ERIC OAKLEY | HEAD COACH
Eric Oakley enters his fourth season as head coach in 2019. He was named Head Coach in June 2016, after serving one season as an assistant on Kent State’s staff and one season as Interim Head Coach.
Oakley returned to the Mid-American Conference, as he was a member of Eastern Michigan’s coaching staff for five seasons (2007-11) prior to his head coaching stint at North Dakota. He was interim head coach at EMU for the 2010 season and led the Eagles to a 19-30-1 record.
The 2019 campaign started off with a milestone victory for Oakley as he became the fastest coach in Kent State history to record 100 wins with a 7-1 season-opening win over LIU Brooklyn. Pitcher Andrea Scali became the first player in the MAC since KSU's Kylie Reynolds in 2007 to take home the league's Pitcher and Freshman of the Year awards, and sophomore Brenna Brownfield won the MAC Player of the Year award and became the first underclassman to win it since 2012. It was the first time in MAC history a single team won the Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year awards and the first time three different players won the Player of the Year Award in three straight seasons, all in Oakley's tenure. In toal four players would named to All-MAC teams with Scali and Brenna Brownfield garnering All-MAC First Team honors and Bailey Brownfield and Maria Cegledy taking home All-MAC Second Team recognition. Scali and Megan Turner were both named to the MAC All-Freshman Team. Scali and both Brownfield sisters were also named to NFCA All-Mideast Region teams. Scali picking up national recognition winning the USA Softball National Player of the Week and NFCA Pitcher of the Week awards. As a team it was another successful season on the diamond as Kent State finished in second place in the conference. Oakley also guided the program to an RPI ranking of 70, the highest in the MAC. Kent State had a historic day in Waco, Texas sweeping No. 21 Baylor in a doubleheader and was the first win over a top-25 win for the program since 2015 and was the first time in program history the Flashes won two games over a nationally ranked opponent during the same day. Oakley guided the program to its 15th straight MAC Tournament appearance, the most in league history. The Golden Flashes registered two wins in the MAC Tournament and a win in the National Invitational Softball Championship over George Washington.
In 2018 , under Oakley's guidance, Holly Speers was named the first NFCA First Team All-American in program history and just the second ever in MAC history. She led the country in batting average (.483), slugging percentage (1.033), on-base percentage (.656) and walks (60). In addition she was named MAC Player of the Year and Kent State had a player take home the prestigious honor for the second straight season. Speers was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week and NFCA National Player of the Week for the second time in her career and also was name a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 25 Finalist The Golden Flashes also ranked in the top-30 nationally as a team in batting average and slugging percentage. Seven Flashes earned post season honors, the most of any team in the conference. Speers and Bailey Brownfield were both named to the All-MAC First Team with Maria Cegledy, Kennadie Goth, Madi Huck and Brenna Brownfield were selected to the All-MAC Second Team. Goth and Kaitlyn Miller both garned All-Freshman Team recognition. Kent State qualified for its 14th straight MAC Tournament, which is the longest current streak in league history. The team also ranked in the top-30 nationally in batting average and slugging percentage.
Oakley’s second season was one of the most successful in program history as the Golden Flashes won the MAC Tournament and made their first NCAA Regional Tournament appearance since 2008. The Flashes became only the second team in MAC Tournament history to win three games in one day to win the MAC Tournament Championship. Pitcher Ronnie Ladines was named MAC Tournament MVP and USA Softball Collegiate National Player of the Week recording four wins with a 1.06 ERA with 34 strikeouts and batted. 529 with two doubles, four home runs and seven RBIs. The Golden Flashes took down Oregon State from the Pac-12, 2-1, and eliminated the Beavers from the NCAA Tournament. Under Oakley’s guidance, Kent State had two NFCA All-Region First Teamers in infielder Maddie Grimm and Ronnie Ladines. Grimm was also named the MAC Player of the Year and Nan Harvey Award Winner, while the Flashes had four players named to All-MAC Teams. Ladines also threw the third perfect game in Kent State history against Buffalo. Oakley’s team not only had success on the field but in the classroom as well. The squad had the 10th highest GPA (3.568) in the country and had 17 Flashes named NFCA All-America Scholar Athletes.
During his first season as interim Head Coach, Oakley was named the 2016 MAC Coach of the Year. He guided the Flashes to back-to-back MAC regular season titles for the second time in past decade while recording 78 total wins, making it the winningest two-year span in program history. The Flashes also posted a 37-22 record making it the fourth most in program history. Since his arrival at Kent State, the Flashes have had five NFCA All-Mideast Region selections and seven All-MAC Honorees. Off the field work by his student-athletes have also been remarkable, posting a 3.513 team GPA ranking 10th in the nation in 2014-15 and having a total of 23 Academic All-MAC Honorees.
In his first season as an assistant he instructed one of the most dominant pitching staffs in college softball and led them to a MAC regular season championship with the entire staff compiling an ERA of 1.55, which was third in the nation. The staff also threw 46.2 innings of scoreless softball. Under his tutelage Emma Johnson earned NFCA All-Mideast Region and 2nd Team honors and was named MAC Pitcher of the Year. Johnson recorded two no hitters, a personal best 40-inning scoreless streak and threw shutouts vs #3 Michigan and #15 Central Florida, and also tied the Kent State record with 18 strikeouts in a game. She also ranked in the top ten in the country in K/7IP, ERA, hits allowed/7IP, Ks, and strikeouts.
After taking over a North Dakota program in its last year of transitioning to NCAA Division I, Oakley compiled a 34-98 record over the past three years. He had a total of 16 student-athletes earn all-conference honors, including 9 in the program’s first two years as a member of the Big Sky Conference.
Oakley served several roles during his tenure at Eastern Michigan, including assistant hitting coach, pitching and catching coach and recruiting coordinator. In his first season on staff, he helped guide the Eagles to a historic season in which they captured their first NCAA Regional appearance, MAC Tournament title and MAC West Division title in program history. During his final season in Ypsilanti, EMU posted its second-highest winning percentage all-time (.591), largely due to the Oakley’s work with the team’s pitchers. Eastern Michigan’s team ERA dipped to 3.04 from 4.57 the previous season, and Eagles pitchers garnered MAC West Pitcher of the Week honors on five occasions.
A 2001 graduate of Eastern Michigan, Oakley resides in Kent.