Missouri interim softball coach Gina Fogue spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since replacing longtime coach Ehren Earleywine.
Fogue played and coached under Earleywine and said it’s been a difficult few weeks for the team since Missouri announced it was parting ways with him, but she thinks the team is trending upward.
“It’s been difficult for sure for them,” Fogue said. “We spent a lot of time in one-on-one meetings. The team is just focusing on what we have to do.”
Fogue said the independent meetings she held were mainly for players to vent their feelings, and she thought the response was positive.
She declined to elaborate on the administration approaching her to take the interim job or if she would like to use the season as an audition for the permanent job. Fogue said taking the interim job was bittersweet since it’s a great opportunity but a tough situation.
Fogue has spent 11 years as either a player or coach for Earleywine and said a lot of her coaching style will be reflective of his.
“That’s what I learned,” she said. “And I think that on-field approach worked. As a player, as a coach, you’re always thinking what can you do better. There’s things I’m going to keep, there’s things I’m going to tweak.”
For the players, they couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
Junior infielder Rylee Pierce said the situation with Fogue “couldn’t have been more ideal” since an outside hire would have caused them to go through the season in a new system while getting acquainted with a new coach.
Sophomore shortstop Braxton Burnside said Earleywine’s firing has brought the team closer together and has further motivated the players.
Burnside said she’s seen people say that the program is going to take a step backward with Earleywine’s departure and finds that inaccurate since he never physically won any games for Missouri.
“As far as I’m concerned Coach E never hit a ball, he never threw a ball, never pitched a ball,” she said. “We did all that.”
Missouri opens the season on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz., against San Jose State in the Kajikawa Classic.
Burnside said the start of the season won’t distract the team from the Earleywine news. They’ve been over it for a while and are ready to get going.
“We’ve already moved on from it,” she said. “We took it, we accepted it. We got all of our emotions out of the way. We are 100 percent behind Coach Gina.”