Anyone trying to understand the reason behind Virginia Tech’s unprecedented success on the softball diamond doesn’t have to look any further than head coach Scot Thomas. Since taking the job on July 5, 1995, Thomas has personally handled every element of building the program from buying the first pieces of equipment, to hiring the assistants and recruiting the players. The results are nothing short of phenomenal.
|500||4/11/09||Boston College||9-1 (6)|
|1996||16-32||6-10 (Atlantic 10)|
|1997||24-32||8-8 (Atlantic 10)|
|1998||32-31||8-8 (Atlantic 10)|
|1999||54-16||14-2 (Atlantic 10)|
|2000||41-22||12-4 (Atlantic 10)|
|2001||36-23||12-8 (BIG EAST)|
|2002||42-18||12-8 (BIG EAST)|
|2003||21-29||6-12 (BIG EAST)|
|2004||36-23||9-11 (BIG EAST)|
|2007||49-16||15-5 (ACC CHAMPS)|
|2008||49-19||16-5 (ACC CHAMPS)|
Priorities: In order to fit into the picture at Virginia Tech, you must have your priorities in line. Academics take precedence over athletics. Our motto is: “In order to take care of business on the field, you must first take care of business off the field.” On the other hand, we stress that softball should not suffer for academics either. Being able to manage time wisely and efficiently is the key to the success of balancing academics with athletics at Virginia Tech.
Recruiting: It is our goal to fill the recruiting needs of our program with mature, self-driven/motivated student-athletes along with the necessary talent to help our team be successful in the Atlantic Coast Conference and on a national level. Recruiting is not a perfect science, however being a state university, we try our best to sign quality players from the state of Virginia first, then broaden our opportunities in other areas of the country and Canada. Players should possess the selflessness to fit into the team concept and the inner drive that guides them to be CHAMPIONS.
Playing the game: Teams that are fundamentally sound are always successful. We try to emulate that style on a game-by-game basis, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, we have tended to be a program that is fundamentally sound as well. We have shown a knack for hitting the ball for power, both home run and gap power. We have added some speed and hope to provide a more balanced attack. Smart, yet aggressive is our style of play.
Blacksburg and Virginia Tech: As a native of Blacksburg, I have grown to appreciate this special place as I have gotten older and I always look forward to showing it off to new recruits. The small town atmosphere with the major university flair provides a unique academic and social environment. The history and traditions of this great institution make it one of a kind and one that I am very proud to be a part of. I still get chills during the Homecoming Parade when the Alumni Highty-Tighties march through downtown playing TECH TRIUMPH!
Not many people can say they have reached their final destination, but I feel very lucky to be at Virginia Tech and plan on being here for the duration of my coaching career. I am fortunate to be able to raise my children in the same great environment that I grew up in, here in Blacksburg.
Since 1996, the first season Virginia Tech fielded a softball team, Thomas has had 13 winning or .500 seasons in 17 campaigns, has led the Hokies to five NCAA appearances, two ACC titles, and in 2008, took Tech to the biggest show in college softball.
Thomas grew up in Blacksburg where he dreamed of one day becoming a coach at Tech. Having faithfully watched Hokie athletics his entire life, along with having parents who worked at Virginia Tech, he understood the dedication to excellence and the commitment to quality the University demanded, and he was a perfect match for the program’s philosophy.
Thomas dreamed of building a nationally recognized program from the beginning. People warned him that it would take years for Virginia Tech to become a player in the region, not to mention on the national scene. Now entering his 18th season with 615 wins, Thomas has positioned Hokie softball as one of the most respected programs, not only in the state and region, but has put it on the national map as well. A 2008 Women’s College World Series appearance was the latest step as Thomas is perpetually looking to lead his team to new heights.
In 2008, with the best player in the country, he led the Hokies to new levels, culminating with a trip to Oklahoma City for the WCWS. After finishing second in the regular season, the Hokies rolled through the ACC Tournament for the second time in a row, guaranteeing them their fourth-straight NCAA Regional appearance. A 49-19 record, as well as the National Player of the Year in Angela Tincher, secured a special place in the history of Hokie softball. He also led his team to a historic upset of the U.S. National Team, breaking the Red, White & Blue’s 185-game, pre-Olympic exhibition tour winning streak with a 1-0 win. This is the same program that had won the previous three Olympic gold medals in the sport and took silver in Beijing. Thomas and his staff were honored for the second-straight year as the Northeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year for the way they led the team in 2008.
In 2007, he saw his team post 49 wins, including the ACC’s regular season and conference tournament championships. Those titles were the first in the program’s history and helped him earn ACC Coach of the Year honors. He also picked up his 400th career win, a 3-0 victory over Stetson, and saw his team finish ranked 14th in the country. Additionally, Thomas — along with his three assistants — were named the Northeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year by the NFCA.
In 2006, the Hokies won 39 games and were a No. 2 seed at the Knoxville Regional, despite starting seven sophomores or freshmen down the stretch. Thomas helped coach Tech’s first softball All-American, as well as five all-region and four all-conference selections that year.
In 2005, Tech picked up 44 wins and was selected to the NCAA Tournament, a first in the program’s history. After finishing seventh in the conference, the Hokies made a dramatic run to the championship game to secure the bid.
In 2009, he may have done one of his best coaching jobs as he helped lead the team to 28 wins and a semifinal berth in the ACC Tournament. He did this while dealing with a slow start, injuries and replacing the national player of the year from one year earlier. Jenna Rhodes, who came to Tech as an invited walk-on, broke several school records en route to earning third-team All-America honors. In 2010, he again had to deal with numerous injuries and yet still led his team to the semifinals of the ACC Championship for the fourth straight year and to 25 wins. In 2011, his young team exceded expectations and made a run at the NCAA Tournament before falling short late, but still won 37 games and produced two All-ACC performers as the offense broke or tied four major records.
Last year, his team was picked sixth in the preseason ACC Poll, finished fourth, advanced to the championship game of the ACC Tournament and was one win away from making it back to the Super Regionals. In all, Tech went 42-21 and placed four players on the all-region squad despite not starting a senior regularly down the stretch. The results earned Thomas and his staff their third NFCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honor.
Thomas became Tech’s first head softball coach when he was hired on July 7, 1995. Since then, he has recorded 615 wins, averaged 36 wins per season and made the conference tournament championship game eight times.
The Hokies finished a spectacular 1999 season ranked 25th in the nation with a 54-16 record. In just its fourth year as a varsity sport, the team placed second at the A-10 tournament and Thomas was named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year. Tech’s hopes for a regional at-large bid were denied, but it did receive the national attention it had been working for. An upset of No. 4 Michigan highlighted the season. Tech finished the year undefeated at home and 14-2 in Atlantic 10 play, losing only to UMass. The Hokies had the third-longest winning streak in the nation at 26, and at one point won 35 of 36 games.
In 2000, his first recruiting class left its mark on the program as the Hokies went 41-22 and finished second in the A-10 Tournament. Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and two-time GTE National First-Team Academic All-American Michelle Meadows led the team both on the field and off.
While success on the field is important, Thomas also places a strong emphasis on success in the classroom. In 16 seasons, he has had five players earn Academic All-America honors. Michelle Johnson made the 1998 second-team squad while Meadows was a three-time selection, the last two being on the first team. Following the 2002 season, Ashlee Dobbe earned first-team honors and Angela Tincher was a three-time Academic All-American, including Academic All-American of the Year for softball in 2008. Those classroom honors went along with three NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-America honors, including the National Player of the Year honor in 2008, the Honda Award, the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and an NCAA Top VIII honor. In 2009, Rhodes earned second-team academic honors, in addition to the third-team All-America honors on the field as given by the NFCA.
As time passes and the program grows, so does his players’ impact in the pro league and internationally. Thomas has had three former players play in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF): Tincher and Kelsey Hoffman with the Akron Racers and Rhodes with the Rockford Thunder/Tennessee Diamonds.
He has also had six current or former players represent their country in international events: Tincher (USA), Shanel Garofalo (Italy), Charisse Mariconda (Puerto Rico), Richelle McGarva, Ashlee Dobbe and Jess Hodge (Canada).
Respected by many, Thomas has been named the Virginia State Coach of the Year by the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) a record six times (1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2012). He has had 27 different players named to the all-state team 55 different times, including at least three on every team in 12 of the last 14 seasons. Three players have earned state player of the year honors and three were named rookie of the year, while Tincher was named the pitcher of the year three times and Jasmin Harrell won the award in 2012.
Thomas graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1991 with a bachelor’s in physical education. He is on the Louisville Slugger advisory staff for the 16th straight year and is also on the NCAA Regional Committee. He was also selected to be the head coach of a group of local collegiate all-stars who took on the U.S. Olympic Softball Team in Salem, Va., in the summer of 2004 and did so again in the summer of 2008.
Thomas was an active ballplayer in the fastpitch world, playing in the ASA Men’s B Nationals in 2003 and the NSA World Series in 2004 and 2005 and was chosen to play with a team that took on the USA men’s national team as part of its tour to prepare for the 2009 ISF World Championships.
Thomas, graduated from Blacksburg High where he was a member of the football and baseball teams.
His mother, Judy Ridinger, worked at Virginia Tech for over 40 years, and his late stepfather, Jack Ridinger, was captain of the Virginia Tech Police Department.
Thomas has a son, Andrew Scot, who is 15, and a daughter, Eliza Leigh, who is 11.