Pitching coach Piper Ritter spends games signaling to her pitchers and catchers, giving cues for any adjustments that she sees fit.
But Ritter’s coaching started far before she landed her current role at Minnesota in 2007.
Ritter played for the Gophers from 2001-04, and during the camps and clinics that Minnesota held for young softball players, she realized she likes teaching the game.
“I enjoyed coaching. It wasn’t until I was done playing professionally and playing overseas that I realized that I was going to really miss it,” Ritter said. “I found that it came natural to me, and I found that I could do it as a living and really like it.”
Ritter’s resume while pitching for the Gophers is impressive.
She broke five school records and earned Big Ten honors in all four seasons.
“I loved pitching,” Ritter said. “Pitching was definitely what I loved to do.”
When her collegiate career ended, Ritter played professionally in the U.S. for one year and then played in the Netherlands for another.
After her stint as a player, Ritter began her coaching career.
“She understands what it takes to get [to a high level], and she has a true passion for the game. With all of that combined, you know that she would do a great job as a pitching coach and as an all-around softball coach,” said Lisa Bernstein, who was one of Ritter’s coaches at Minnesota.
Ritter coached for a high school team in 2005 and a collegiate team in 2006 before becoming the Gophers’ pitching coach.
And when she returned to Minnesota, she found herself reunited with a familiar face.
Assistant coach Jessica Merchant played for Michigan in college and was Ritter’s rival.
“You remember some players more than you remember others. It was exciting to be able to coach with another athlete in the Big Ten [who loved] the conference as much as I did. It was a cool opportunity to coach with her,” Ritter said.
As the Gophers’ pitching coach, Ritter has mentored some of the program’s most notable pitchers, including Sara Moulton and Sara Groenewegen.
And a large part of players’ success comes from Ritter’s signals from the dugout.
“She’s a tremendous pitching coach. She works harder than anyone that I’ve ever been around,” Merchant said. “It’s truly been wonderful to be on coach [Jessica] Allister’s staff with Coach Ritter.”