After seven seasons as the head coach for the Hillsdale softball team, Joe Abraham will be leaving the Chargers. He accepted the head coaching position at the University of Toledo, a NCAA Division I program, announced on July 25.
The Hillsdale Athletic Department announced late Monday that Abraham’s replacement will be Kyle Gross, who recently coached at NCAA Division I schools Kent State University and Presbyterian College in 2016 – 2017 and 2017 – 2018, respectively.
Coincidentally, Gross also coached at Toledo earlier in his career.
During his tenure with Hillsdale, Abraham led the Chargers to six 20-win seasons, earning a record of 158 – 136, making him the second-winningest coach in program history.
Abraham earned the GLIAC Coach of the Year award in 2016 after leading the team to a 26 – 12 record, his best single-season mark at Hillsdale. In 2018, the team’s first year in the G‑MAC, he helped the program win its first-ever conference tournament. The 2018 Chargers went on to qualify for the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament, beating Grand Valley State University in their first game before losing their next two.
During his time as head coach, seven players earned first-team all-conference honors, and 11 players earned second-team all-conference honors.
Senior outfielder Katie Kish, recipient of first-team all-conference honors, was taken aback when she found out Abraham was leaving.
“I did not expect it at all,” Kish said. “I was hoping it was just a bad joke someone was playing on me.”
Most players were shocked by Abraham’s departure, but it gives him the chance to explore new opportunities as a head coach.
After a successful career at Hillsdale, Abraham explained that becoming the head coach at Toledo gives him the opportunity to accomplish some of his long-term goals. For example, he is now able to move closer to his family in Columbus, Ohio.
Moving from a Division II program to a Division I program also offers its own benefits.
“It’s a move up, it’s more money, it’s more budget, it’s more everything, and then that’s hard to turn down,” Abraham said. “The only way I would have left Hillsdale, more than likely, would have been for a Division I [school] in Ohio.”
While current players were surprised by his decision to leave, most agreed that Abraham is well-deserving of this new opportunity.
Senior infielder Amanda Marra summed it up in seven words: “No one deserves it more than him.”
The Chargers will use this fall season to overcome the great challenge of the unknown as they prepare for another strong spring season.
Kish offered an optimistic take on the situation, looking forward to the new squad.
“Our fall season will consist of a lot of transitioning to a new coach, new freshmen, and new senior leadership, but by spring I anticipate us all being on the same page ready to start where we left off last year with a conference championship,” she said.
Each player will miss something different about Abraham’s coaching style, but perhaps what will be missed most of all is his dedication to helping them succeed in the classroom.
“He put a lot of trust in his players and gave us the tools we needed to think and play the game for ourselves,” Marra said. “He also took interest in us as people and students and made sure we always had what we needed to succeed.”
Senior infielder Jessica Taylor will miss her time with Abraham off the field as much as she will on the field.
“My favorite memory about Joe is just sitting in the office and talking with him about non-softball things,” Taylor said. “He was basically our team’s life coach off the field.”
Abraham will also miss coaching the Chargers, citing the quality of the players he coached.
“The one thing I already miss, and am gonna greatly miss, are the players on the Hillsdale team,” Abraham said. “It’s impossible to duplicate that.”
Gross has little time between his hiring and the first time he will lead the Chargers from the dugout. Hillsdale has three games scheduled during the fall before its conference season begins in the spring.