Hardin led McNeese State to 2016 NCAA Regional, posted a 79-34 record in two seasons as head coach
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage announced Friday (June 10) that Joanna Hardin, the head coach at McNeese State the past two seasons, has been named the Cavaliers’ head coach.
Hardin has spent the last four seasons at McNeese State, the first two as an assistant coach with the Cowgirls. She also has served as an assistant coach at Liberty University from 2007-09, with a stint as the head coach at Jefferson Forest High School in Forest, Va.
"We are excited to welcome Coach Hardin to the University of Virginia,” Littlepage said. “It’s clear Jo is one of the bright stars in college softball as the success she’s experienced at all levels of coaching is fueled with an enthusiastic and positive approach. Her energy is contagious and she's committed to developing student-athletes in all facets of University life."
In her two seasons as head coach at McNeese State, Hardin led the Cowgirls to a 79-34 record including the Southland Conference championship and an NCAA Regional in 2016. Under Hardin’s guidance, sophomore Erika Piancastelli received All-America honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) in 2015 and 2016. She is the first All-America selection in McNeese State program history.
“I am incredibly humbled and honored for the opportunity to be part of the University of Virginia and lead the softball program,” Hardin said. “I’m excited to be part of a university that holds such high standards of excellence academically, socially, and athletically, and I look forward to being part of the great tradition and culture of such a prestigious university.
“I love softball, and coaching the game is the best job anyone can have in the world. I get to go out every day and get in the dirt and do the thing I love. I look forward to meeting the team and developing relationships with them. I’m excited about the opportunity to coach and compete in the ACC and build the program at Virginia. I’m ready to complete my staff and hit the ground running on this journey with the program.”
In 2016, Hardin led the Cowgirls to a 43-14 record as McNeese State claimed the Southland Conference regular-season championship and the Southland Conference Tournament championship. The Cowgirls posted a 23-4 record in conference play and competed in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional. In regional play, McNeese State opened the tournament with a win over perennial national power Arizona State. The Cowgirls were eliminated from the Regional after falling to host LSU, who would advance to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series as a national seed, and the Sun Devils in a 14-inning game in the second meeting between the teams.
Several players excelled under Hardin’s tutelage at McNeese State with Piancastelli leading the way as a two-time Southland Player of the Year and Hitter of the Year selection. Eight players also earned All-Southland Conference honors in 2016.
In 2015, her first season as head coach, Hardin coached Piancastelli to Southland Hitter, Player and Freshman of the Year honors. It was the first time a player had ever won all three honors in the league’s history. Hardin also coached Alanna DiVittorio to Southland Player of the Year and Hitter of the Year honors in 2014, while Jamie Allred claimed Southland Pitcher of the Year honors that same season.
During the 2014 campaign, McNeese State broke or tied 23 school or conference records. The Cowgirls ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in ERA, stolen bases and triples per game. Four players ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in 11 different statistical categories. McNeese State’s pitching staff included two of the top four pitchers in the SLC to lead the conference in ERA, while ranking 44th nationally.
In 2013, Hardin guided the pitching staff to a Top 10 national ranking and the top spot in the Southland in team ERA with a 1.79 mark. That squad also led the conference in opponent batting average (.220), saves (6), hits allowed (294), runs allowed (122), earned runs allowed (91), walks allowed (53) and extra-base hits allowed (63). Individually, Hardin helped develop the SLC’s top pitcher, Megan Bond, who led the conference in ERA (1.27), opponent batting average (.200), and saves (3).
Hardin began her coaching career as the head coach at Whittier Christian High School in La Habra, Calif., from 2005-07 and helped guide the Heralds to an Olympic League championship in 2006.
From 2007-09, Hardin served as assistant coach at Liberty University where she oversaw the pitching staff, conducted camps and clinics, and organized daily practices. In each of her two years at Liberty, the team finished the season as the Big South conference tournament runner-up. Under her guidance, Tiffani Smith was selected to the All-Big South Conference first team as a sophomore, the first Flame to receive such an honor since 2001.
After earning her Master’s Degree from Liberty University, Hardin started and coached a successful 12U/14U travel team, the Virginia Titans, in 2009. In 2010, while coaching the Titans, she served as head coach at Jefferson Forest High School where she led the Lady Cavaliers to the 2012 Seminole District Tournament Championship, a Virginia High School League (VHSL) Region III runner-up finish and the quarterfinals of the VHSL playoffs.
Hardin played softball for Biola University (La Mirada, Calif.) where she was a four-year letter winner from 2002-05. She was a four-time All-Conference and All-Region selection and earned NFCA All-America honors as a freshman in 2002.