Diamond ‘Dogs add firepower with Shults hire

Fresno State softball assistant coach Justin Shults (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

The 2017 Fresno State softball season begins in less than two weeks, and new assistant coach Justin Shults intends to provide an offensive punch, due to a strong background in the sport.

Shults explained that a strong relationship with his former high school baseball coach along with a family background in the sport contributed to his success. His sister, Jessica Shults, a former national champion softball player and Oklahoma University staff member, is currently the assistant coach at the University of Houston. Justin Shults aimed at continuing the coaching background after his baseball career.

“My high school coach, Jared Snyder, really got me on the path. He allowed me to come back and coach there during my college years,” Shults said. “Also just growing up in a softball family, my dad has coached forever and my sister now coaches. So I think that’s always kind of been my path.”

He earned 2010 All-Region/All-American and honors as a junior at UC Riverside. He was also a two-time All-Big West selection. Shults holds the program’s single-season record for runs batted in (62) and the single-game records for home runs (3) and total bases (16). He later joined the Houston Astros organization for one year before becoming a softball coach.

He landed his first job at Southwestern Oklahoma State where he assisted on hitting and recruiting. He also helped guide six players to All-Great American Conference Team honors.

Before Shults landed in Fresno, he helped lead Miami University (Ohio) to back-to-back 30-win seasons, a Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2016. Shults will be performing some of the same duties as the ’Dogs’ assistant coach.

“I was in charge of the offense, infield and recruiting coordinator,” Shults said. “I’ll have all of the same duties here at Fresno State. There is a lot more film available to me in the conference, so I’ll definitely do more scouting in terms of watching our conference opponents.”

The Miami RedHawks broke six school records under Shults’ tutelage: runs (302), runs per game (5.21), RBIs (274), doubles (83), home runs (56) and walks (200). Shults’ ability to get the best out of his players was evident after one of his many players was named MAC Player of the Year. His ability to teach and nurture players will bring an added dimension to the reigning Mountain West champions.

After back-to-back conference titles for the Bulldogs the past two seasons, expectations are high for the ’Dogs, but Shults said that’s part of being associated with such a successful program. The ‘Dogs come into the 2017 season ranked No. 24 in the nation in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

“Anytime you come to Fresno State and you talk about softball, the expectations are always extremely high — where you expect to go far in our conference and have a chance to win it — also pushing into the postseason and making some noise as well,” Shults said.

The ’Dogs open their season at home against Cal Poly on Friday, Feb. 23. The ’Dogs look to improve on a 42-12-1 season along with capturing a third consecutive Mountain West title.

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