SOUTH BEND — Natalie Newell has proven herself to be a leader on the softball diamond, both in the pitcher’s circle and in the batter’s box.
Now the time has come for Newell to test herself from a seat in the dugout as the 2011 Goshen High School and 2015 Bethel College graduate takes over as the head coach for the Indiana University South Bend women’s softball team.
The IUSB program is just three years old, but Newell has been there from the beginning as an assistant coach for Brittney (Hire) Lightfoot. The previous IUSB coach is married to NorthWood High School and Bethel grad Robbie Lightfoot, son of legendary Bethel men’s basketball coach Mike Lightfoot.
The IUSB Titans posted a 23-14 overall record this past season, 14-8 in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. The 2018-19 Titans set program records for most wins (23), conference wins (14) and consecutive victories (six).
“I didn’t think Brittney was going to step down, but I know how important family time is to her,” Newell said. “The past three seasons have been exciting and were good preparation for me to take over the coaching duties. Brittney did a tremendous job of mentoring me.
“It’s time to see what I can do.”
The new head coach knows she has things to learn, taking over the team after spending three seasons with one of her main responsibilities handling the pitching staff.
“Recruiting players, planning practices and making sure everything is in line are going to be the main things I need to learn,” the 26-year-old said. “I really don’t have any experience as a head coach, but the last three years as an assistant prepared me.”
Newell already has some goals in mind for next season and the years to come.
“The idea is going to be to continue to improve and to work on winning a conference championship,” she said. “I see a lot of good things ahead for the program and the plan is to keep the program going in the direction Brittany had it going.”
Newell has some big shoes to fill in replacing Lightfoot. The Titans went 51-55 in Lightfoot’s three seasons, including wins over a pair of ranked opponents.
“What Brittney has done with our softball program, in a three year period, is remarkable,” IUSB Director of Athletics Steve Bruce said in a statement on the school’s web site about Lightfoot stepping down. “Her program fulfills the vision of our athletic department…excellence on the playing field, in the classroom and in the community. Her players represent the highest level of integrity and “Teamness,” taking on the personality of their coach…compassionate, competitive, industrious, and selfless.”
Aimee Swihart, who was Newell’s catcher at Goshen, is confident her former teammate can handle her new job.
“Natalie is a class act through and through. She’ll be fantastic at IUSB. She’s a great person and has so much knowledge and experiences to share with the girls about the game,” Swihart said.
The new IUSB coach plans to recruit local softball talent.
“My goal is to always try and keep local talent around,” she said.
Newell was a softball and basketball standout at Goshen.
She was a four-time MVP for her softball team plus a four-time All-Northern Lakes Conference, All-District and All-State selection. Newell hurled Goshen to its lone sectional championship in 2011. She was the top vote getter in the district her senior year for “Miss Softball” honors. During her prep career, she established Goshen career records for strikeouts (1,101) and wins (56) and single-season marks for strikeouts (340), wins (22) and earned run average (0.35). As a hitter, her career marks were for batting average (.411), hits (168), doubles (52), home runs (15) and RBI (130) were records.
As a basketball player, she was a four-year member of the varsity and a three-time captain. She scored 805 career points and grabbed 485 career rebounds. Her marks of 55 3-pointers in a season and 101 in her career were GHS records. Newell was All-NLC as a senior and honorable mention All-State.
In Bethel softball, Newell was all-conference four times and “Pitcher of the Year” three times. She was a second team All-American in 2012, a first team NCAA All-American in 2013 and an academic All-American twice. Newell posted a career ERA of 1.53, including marks of 1.06 in 2014 and 1.10 in 2013. She won a total of 60 games and whiffed 865 batters in her career. She pitched in 100 games, going the distance in 68 of them and recorded 25 shutouts.
On offense, Newell ripped 47 doubles and 20 home runs in four years, driving in a total of 112 runs.
She graduated from Bethel with a degree in Elementary Education.
In addition to her coaching duties, Newell gives private hitting and pitching lessons.
Greg Keim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 326. Follow Greg on Twitter @gkeim_TGN