Drake softball head coach Rich Calvert has transformed the Drake softball program into a successful team on the field and one of the top academic programs in the Missouri Valley Conference and the nation.
Calvert, who recently finished his 18th season at the helm of the Drake softball program in 2019, has led Drake to tremendous success the past two seasons. Calvert is the program's all-time winningest coach and has guided the Bulldogs to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, a first for the program. Drake has reached the postseason by back-to-back sweeps of the MVC regular season and tournament titles, a feat never accomplished before in MVC history. The Bulldogs defeated UNI in the 2019 MVC Tournament title game to complete the impressive accomplishment and the win was extra special as it was the 500th career win for Calvert.
Senior pitcher Nicole Newman had an amazing final season for the Bulldogs in 2019. She became just the second MVC pitcher to win three MVC Pitcher of the Year awards with her 2019 hardware. Newman was one of the best pitchers in the nation leading the country in strikeouts and throwing an NCAA Division I single-season record five perfect games. She was recognized for her success by being named to the 2019 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America First Team, Drake's first-ever selection. Newman became the first-ever Drake and MVC player selected in the National Professional Fastpitch League when she was drafted No. 13 by the Aussie Peppers. Newman also was named a finalist for the prestigious USA Softball NCAA Player of the Year award. Junior Mandi Roemmich had an outstanding season on the field and in the classroom, capping the year by being selected to the 2019 Google Cloud All-America First Team, becoming just the third Drake player and first since 2004 to claim first-team Academic All-America honors.
2018 started the two-years of unprecedented success as the team finished the season with a 45-12 overall record, including a 24-1 record in MVC games, MVC Regular Season and Tournament titles and the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament wins with pair of victories over BYU at Eugene Regional. The regular season and MVC win totals are school records. The 24 league wins tied the all-time mark for an MVC program in regular season play. Since the Valley went to a 27-game league schedule in 2001, Drake is the only MVC team to suffer just one loss in regular season league play. The Bulldogs' impressive winning percentage of .960 in conference games was a league-record since the 27-game schedule was adopted. Roemmich was named MVC Player of the Year, the program's first-ever MVC MVP and Newman was selected MVC Pitcher of the Year for the second time. Later Newman earned NFCA Midwest All-Region First Team honors while Maddox and Roemmich were picked NFCA All-Region Second Team and Kailee Smith was NFCA All-Region Third Team. Newman was selected to the NFCA All-America Third Team.
Calvert has taken Drake to the MVC Tournament in 16 of his 18 seasons and led the Bulldogs to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994 when he took the team in 2008 and the Bulldogs knocked off Wichita State, top-seeded Creighton and Missouri State to win the MVC tournament title and advance to the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs posted a 29-26 record that year, earning wins over No. 12 Michigan and No. 25 Iowa. Drake also boasted the MVC Newcomer of the Year and State Farm MVC Tournament MVP in Brynne Dordel and placed three players on the all-conference team.
The 2015 team won the school's first MVC regular season crown since the 1993 season after being picked sixth in the preseason coaches poll. Led by outstanding pitching, the Bulldogs won 19 league games, and placed four players on all-conference teams as well having the MVC Pitcher of the Year in Rebekah Schmidt and the MVC Freshman of the Year, Newman Newman and Schmidt earned All-MVC First Team accolades while senior Hayley Nybo and sophomore Megan Sowa were picked to the All-MVC Second Team. Calvert along with assistant coaches Kasey Griffith, Tina DeAngelo and volunteer assistant Cortney Wood were named the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year. Newman and Schmidt garnered NFCA honors.
The 2016 season was another successful year for the Bulldogs as the team finished 30-24 with a 17-8 record in MVC games. Drake finished runner-up in both the regular season and in the MVC Tournament. Newman claimed MVC Pitcher of the Year for the second-straight season for the program. Newman was joined on the All-MVC First Team were freshman Kennedy Frank, Sowa and sophomore Kelsey Wright. Freshman Taryn Pena and sophomore Kailee Smith were All-MVC Second Team selections. Newman and Frank were recognized by the NFCA.
The 2013 season had multiple milestones for Calvert and his squad. The team finished in second place with a 29-20 overall record and a 14-7 mark in conference play as a school record six Bulldogs earned All-MVC honors. Four Bulldogs were named to the first-team to also set a school record. Four players went on to collect MVC Scholar-Athlete accolades.
Calvert set the program record for wins with the Bulldogs' victory over Tennessee Martin on Feb. 24, 2013. He passed Megan Bryant, who led the Drake program from 1989-1999, and won 282 games. He earned his 300th career win when the Bulldogs swept Bradley on April 20.
Calvert's 2011 team finished with a 34-21 overall record and advanced all the way to the MVC Championship game. Jenna DeLong earned her third-straight MVC all-conference selection and was named the MVC Pitcher of the Year. Dordel was named the MVC Elite 18 award winner for her work in the classroom. The Elite 18 award is given to the student-athlete with the highest grade point average in an MVC Championship game or event.
Drake finished the 2010 season with a 32-22 record, marking the third time overall and second-straight season the Bulldogs surpassed the 30-win plateau with Calvert at the helm. In addition, DeLong earned her second-straight MVC all-conference first team honor as a pitcher. The Bulldogs reached 30 wins for the first time since 1997 when the 2004 team went 30-24. Calvert’s 2009 squad finished 30-23.
Though the team’s on-field accomplishments are many, academics have become the program’s greatest strength under Calvert’s direction. Drake has ranked among the nation’s academic elite since his arrival, ranking second among all NCAA Division I programs in overall team grade point average during the 2005-06 academic year, fourth in 2009-10 and eighth in 2011-12.
Calvert, who was named head coach in June of 2002, led the Bulldogs to a 13-6 start in the 2003 campaign, bettering the previous season’s win total of 10 in just 14 games. Drake finished with a 23-27 record, more than doubling the previous season’s win total and posting the program's most wins since 1997.
Calvert served as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa from 1997-2002, helping the Hawkeyes to five NCAA Tournament appearances and two Women’s College World Series, as well as Big Ten Conference titles in 1997 and 2000. Iowa was 262-104-1 in his six seasons on staff.
Before joining the Hawkeye program, Calvert was an assistant coach at Ohio State from 1993-96.
Calvert received both his bachelor’s (1988) and master’s degrees (1990) from Illinois State, where he served as an undergraduate assistant coach from 1986-88. He was named graduate assistant coach at Illinois State in 1989, and was promoted to full-time assistant in 1990. He helped lead the Redbirds to two Gateway Conference titles (1988 and 1991), with the 1988 squad receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Calvert was not only responsible for on-the-field instruction, but was the recruiting coordinator and served as the supervisor for the Redbirds’ academic advancement.
A native of Taylorville, Ill., Calvert has two daughters, Allie, and Maci and a son, Breck.