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Piper Ritter and her pitching dynasty at Minnesota

The legacy of the Gophers softball head coach is marked by numerous Big Ten Pitchers of the Year and All-American Honors.
Image by Photo courtesy of Kelly Hagenson
Softball head coach Piper Ritter.

Piper Ritter just finished her third season as the head coach of Minnesota and produced another elite pitcher, adding to her already extensive dynasty.

During her time coaching at Minnesota, Ritter has produced Sara Goenewegen, Sara Moulton, Brianna Hassett, Amber Fiser and Autumn Pease, five of the best pitchers in Gopher’s history.

Overall, Ritter’s pitchers have accumulated numerous accolades, including five All-American awards, three Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors and 17 no-hitters, according Gopher Sports.

The latest star hurler from Minnesota, Autumn Pease, put together an inspired 2023 season. Pease earned All-Big Ten First Team honors for her incredible 1.46 ERA and 273 strikeouts in just 215.1 innings pitched.

Not only did Pease dominate in college, she was drafted 10th overall in the 2023 Women’s Professional Fastpitch Draft. The Texas Smoke selected Pease and have utilized her more than any other pitcher in the league, with 48 innings pitched and just a 3.00 ERA.

Fiser has also gotten the opportunity to play, and succeed, in the WPF. Now a part of the SIS Vipers, Fiser has pitched 34 innings with an ERA of 3.63 and 27 strikeouts.

Ritter’s ability to manage the entire team while developing top-level pitchers has left an impression on her assistant head coach, Carly Wynn.

What makes her different, I think, stems from her also being a head coach,” Wynn said. “As a head coach, you have so many other office duties, triple what your assistants do, that often get you taken off of the field for practice.”

“She never has more than two pitchers in a bullpen at a time so she can individually reach them and give them the attention they need to get better. She takes video, shows them, talks mechanics when she needs to, strategy when she needs to and touches base with them often in one-on-one settings to ensure they are understanding the process and getting out of it what they need,” Wynn added. “I said it before and I’ll say it again, every pitcher should want to be a Gopher. Her success is proven.”

Ritter’s hands-on approach has helped develop relationships with her players and form a trusting bond. As a result, it opens the floor for direct communication between coaches and players about expectations and necessary improvements.

This trust then extends onto the field and into Ritter’s managerial strategies.

Ritter mentioned she has a set way of approaching hitters with some of her most talented arms. Her ideology: never back down from utilizing the strength of her pitchers.

“Hitting is hard, and if the pitcher’s strength [matches] the hitter’s strength, then we always work with the pitcher’s strengths,” Ritter said.

The approach adds additional belief in her bullpen and shows that, when they take the circle, Ritter will take their pitches over anything the hitter brings to the table.

Pease recalled how this strategy helped boost her confidence during games.

Coach Ritter helped me throughout my career [to] think deeper about softball, from the pitches that I should throw in a certain count to where the pitch should be thrown,” Pease said. “Coach Ritter is a hard coach, but it’s because she knows what all her players are capable of. There was never a day that I didn’t feel pushed out of my comfort zone in the bullpen.”

Pease understood the vision Ritter had for her and allowed Ritter to push her to become the best and not settle for anything less. Throughout her time at Minnesota, she witnessed how impactful Ritter is to every Gophers pitcher.

“I believe Coach Ritter has been so successful in producing pitching talent because she takes the time to get to know us as players and people. You feel cared about and have a trusting relationship with her,” Pease said. “She is there to push you to the point of breaking, but then help you if you fall. I think Coach Ritter is very good at identifying a pitcher’s weakness and then strengthening it from the ground up.”

Whether they are an All-American or a freshman, talented pitchers reach their full potential with Ritter because she pushes them all the same. Understanding everything about her players has helped Ritter form influential bonds, forming the foundation to building a decade-long dynasty of successful pitching.

Now that Pease is pitching in WPF, Minnesota will be looking to see which stud pitcher will be the next to add their name to the decorated list.

“We will have six pitchers and there will be a lot of competition,” Ritter said.

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