Since her first year in the dugout in 1988, Diane Ninemire has continually pushed Cal to new heights as one of the winningest and most successful softball programs in the nation. Now entering her 27th season as head coach of the perennially powerful Golden Bears, the NFCA Hall of Famer is part of an elite group of world-class coaches, with more than 1,100 career wins, a national championship, two national Coach of the Year titles and numerous national and conference honors during her tenure.
In her nearly three decades at the helm of the Cal program, Ninemire has coached 17 players to All-America status for a total of 35 All-America honors and 84 All-Region honorees, plus 139 All-Pac-12 selections. In the classroom, Ninemire’s Bears have excelled at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, combining for four CoSIDA Academic All-America honors and 54 Pac-12 All-Academic selections.
From 1999-2005, Cal made seven consecutive trips to the College World Series with the Bears' most recent appearances in Oklahoma City coming in 2012 and 2011. With a national championship, 12 Women's College World Series trips and 26 straight NCAA postseason appearances to her credit, it is no wonder that Cal enters every season as a contender for the national title.
The 2014 Bears produced strong offensive numbers that saw Cheyenne Cordes lead Cal in nearly every offensive category. Along with Danielle Henderson and Kylie Reed, Cordes was an NFCA All-Region selection. Cal also earned eight All-Conference honors, while four Bears were recognized for their efforts in the classroom as Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention selections.
The Golden Bears punched their ticket to a 26th consecutive postseason in 2013, in a season that saw Jolene Henderson break Michele Granger’s career wins record and become the winningest Cal pitcher in program history (130 wins). The team lost to eventual WCWS participant Michigan at the Ann Arbor Regional, failing to advance to Super Regionals for only the second time since the Super Regional format was introduced in 2005. Henderson was named an All-American while Lindsey Ziegenhirt became Cal’s first CoSIDA Academic All-American since 2005, and the 2013 squad raked in an additional five All-Region, seven All-Pac-12 and three Pac-12 All-Academic honors.
Thanks to an 8-1 victory over then-No. 14/18 Oregon on April 20, 2012, Ninemire hit one of the most impressive milestones in coaching history - notching career win No. 1,100. Entering the 2014 season, she was just one of 15 Division I ball coaches to hit the 1,100-win mark.
In 2012, Cal set program single-season records for most runs scored (422), RBI (376), homers (84), total bases (856), and the highest fielding percentage (.979). Not only did the 58 wins set a new team best, but they also topped the previous high of 56, which was set by the 2002 NCAA Title-winning team.
Cal opened the 2012 year on a 23-game winning streak before dropping its sole nonconference loss of the regular season to Hawaii in a 10-inning battle. The Bears won the inaugural Pac-12 title by going 21-3 in the most competitive softball conference in the country, winning every single series and sweeping five of the eight series. Cal claimed the No. 1 spot in at least one of the two national polls 13 times this season, finishing the campaigned third in both rankings. After winning the Berkeley Regional and Berkeley Super Regional, the Bears went 2-2 at the Women's College World Series, in which they defeated LSU and Oregon but lost to eventual champion Alabama and eventual runner-up Oklahoma.
In 2011, the Golden Bears returned to the hallowed grounds of Oklahoma City for the 11th time in school history for the Women's College World Series. They got there by notching Cal's first-ever Super Regional series title over an SEC School - going 2-1 against host Kentucky. On the Regional level, the Bears breezed through the competition in Louisville.
After starting the 2011 campaign ranked 12th in the polls and slated to finish fourth in the Pac-10, Cal ended the year No. 5 in the country and second in the conference. Cal closed out the year at a 45-13 clip with an impressive 15-6 conference record to take second place, marking the best Pac-10 finish since 2005, when the Bears tied for first. The Bears won at least one game in each Pac-10 series and swept three schools - then-No.17 Oregon, Oregon State as well as then-No. 8 and defending national champion UCLA. For their stunning work in 2011, the National Fast Pitch Coaches' Association lauded the Cal coaching staff as the Pacific Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
In the fall of 2011, Midland University honored Ninemire with induction into its Athletic Hall of Fame. Ninemire began her collegiate playing career at Midland in 1976, lettering in basketball and softball. Ninemire led Midland softball to a state championship in 1977.
Thanks to a 6-0 victory over Sacramento State on April 7, Ninemire became the ninth coach in the history of Division I softball to notch 1,000 wins. Already the winningest coach - male or female - in all of Cal history for any sport, Ninemire now has a career record of 1,059-509 after leading the Bears to the WCWS in 2011. She has accumulated the second-most wins in Pac-10 history (1,059).
In addition to posting their 37th consecutive winning record in 2010, the Bears finished 10-11 in the Pac-10 Conference to tie for fourth, which is the highest conference finish since 2005, when the Bears were third. The Bears were one of the seven Pac-10 teams to earn an at-large bid to the postseason, marking their 25th consecutive trip to NCAA tournament, which is the second-longest streak in the nation. Cal shut out the competition at the Columbus Regional, icing Bucknell, Kentucky and Ohio State to win its fifth Regional title since the format was adopted in 2005, before falling to No. 6-seeded Georgia in Athens, Ga.
In 2009, Ninemire set another career milestone, joining the National Fastpitch Coaches Association's Hall of Fame class that year. Ninemire, who joined Frank Cheek of Humboldt State and Bill Edwards of Hofstra, was inducted into the NFCA Hall of Fame on Friday, Dec. 11 2009, at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
Ninemire helped make Golden Bear history in 2002 when she directed Cal to its first NCAA Championship at the WCWS with a 6-0 win over Arizona, marking the first women's title in Cal athletic program history. The 2002 team set a school record for wins (56), while Jocelyn Forest claimed the tournament's Most Outstanding Player honor, and Ninemire was chosen as the NFCA National Coach of the Year. Cal became the first Pac-10 team other than UCLA and Arizona to ever win the softball national title. In the circle, Forest went undefeated in Cal's postseason run and completed the WCWS with a 4-0 record, 0.50 earned run average and 33 strikeouts in 28.0 innings.
Ninemire has enjoyed plenty of other memorable moments along her career path. In 2005, Cal won a share of the Pac-10 title (a first for a Ninemire squad) and advanced to its seventh consecutive WCWS. The 2004 version of the Bears was one of Ninemire's most successful and most decorated groups, as four All-Americans and eight All-Pac-10 selections helped drive Cal to its third consecutive WCWS championship game appearance. That same year, her winning reputation was recognized internationally when she was named as an assistant coach to the inaugural Greek Olympic softball team. Two of Ninemire's former players - Michele Granger and Gillian Boxx - were four-time All-Americans and helped the United States win a gold medal as members of the 1996 Olympic Team in Atlanta. Former California Golden Bear Vicky Galindo, who Ninemire coached, was the most recent Cal softball player named to the 2008 15-member Olympic Team roster. In 2001, Cal began the season 32-0 before finishing fifth at the WCWS.
Prior to becoming head coach, Ninemire served as an assistant for five years at Cal under Donna Terry. Together, the tandem led the Bears to three appearances in the NCAA Tournament, a third-place finish at the 1986 WCWS and the inaugural Pac-10 championship in 1987.
Along with her coaching duties, Ninemire is a member of the NCAA Pacific Region Advisory Committee and a former chair of the All-American Selection Committee.
Ninemire began her collegiate playing career at Midland Lutheran College (Fremont, Neb.), leading the team to a state championship as a freshman. After one season, she transferred to Nebraska-Omaha, where she played on both the softball and basketball teams for three years. A shortstop and left fielder, Ninemire helped UNO win the 1978 championship and make three appearances in the College World Series.
Ninemire graduated from UNO in 1980 and completed her master's degree in physical education at Texas Woman's University in 1987. She began her coaching career at TWU in 1980 as Terry's assistant before heading west to assist Terry and the Golden Bear program in 1983.
Diane Ninemire By the Numbers
- 28 years as head coach
- 1178-562 career record (as of Aug. 1, 2014)
- .677 winning percentage (as of Aug. 1, 2014)
- 35 All-America selections (17 All-Americans)
- 147 All-Conference selections
- 4 Academic All-America selections
- 58 Conference All-Academic Selections
- 84 All-Region selections
- Two Conference Coach of the Year honors
- One national title
- Two conference titles
- 26 winning seasons
- 26 years in the postseason
- 12 trips to the Women’s College World Series
- Three WCWS title game appearances
Diane Ninemire Coaching Honors
- 2012 Easton Team of the Year
- 2012 Pac-12 Coach of the Year
- 2011 NFCA Pacific Region Coaching Staff of the Year
- 2011 Midland University Athletic Hall of Fame Induction
- 2009 NFCA Hall of Fame Induction
- 2002 NFCA Coaching Staff of the Year
- 1991 Pac-10 Coach of the Year