Joanna Hardin enters her third season as the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers.
In her first year at the helm, Hardin led the Cavaliers back to the ACC Tournament for the first time in three seasons and improved the Virginia win total by eight games. The Cavaliers won nine ACC games, the second most in school history.
Hardin had Virginia playing its best softball down the stretch, winning eight of its final 10 regular season games, including a seven-game win streak and series wins over Georgia Tech and eventual NCAA Tournament qualifier Notre Dame. Her first season was also highlighted by the Cavaliers first win over a ranked opponent since 2014, defeating No. 14 James Madison, 5-4 on the road.
Under Hardin's tutelage, the 2017 Cavalier offense was among the most potent in the ACC, ranking in the top five in slugging percentage (3rd), doubles (2nd), triples (2nd), home runs (5th) and total bases (3rd). A pair of Cavaliers went on to earn All-ACC honors while catcher Katie Park became the program's first National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) First Team All-Region selection since 2013.
In 2018, Hardin mentored another All-Region selection in outfielder Allison Davis. The 2018 squad kept the long-ball going, launching 52 home runs to finish fourth in the ACC. The Cavaliers also finished in the top five of the ACC in RBI (210), doubles (73) and slugging (.437).
Prior to Virginia, Hardin spent the last four seasons at McNeese State, the first two as an assistant coach with the Cowgirls. She also has served as an assistant coach at Liberty University from 2007-09, with a stint as the head coach at Jefferson Forest High School in Forest, Va.
In her two seasons as head coach at McNeese State, Hardin led the Cowgirls to a 79-34 record including the Southland Conference championship and an NCAA Regional in 2016. Under Hardin’s guidance, sophomore Erika Piancastelli received All-America honors from the NFCA in 2015 and 2016. She is the first All-America selection in McNeese State program history.
In 2016, Hardin led the Cowgirls to a 43-14 record as McNeese State claimed the Southland Conference regular-season championship and the Southland Conference Tournament championship. The Cowgirls posted a 23-4 record in conference play and competed in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional. In regional play, McNeese State opened the tournament with a win over perennial national power Arizona State. The Cowgirls were eliminated from the Regional after falling to host LSU, who would advance to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series as a national seed, and the Sun Devils in a 14-inning game in the second meeting between the teams.
Several players excelled under Hardin’s tutelage at McNeese State with Piancastelli leading the way as a two-time Southland Player of the Year and Hitter of the Year selection. Eight players also earned All-Southland Conference honors in 2016.
In 2015, her first season as head coach, Hardin coached Piancastelli to Southland Hitter, Player and Freshman of the Year honors. It was the first time a player had ever won all three honors in the league’s history. Hardin also coached Alanna DiVittorio to Southland Player of the Year and Hitter of the Year honors in 2014, while Jamie Allred claimed Southland Pitcher of the Year honors that same season.
During the 2014 campaign, McNeese State broke or tied 23 school or conference records. The Cowgirls ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in ERA, stolen bases and triples per game. Four players ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in 11 different statistical categories. McNeese State’s pitching staff included two of the top four pitchers in the SLC to lead the conference in ERA, while ranking 44th nationally.
In 2013, Hardin guided the pitching staff to a Top 10 national ranking and the top spot in the Southland in team ERA with a 1.79 mark. That squad also led the conference in opponent batting average (.220), saves (6), hits allowed (294), runs allowed (122), earned runs allowed (91), walks allowed (53) and extra-base hits allowed (63). Individually, Hardin helped develop the SLC’s top pitcher, Megan Bond, who led the conference in ERA (1.27), opponent batting average (.200), and saves (3).
Hardin began her coaching career as the head coach at Whittier Christian High School in La Habra, Calif., from 2005-07 and helped guide the Heralds to an Olympic League championship in 2006.
From 2007-09, Hardin served as assistant coach at Liberty University where she oversaw the pitching staff, conducted camps and clinics, and organized daily practices. In each of her two years at Liberty, the team finished the season as the Big South conference tournament runner-up. Under her guidance, Tiffani Smith was selected to the All-Big South Conference first team as a sophomore, the first Flame to receive such an honor since 2001.
After earning her Master’s Degree from Liberty University, Hardin started and coached a successful 12U/14U travel team, the Virginia Titans, in 2009. In 2010, while coaching the Titans, she served as head coach at Jefferson Forest High School where she led the Lady Cavaliers to the 2012 Seminole District Tournament Championship, a Virginia High School League (VHSL) Region III runner-up finish and the quarterfinals of the VHSL playoffs.
Hardin played softball for Biola University (La Mirada, Calif.) where she was a four-year letter winner from 2002-05. She was a four-time All-Conference and All-Region selection and earned NFCA All-America honors as a freshman in 2002.
She is married to Travis Hardin.
Jake Sidwell enters his first year on the UVA softball staff in 2019-20. Sidwell will work extensively with Virginia’s offense and guide the development of Cavalier hitters.
He comes to Virginia after spending the 2019 season as a volunteer assistant with George Washington baseball under head coach Gregg Ritchie, who is a former MLB hitting coach and the current U18 hitting coach for Team USA. Ritchie spent 15 seasons as a minor league hitting coach and two years as the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With Sidwell on staff in 2019, GW posted a .292 batting average as a team. The mark was the 35th-best average in collegiate baseball last season. Dom D’Alessandro finished the year with a .423 average for the Colonials, the second-best batting average of any player in the country. A Colonial also led the A-10 in RBI, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and runs scored in 2019.
Sidwell also helped develop the GW catchers, who posted the second-best caught stealing percentage in the A-10. Along with his on-field duties, Sidwell directed and organized GW baseball camps and clinics.
Prior to joining George Washington, Sidwell was a graduate assistant with VCU baseball. With the Rams, Sidwell managed the bullpen during the games and assisted pitching coach Mike McRae in developing the VCU staff.
He also has experience leading a team, serving as a head coach in the Piedmont Collegiate Baseball League. In the PCBL, Sidwell managed a collegiate summer team, overseeing all aspects of the program both on and off the field.
Sidwell played his collegiate ball at Davidson where he helped the Wildcats to an NCAA super regional in 2017. He was a 39th-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school and became the first drafted player to ever attend Davidson. He was also named a Rawlings Gold Glove finalist in 2017.
Sidwell earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Davidson in 2017 and will complete his master’s in sport leadership at VCU in August.
Shelby Hiers joined the Virginia softball staff in July 2019 as the volunteer assistant coach.
Hiers has spent the past two years as a graduate assistant with the Razorbacks. During her time on staff, Arkansas reached its first super regional in program history and produced 80 total wins. Hiers helped the Razorbacks in the bullpen, assisted in video breakdown and helped with day-to-day operations.
Hiers also played professionally for two seasons, spending 2017 with the Akron Racers in National Pro Fastpitch and 2018 with Mobile in the American Softball Association. While in Mobile, Hiers earned an ASBA All-Star selection.
During her collegiate career, Hiers was a four-year starter behind the plate for Arkansas. She ranks fourth all-time at Arkansas with a .399 on-base percentage. Hiers holds seven additional top 10 marks in Razorback history.
Hiers earned her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Arkansas in 2017. She went on to earn a master’s in recreation and sports management from her alma mater in 2019.
Shae Braxton joined the Virginia softball coaching staff in August 2019. Braxton will work primarily on the defensive side of the ball with the Cavaliers.
Prior to arriving on Grounds, Braxton spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Bethune-Cookman. During her two seasons with the Wildcats, Bethune-Cookman produced a pair of conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. The NCAA appearances were the first for the Wildcats since 2012.
With Braxton on staff, the Wildcats finished second nationally in stolen bases during the 2018 season. In 2019, Braxton helped Bethune-Cookman to its first victory over a nationally-ranked team since 2005.
A native of the Commonwealth, Braxton brings a wealth of Virginia connections to the staff. She played her high school softball at C.D. Hylton in Woodbridge and later returned as an assistant on staff. In addition, Braxton has coached for a pair of travel organizations in Virginia. She also spent time as a softball instructor and trainer in Manassas.
As a student-athlete at Marshall, Braxton helped the Thundering Herd to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances and a national ranking in 2017. She was a member of two C-USA championship teams and a 2013 C-USA All-Freshman team member. Braxton holds seven top-10 marks in Marshall’s career record book, including the second-most RBI (171) in program history.
Braxton, who redshirted while with the Thundering Herd, earned a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Marshall in 2016. She was a 2015 NFCA Mid-East All-Region selection and NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete.