Bulldog Breakdown: Justin Lewis to use technology to help Fresno State softball

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- This week, the winter winds brought a reminder that when it rains - it pours.

The Fresno State softball team is hoping that saying can once again reflect their approach at the plate.

Meet the Bulldogs' newest hitting coach, Justin Lewis.

"At my old school, this was the only resource we had and so to now come here, three indoor cages, all the technology we have, it's a hitting coaches dream," he said.

With analytics changing the game - Lewis plans on using all of that available technology to help the Bulldogs at the plate.

"When you're able to measure it consistently, our athletes are able to see a number that it's like a grade being in class," says Linda Garza, Fresno State Softball head coach.

For Lewis, the one number he couldn't shake was 15. For 15 years, he was out of coaching, the last ten of which he was driving a firetruck in Tucson, Arizona.

"If I could do it over again, I would've never got out of coaching and after my wife heard me say that for the 15 millionth time, she said, 'Can you get back in?'

With her blessing - he then started applying to every college coaching job across the country.

Catch up on all the week's Fresno State sports news on "Bulldog Breakdown" every Sunday at 5 pm on ABC30.

"I really only had two coaches even respond even to emails or anything," Lewis said.

He finally got his shot at Texas A&M Kingsville.

In his second year, he helped lead the school to its first-ever trip to the DII College World Series. Last season, he moved up to the DI ranks where - prior to the pandemic - Texas A&M Corpus Christi was on pace to triple its win total from the previous season.

"Using my life experience to help young people develop into the people they were meant to become is something I was really missing," Lewis said.

Starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic - what was missing for Lewis was the in-person interaction.

"Coach Garza had a great idea for me to reach out to every one of them before I even got here, just to start building that relationship because we didn't have a whole fall," Lewis said. "I put in the work. It took on average about 35-45 minutes per phone call with some of these kids and some of them as long as an hour."

For a man who for years worked to put out fires, now he's focused on making sure the Bulldogs' bats stay hot.

"We have to put in the work," Lewis said. "We're not going to have anything given to us, and I don't mind that at all, so i've been reminding those girls that this isn't last year anymore. I know you had a great run but we've got to continue to put in that work and earn that respect and earn our place."
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