Leslie Ballard selected to lead XULA softball

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana announced Tuesday the hiring of Leslie Ballard as head coach of its recently launched softball program. She will begin her duties Monday (March 9, 2020).

“After a thorough national search, we are delighted to have someone with Leslie Ballard’s experience join the Xavier community,” XULA President Dr. Reynold Verret said. “We are excited to match our talented future student-athletes with coach Ballard’s background and dedication to create a great debut for Xavier softball. It will be fun to watch coach Ballard develop her program as it pursues success on the regional and national levels.”

Said Ballard: “I thank Xavier University of Louisiana for choosing me for this great opportunity. — I am beyond honored! To be able to start a program has really been a dream of mine, and now it’s becoming a reality. I’m blessed to have been chosen to do something that I’m very passionate about. The people that I’ve encountered here at Xavier have been nothing but kind and genuine to me throughout this process. They accepted me with open arms. The support of Xavier and the community is very comforting.

“I want to compete from the start even though we’re getting a late start with recruiting. I have the utmost confidence that this program will be competitive. My goals are to ensure that these ladies get a fine education and are able to compete within our league and nationally. I love the challenge of preparing our student-athletes for real life through the game of softball. I love what I do!”

Ballard is in her third season as head coach at Lane College, an NCAA Division II and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member in Jackson, Tenn. Ballard’s best season was in 2019 when the Dragons:

• Were 2-0 against SIAC regular-season champion Spring Hill — the Badgers’ only blemishes on a 17-2 conference record in 2019.
• Led the SIAC and ranked 11th in NCAA Division II with a .338 team batting average.
• Ranked seventh in NCAA Division II in stolen bases per game.
“Xavier University is excited to welcome coach Ballard to Team Gold as the leader of our new softball program,” said Jason Horn, XULA’s assistant vice president for student affairs / director of athletics and recreation. “Leslie brings to Xavier great passion and energy for softball and the all-around development of student-athletes. We look forward to supporting Leslie as she builds this program into a national contender.”
Ballard is a native of Nashville, Tenn., and a graduate of Lane, where she pitched and was second-team All-SIAC her senior year. That same season she was named to the SIAC All-Academic team.
XULA announced Sept. 24 that softball would compete in the 2020-21 academic year. The Gold Nuggets will complete for regional and national honors in the NAIA, which has 201 softball teams in 2019-20.

What They’re Saying About Leslie Ballard

Angela Sullivan, former Oklahoma Baptist and Trevecca Nazarene head coach and Ballard’s private coach
“I have known Leslie Ballard most of her life, starting as a travel-ball player in the 10-and-under leagues. Leslie has a steady personality. She smiles a lot. She’s a pleasant and warm person. You always know what you’re going to get with her. Student-athletes won’t have to guess about her, which always is a positive for them. Leslie has played a lot of positions, so she knows the game — especially pitching. When a head coach knows pitching, it’s such an extra benefit to a team. Leslie cares about kids, she cares about softball, and she cares about growing the sport. She loves the opportunity to start and grow the program at Xavier. Her potential as a coach is unlimited. I am happy for her and for Xavier.”

Whitney Knighton, Lane College senior student-athlete who plays second base on the 2020 Lane softball team
“Coach is very patient. She’s a very good teacher and very stern when she needs to be. She is very motivating. She does not use the word can’t. If you’re struggling, she always is there to help you improve. She’s a very positive person, and I believe Xavier made the right decision by bringng her aboard. She knows the game well and is well educated. When she has a good team, she expects a lot from them. She was a mother figure for me. She’ll work hard to make Xavier a successful program.”

Jarvaneika Deloach, Lane College senior student-athlete who plays right field on the 2020 Lane softball team
“Coach Ballard is going to be an incredible addition to your program at Xavier University. She doesn’t just coach softball; she teaches each individual player lifelong skills. She goes the extra mile to get to know her players. These last four years she believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She once told me, ‘you never know how far you can go until you push yourself,’ and I will take that with me forever. Her hard work, dedication and knowledge of the game will definitely show next season.”

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