When the Iowa State softball team took on Louisiana State University in front of a rowdy crowd during the Purple & Gold Challenge hosted by the Tigers back on March 1, it was the team's toughest test to date.
In the midst of a tie ballgame at 0-0, tensions in both dugouts were growing. Despite the heightened emotions, ISU assistant coach Lindsey Ubrun was able to lighten the mood, something she’s done often since joining the Cyclones’ coaching staff last September.
Throughout the whole weekend the LSU student section chanted, “Left … right … left … right” as each opponent’s first base coach would jog out to the field. Ubrun, without missing a beat, quickly backpedaled to her spot on the field, confusing the entire student section.
That’s the type of personality Ubrun has brought to Iowa State’s coaching staff, which makes it very easy for players to relate to her philosophy.
“She’s someone we can mess around with and feel comfortable with,” said ISU second baseman Sara Davison. “At the same time, she’s someone we’re going to work hard for her and have a good time doing it.”
Since Ubrun joined the coaching staff, working hard is exactly what the Cyclones have done. Iowa State currently ranks sixth in the nation for team batting average at .346.
Ubrun has been able to bring valuable hitting experience to Iowa State’s offense. Whether it’s working with hitters individually to fine tune their technique or implementing a team hitting philosophy have helped.
“Coach Ubrun has really done a great job and she focused on some things in the offseason that have really helped our hitting,” said ISU coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler. “And I think she’s been a huge part off our success this season.”
Ubrun played her collegiate ball at Missouri where she hit .356 with 16 home runs as a senior and helped lead the Tigers to the 2009 Women’s College World Series.
From an early age, Ubrun knew she wanted to become a coach after her playing days ended.
“I’ve been planning on coaching since high school,” Ubrun said. “[After college] I just decided I wasn’t ready to be done with softball yet, and I knew I wanted to coach at the college level.”
After graduation, Ubrun took an assistant coaching job at Chattanooga for three years before joining the ISU staff. During her time at Chattanooga, the Mocs saw similar results from Ubrun’s hitting expertise to what Iowa State is experiencing now.
Making the transition from player to coach can sometimes be tougher than expected. Evidently that wasn’t the case for Ubrun.
During her first two seasons at Chattanooga, the Mocs re-wrote six school records offensively and hit more than .340 as a team in both seasons.
“It’s just really different coaching versus playing, so I took some time getting used to that,” Ubrun said. “It was a great experience for me at Chattanooga, I loved my time there.”
Ubrun spent the majority of her college career at Missouri back when the Tigers were in the Big 12 with Iowa State. It was a perfect fit to bring the former Tiger back to the Midwest to join the Cyclones staff.
“I decided to come to Iowa State because it’s a great family environment, and I played in the Big 12 so it’s always nice to get back to the conference you played in,” Ubrun said. “It’s a great program, one that’s starting to grow, and it has really been fun to be part of it.”
The Cyclones’ lineup has improved from top to bottom since Ubrun arrived with eight starters for Iowa State hitting above .300 through 21 games this season.
Perhaps no one has benefited from Ubrun’s arrival more than senior third baseman Sara Rice. After coming off of a disappointing junior season, Rice has been off to a hot start in her senior campaign.
Coming into her senior year, Rice had a career batting average of .164 in her first three seasons with the Cyclones. With hard work and the help of Ubrun, Rice has been able to turn in a .327 batting average while leading the team in RBIs.
“I think she has impacted me greatly as a hitter, she really knows how to connect with us individually,” Rice said. “She has such a wealth of knowledge of different drills, and she’s always working with you to make you a better hitter.”
Ubrun’s presence has been felt through her personality in the dugout and during practice, but it has been on display in the Cyclones’ batter’s box all season.