She’s coming home: Gamecock alum Ashley Chastain to be USC’s new softball coach

For just the third time in 37 years, South Carolina is hiring a new softball coach.

Ashley Chastain will be the program’s next head coach, The State confirmed Monday evening. Chastain, a South Carolina alum who played for the Gamecocks from 2009-11, will return to her alma mater after leading the Charlotte 49ers for the past five seasons.

Her hire is pending approval from the University of South Carolina board of trustees, which will meet Tuesday afternoon to review and OK multiple athletics contracts. TheBigSpur was the first to report the move Monday evening.

Since starting her head coaching career during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Chastain has won over 60% of her games and led the 49ers to NCAA Tournament appearances in each of the past two seasons.

Chastain will join a Gamecocks that’s had stability for almost four decades. For 24 seasons (1987-2010), legendary coach Joyce Compton led the South Carolina softball program during a run that included 13 trips to the NCAA Tournament and two appearances in the Women’s College World Series.

Then came the Beverly Smith era, which lasted 14 seasons and included over 350 wins, nine trips to the NCAA Tournament but no appearances in the WCWS.

Smith was fired on Saturday, an interesting-timed move considering it came exactly three weeks after South Carolina’s season ended with a loss to Duke in an NCAA regional.

Perhaps athletics director Ray Tanner felt Chastain was the candidate he couldn’t let get away. Not only did she play for the Gamecocks, but she played for both Compton and Smith, taking pieces of both programs while understanding what a coaching transition looks like in Columbia.

“That experience from Coach Compton to Coach Smith, it’s molded so much of the way I operate and the way I think,” Chastain told In the Circle Softball in 2021. “I took so much from both of them.”

She continued, speaking about how Smith changed the culture in her first season: “So much of how she came in and took over that program, I mirrored that when I came here and took over (Charlotte).”

The former Gamecocks pitcher actually spent the 2012 season as Smith’s graduate assistant before taking assistant jobs with German National Team, College of Charleston, Michigan State and Ole Miss.

A pitching specialist, Chastain helped Ole Miss to the fifth-best ERA in the SEC during her final season in Oxford. And this past year, her Charlotte squad posted the second-lowest ERA in the American Athletic Conference (2.79).

She’ll inherit a team that went 36-24 (8-16 SEC) in 2024. For the success that Smith had in Columbia, her Gamecock teams won just 32% of their conference games in an already-tough SEC that’s adding Texas and Oklahoma for next season — the two teams that just competed in the Women’s College World Series finals.

Ashley Chastain played for the Gamecocks from 2009-11.
Ashley Chastain played for the Gamecocks from 2009-11.