When the Penn State University softball team takes the field next spring for their Big Ten schedule, the Nittany Lions will have a modest Southern Maryland flavor.
Last month Penn State named Clarissa Crowell, a McDonough High School and Virginia Tech University graduate, as their new softball coach for the 2021 season. St. Mary’s Ryken High School graduate Melody Coombs, the 2019 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference player of the year, signed with the Nittany Lions after decommitting from Syracuse University.
Crowell, who previously had been the head softball coach at Miami University in Ohio and had been the pitching coach at Oklahoma State University, accepted the Penn State job after Nittany Lions coach Amanda Lehotak stepped down. Crowell had guided the Redhawks to a 208-182 record, including a 35-19 mark in 2019 when they garnered the Mid-America Conference title and she earned MAC coach of the year honors.
“First of all, I would like to thank Sandy Babour and Chamelle Green for entrusting me to be the next head coach of Penn State softball,” Crowell said. “I firmly believe in the mission and values of Penn State, and it is an incredible honor to be part of this prestigious university and athletic department.”
Coombs had verbally committed to Syracuse until the previous softball coach resigned, so the Ryken graduate de-committed and then began to weigh her options elsewhere. Coombs signed with Penn State last spring during the aborted 2020 season and well before Crowell had been named the Nittany Lions’ coach for the 2021 campaign.
“Initially, I was going to play at Syracuse,” Coombs said. “But after their coach left, I de-committed and then decided to sign with Penn State. I loved the campus and the coach and got to meet some of the girls. Then their coach left and coach Crowell came in this summer. I heard she was from down this way, so it’s great to be able to have a coach from Southern Maryland.”
St. Mary’s Ryken softball coach Stephanie (Dameron) Bolin, has always had high praise for Coombs and was eager to see the former Knights’ star seek another WCAC title in 2020. But with that lost season already behind her, Bolin expects Coombs to continue her success at the Division I college level for the next four seasons.
“Penn State is getting a competitor, an athlete who can leg out a routine ground ball, swing for power as well as lay down a bunt to cause chaos,” Bolin said. “Defensively, we’ve seen Mel play both the infield and the out field. In both, she can cover some serious ground and leaves her feet for everything in her direction. Penn State is getting a student-athlete who we anticipate will compete for a starting spot as soon as she arrives on campus.”
Crowell did not have the chance to see Coombs play in high school and while she was still at the University of Miami the McDonough graduate admitted she did not have Coombs on her radar. But the two inadvertently ended up being with the Nittany Lions and could be in the dugout together the next four years.
“I never had the chance to see Mel play,” Crowell said. “But I’ve seen some film on her and heard nothing but great things about her. I spoke with her on my last trip to Waldorf and we were only about 25 minutes apart then.”