Observer staff

One of the top softball players ever to don an Eastern Oregon University uniform is set to take over the program.

Nicole Christian, a former two-time all-American for the Mountaineers, has been named head coach of the EOU softball program, according to a press release from the school Tuesday.

“Nicole has an unmatched love and passion for not only the game, but for Eastern Oregon University,” EOU Athletic Director Anji Weissenfluh said in the press release. “She is eager to share her deep knowledge of the game to help the softball program reach new heights. Nicole’s vision and core values as a coach are in line with the expectations of the athletic department and the university.”

Christian, a 2000 graduate of EOU, played during the best stretch in the program’s history. She was part of the teams that reached the NAIA Nationals final in both 1999 and 2000, including the squad that finished fourth in the nation in 1999 and won a program-record 41 games. Christian, who was named all-American both those years, still holds several single-season and career marks, including the top all-time marks for career hits (200), RBIs (137) and walks (83), according to the EOU website. She was inducted into the EOU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

“I’m extremely excited to be returning to La Grande and Eastern Oregon University,” Christian said in the press release. “I embrace the challenge of competing in one of the top conferences in the country. I am looking forward to working with student-athletes while building relationships that will last long past their playing days. I love the community support of Mountie Athletics, and I am looking forward to getting on campus and getting to work.”

Christian has been coaching high school and college softball since graduating from EOU, including stints with La Grande and Umatilla high schools and Blue Mountain Community

Most recently, she has been the head coach at McLoughlin High School, where she led the program to unprecedented heights after taking over prior to the 2009 season. The Pioneers reached four consecutive state championships under Christian — its only title-game appearances in program history — winning it all in 2014 and 2015 and taking second in 2013 and 2016. It was a four-year stretch that saw Mac-Hi go 100-17, and a time during which it dominated the Greater Oregon League.

She takes over for Erin Dickhausen, who led the Mountaineers for two seasons. Eastern went 26-24 and reached the first round of the NAIA National Championships in 2018, but went just 13-32 in 2019 for its lowest win total since 2012.