After head coach of five seasons, Mike Raynor, stepped down due to personal reasons over the summer, the Mercer softball team has appointed former associate head coach from LSU, James DeFeo, as the sixth head coach in the program’s history.
“We had some outstanding applicants for our position, which says a lot about the potential that is ahead for our softball. I believe James has what it takes to help Mercer’s program reach that next level and beyond,” said Athletic Director Jim Cole.
DeFeo will likely be standing in a comfortable situation as Mercer softball seems to be on the rise. Experiencing recent success, the Bears have won 56 percent (129-100) of their games since 2008. This includes qualifying for the Atlantic Sun conference tournament in three of the past four years.
“I view this as a great opportunity both professionally and for my family,” said DeFeo. “Mercer University is an excellent academic institution and Jim’s [Cole] vision as an Athletic Director will make athletics just as good as the academics at the institution,” he added.
Brother of current Ball State assistant coach Stephanie DeFeo, James DeFeo is a native of New Jersey and has garnered a plethora of softball experience under his belt in his long career.
In 1996, DeFeo earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management at Rutgers University before completing his master’s in sports administration from Southern Mississippi in 1999.
In his final year of his masters, DeFeo kicked off his career as a graduate assistant for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
In 2000, DeFeo was on staff with Girouard at Louisiana-Lafayette for just one season before moving his way up to LSU. In his brief stay with Louisiana-Lafayette, DeFeo helped lead their team to a Sun Belt title, a number 16 ranking in the nation and a NCAA regional berth.
In 2001, DeFeo made his way over to LSU as an assistant coach. In his first year in the program, the Tigers went 59-11, ranked number three in the country, won the SEC title and placed third in the Women’s College World Series (WCWS). DeFeo spent his first four seasons as an assistant coach before becoming the associate head coach of the program in 2005.
Spending 11 total seasons with LSU, DeFeo and the Tigers mustered a record of 526-171-1. That is over a .750 winning percentage. Over that span, the Tigers also ranked in the top 20 in the nation 10 times, qualified for the NCAA tournament 10 times and made two trips to the WCWS.
While a part of the staff, LSU was honored as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) South Region “Coaching Staff of the Year” in both 2001 and 2004. The Tigers also earned three SEC championships (2001, 2002 and 2004) during DeFeo’s span with the team.
In his career, DeFeo has been a part of more than 600 victories, five conference championships, 12 trips to the NCAA tournament and four WCWS berths.
One of the more impressive statistics in DeFeo’s book of achievements might be the fact that none of the college programs where he has been on staff have ever suffered a losing season.
In his final two seasons as associate head coach at LSU, DeFeo led the Tigers to an 85-34 combined record ranking 19th and 20th in the nation.
“I am truly excited to have a coach with James’ credentials become a part of the Mercer staff,” said Jim Cole. “He is a proven winner and has been a part of some outstanding softball programs. His experience coaching in the SEC will also be a valuable tool,” he added.
DeFeo also has more than 13 years’ experience working in the All-America Softball Clinics. He has coaching experience at virtually every level of fastpitch softball, including Under-12, Under-16, 18-and-under, and Women’s Major.
With all of his experience, 2011 will be Coach DeFeo’s first stint as a softball collegiate head coach. “I am going to draw on all of my experiences and utilize them to the fullest for Mercer’s program,” said DeFeo.
The softball team kicked off their fall schedule on Sept. 17 and will continue through Oct. 8. DeFeo will make his official coaching debut with the Bears in February.