Delaware State University officially appointed Amber Jackson as its new head softball coach in October of 2014, the sixth in the program’s history. Before coming to DSU, Jackson spent three seasons (2011-14) as an assistant coach at Maryland under now Bethune-Cookman head coach Laura Watten.
“I’m very excited to be back in the MEAC and this position here at Delaware State is pretty much a dream come true,” said Jackson. “It was very unexpected, but God has some interesting plans in store for this program.”
In 2016, Jackson was named MEAC Coach of the Year, after lead the Hornets to their highest victory totals – both overall (30) and conference (16) – of any team in the MEAC, along with sitting No. 196 in the RPI rankings. DSU’s 16 conference wins were not only its highest since totaling 20 in 2006, but the Hornets won their final 12 contests in MEAC play to finish five games ahead of Norfolk State and Hampton in the division standings. At regular season’s end, DSU secured its third consecutive MEAC North Division crown.
The Hornets, unfortunately, saw their season come to an end with a 5-3 loss to MEAC Tournament host Bethune-Cookman.
Statistically, DSU led the MEAC in batting (.331), slugging percentage (.487), runs (315), hits (454), RBI (280), doubles (78), home runs (39) and total bases (669). The Hornets also posted the lowest ERA (3.52), along with allowing the fewest amount of runs (151) and home runs (22).
In the case of the players, outfielder Nicole Gazzola and catcher Sandy Hawthorne garnered First Team All-MEAC honors for the third consecutive season, whereas infielders Chloe Oro, Vanessa Washington and pitcher Tara Tursellino (13-7) received Second Team recognition. Utility player Rochelle Sablay, meanwhile, was able to land Third Team All-MEAC honors. Gazzola was also able to land a NFCA Second Team Mid-Atlantic Region selection.
Jackson's first season at helm was one for the record books, as the Hornets finished 2015 with a 21-23 overall mark, featuring a program-best 14-game winning streak. Notable victories for the Hornets throughout 2015 included a six-inning 15-3 victory at the ACC's Virginia, in addition to picking a 2-0 win over Villanova out of the Big East. In conference play, Delaware State went 14-4 to secure its second-straight MEAC North division crown, while six Hornets earned All-Conference honors (the most of any team), headlined by Vanessa Washington garnering Rookie of the Year recognition.
DSU, however, saw its season come to an end in the MEAC Tournament with back-to-back losses to No.2 Bethune-Cookman and No. 3 Hampton after beating No. 4 North Carolina A&T to open post-season play. Despite the loss, the Columbia Blue & Red finished Jackson's first season second in the MEAC batting (.316 - 41st nationally), slugging (.455), on-base percentage (.372), runs (256 total | 5.89 runs per game - 44th nationally), hits (366), RBI (226), doubles (61) and total bases (527).
As a player, Jackson is no stranger to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. For three seasons, Jackson starred as a shortstop for Bethune-Cookman (2002-05) under Watten, earning All-American honors each year, in addition to playing an integral role in the squad’s 2005 NCAA Super Regional’s appearance.
That year, she was named a First Team National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American after batting .455 (fifth-highest in the NCAA Division I ranks), with 14 homers, 68 runs batted in and 33 stolen bases. With these achievements, Jackson was inducted into the Bethune-Cookman Hall-of-Fame in 2012.
Jackson later attended Maryland for her senior season in 2007. During that year, she broke school records with 24 home runs (most in the NCAA), 56 RBI and 55 walks. She was Maryland's second NFCA All-American and was named to the All-ACC First Team, while graduating with her Masters of Education in Human Development.
After her collegiate career, she played three years (2007-09) in the National Pro Fastpitch League for the Washington Glory and USSSA Pride. Her accolades included earning League Player of the Year (2007), League First Team honors (2007, 2009) and was an All Star Team selection (2008).
Jackson’s coaching background, meanwhile, includes two seasons as the head coach at Loudoun County High School (Va.), where she was named Dulles District Head Softball Coach of the Year.