The winningest coach in the Binghamton softball team’s history has stepped down. Michelle Johnston announced on Tuesday that she would depart after 12 years as Binghamton’s head coach.
“[Johnston] has done an incredible job during her time as our head softball coach,” said Binghamton director of athletics Patrick Elliott in a statement. “She has developed the program to [become] an annual contender for the America East [AE] championship while competing successfully on a national level. We wish [Johnston] and her family all the best going forward.”
Johnston cited family obligations as the reason for her departure. After giving birth to twins in February, she was on maternity leave for the first few weeks of the season.
“I’ve always kind of felt like this job would be hard to do with a family, and so when we found out we were having twins, it’s something I thought I could do and still wanted to do, but I knew it was going to be hard,” Johnston said. “I don’t think people understand the amount of time it takes for recruiting and everything that goes along with coaching.”
After returning to the team and getting an idea of what it was like to lead a Division I program with a family, she made the difficult decision to step down.
“I didn’t want to be torn in two different directions all the time, and that’s the way I was starting to feel when I came back off of my leave,” Johnston said. “I just felt it was the time and luckily I’m fortunate enough to be able to take the time and do that.”
A national search will be conducted for Johnston’s replacement. Under her leadership, Binghamton won the 2015 AE Softball Championship, earning the first NCAA Tournament bid in program history. The program also earned regular-season titles in 2016 and 2017.
The Owego, New York native came to BU in 2009 after being head coach at the Division III University of Rochester.
“I was coming back to the Division I level and was a little nervous about taking over a program at that level at the size of the school,” Johnston said. “When I came back to the area, I hadn’t realized how much Binghamton had grown with the resources and facilities so I felt pretty lucky to be here and knew we could build this program right away.”
Johnston inherited a roster that went 7-36 the year before her arrival, improving the team to a 24-19 finish in her first season. The Bearcats had won just 22 games combined in the three years prior.
“There were some really good athletes here at the time that we were able to build a program around,” Johnston said. “It was honestly pretty easy to turn the program around because of the players that we had here. They came in and they wanted to get better right away, so we started putting in the work and it came pretty easy.”
While the Bearcats struggled this season and did not qualify for the AE tournament, a number of young players performed well. Johnston said the new coach will inherit a roster capable of competing in the postseason.
“We feel really good about the future of the program,” Johnston said. “I know that where we ended up this year wasn’t our goal, and I don’t think it was reflective of the work that the team put in this year. I think they feel good about where they’re at moving forward. With getting more games in and playing a regular season, I think you’ll see a lot of different results moving forward.”
While Johnston is stepping away from Division I softball for now, she hopes to stay involved in the game in some manner.
“I can’t see myself staying away for too long,” Johnston said. “I’ve got a little girl, Teagan, and I’m sure she’ll have a ball in her hand as soon as she can, and [my son] Trey will probably do the same with baseball. I would imagine it’ll be back in our lives soon.”