Cal alum Chelsea Spencer is the new Softball head coach

Spencer has had long and successful tenures as an assistant coach at Oregon and Texas

Just under 3 months ago, Cal Softball announced the surprising news that the winningest head coach across all Cal Athletics sports, Diane Ninemire, was stepping down due to health reasons a few weeks into an eventually abruptly cut short 2020 season. On Wednesday, Cal announced the hiring of Chelsea Spencer (‘06 in American studies) as the next head coach of Cal Softball.

Spencer is a former Cal Bears great that was a part of that 2002 NCAA Championship team, the first women’s team NCAA national champions in Cal history. The former shortstop earned All-American honors during one of the best stretches (2002-05) in program history that included 4 straight Women’s World Series berths and runner-up finishes in 2003 and 2004 as well as a Pac-10 title in 2005.

After Cal, Chelsea Spencer played professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league from 2005 to 2010, including 4 All-NPF selection and a championship in 2009 with the Rockford Thunder. Spencer also coached at Alameda High School, Holy Name University (Oakland, CA), and Chabot Community College during this period.

When her playing career was over, Spencer joined the Michigan State staff (2011-12) before Assistant Coach positions at Oregon (2013-18) and Texas (2019-20). She has established herself as one of the up-and-coming head coaching prospects in collegiate softball.

"I am absolutely thrilled that Chelsea will be coming home to Berkeley to be the next head coach of our softball program," Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said. "As a player at Cal, she helped us to the very top of collegiate softball, and in the years since her graduation, she has continued to build for this opportunity to lead our team. Chelsea's passion and enthusiasm for Cal and Cal softball continues to shine through. She brings a well thought-out, data driven approach to the game and has a clear vision for the future of the program. I can't wait for her to get started."

The Oakland native went to Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo before staying in the East Bay to attend Cal. It is easy to envision Chelsea Spencer being a Cal lifer, approaching the 32-year coaching career of her old coach Diane Ninemire in the Blue-and-Gold.

Spencer also has already got the vocal supports of other past Cal Softball greats. Both current NPF star Jolene Henderson and Arkansas Razorback head coach Courtney (Scott) Deifel are excited about this hire for their alma mater.

"I am very excited to return to Berkeley," Spencer said. "As an alum and a Bay Area native, I have an immense amount of love and pride for this school and region. My experience at Cal was amazing and I can't wait to come home. I want to thank the administration, Jim Knowlton and (associate athletic director) Gordon Bayne for entrusting me to lead this softball program into a new era. Go Bears!"

While at Texas in 2019, Spencer helped the Longhorns to a final No. 9 national ranking from Softball America, as the team reached the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time since 2013. Her efforts helped produce five All Big-12 honorees, three all-region selections and two NFCA All-Americans.

During Spencer's time at Oregon, the Ducks produced five 50-win campaigns, five regular-season conference championships and four appearances in the WCWS. In addition, the Oregon coaching staff won the 2016 Pac-12 Coaching Staff of the Year award. Spencer mentored 17 All-Americans, four Academic All-Americans and a Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Spencer followed current Texas Longhorns head coach Mike White from Oregon to Texas. She has been in charge of the infielders and served as the first base coach during games.

Of course, a huge part of any head coaching job at Cal is knowing both the potentials (perennial NCAA championship contender) but also the challenges. Similar to almost all of the hires during the Knowlton era, Chelsea Spencer has that strong Cal tie as an alum. Even without prior head coaching experiences, Spencer is a great choice for this rebuilding program that should be getting a renovated (more comparable to other Pac-12 facilities) stadium soon (the Levine-Fricke Stadium renovation was supposed to be done in 2020 but was pushed to 2021 even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic). Cal has not made it past the NCAA Regional stage since 2012, also the last year when the Golden Bears made the Women’s College World Series.

Cal Softball has consistently got some of the top recruits in the country (Jazmyn Jackson and Lindsay Rood were All-Pac-12 honorees from 2-3 seasons ago), but has not had a dominant pitcher inside circle since the graduation of Jolene Henderson. Long time (for 15 years at Cal) associate head coach Tammy Lohmann took over for Ninemire as the interim head coach in early March. Golden Bears were 13-11 on the shortened 2020 season. No other Cal Softball coaching staff decisions have been announced yet.

Welcome back to Berkeley, coach Spencer. GO BEARS!