice.

"I feel like implementing more sacrifice bunting," Kinberger said. "My strategies are a little bit different.

"My pitch-calling strategies are slightly different," she added. "Coach LeMaire was a pitcher, she tends to call to a pitcher's strength, whereas I was a catcher, I tend to call not only to my pitcher's strength, but to set up the hitter as well."

Between games, "we're going to implement video during practices and have breakdown days where we sit down with the kids and look over the video of them hitting, so they can actually see themselves, what they're doing," Kinberger said.

Maddie Holub, who will be a junior pitcher-outfielder next season, was happy with Kinberger's promotion.

"I'm excited for Coach Kinberger, I'm excited for Coach LeMaire, great opportunities for both of them," Holub said. "From a player's standpoint, I'm glad that her being an assistant, knowing the way she operates, I'm glad she's the one taking over."

Kinberger want to build on LeMaire's three 30-win seasons at Fort Hays.

"I'm very excited," Kinberger said. "I can't wait for the kids to get back and hit the ground running.

"I think Julie and I have built a really good base the last three years," she added. "We're only going up from here."

Sport Date Opponent Score
2/18 SW Baptist L 66-53
12/1 Oklahoma - Panhandle L 66-60 (OT)