BROOKINGS – South Dakota State head softball coach Kristina McSweeney has completed her coaching staff heading into her opening year leading the Jackrabbits. McSweeney announced on Thursday, August 11, the hiring of associate head coach Josh Bertke and that assistant Brittany Gomez-Olson will remain on staff for her second season at South Dakota State.
Bertke joins the SDSU softball program following seven seasons at Arkansas Tech where he coached alongside McSweeney. He served as McSweeney’s associate head coach for the last three years and has worked primarily with the Golden Suns’ hitters and was Arkansas Tech’s third-base coach.
“You dream about getting to a place where you can surround yourself with the people that can help you be successful and how that’s how I feel now,” McSweeney said. “Josh is going to be amazing with our hitters. He was extremely successful with me at Tech and understands the game well.
“Josh is a great motivator in that he does a great job of getting female athletes to believe in themselves and understand what they can accomplish. I trust him to coach third base and he does a phenomenal job with our offensive game plan. He’s the ying to my yang, so to be able to bring him with me from Arkansas Tech is great because we already have a strong working relationship.”
Bertke was instrumental in Arkansas Tech’s sustained success as he joined McSweeney’s staff following her second season at the helm of the Golden Suns program. The coaches guided Arkansas Tech to their first conference tournament championship ever in 2018 and closed their tenure at the institution in 2022 behind a 40-win campaign to go along with four Great American Conference tournament titles over a five-year span.
Bertke’s lineups hold the top spots on Arkansas Tech’s offensive historical lists. The top three home-run marks, top four seasons in program history in batting average, runs and hits, as well as the top five RBI season totals in program history came with Bertke directing the Golden Suns offense.
He had a hand most recently in coaching Tymber Riley, who as a dual-sport athlete at Arkansas Tech, was the 2021-22 GAC Female Athlete of the Year. This past season, Riley batted .432 and crushed 17 home runs and 55 RBIs. She was a consensus All-American while she was joined in All-America accolades by teammate Caitlyn Wells, the first time the program had multiple selections in the same year.
“This will be our eighth season working together and I think it’s been because of the relationship we’ve built off of it that has got us here,” Bertke said. “It’s easy and fun to work together and we work well off one another.
“When this opportunity arose for coach McSweeney here and I heard she was making the move, it was a no brainer that I wanted to join her. South Dakota State is a phenomenal institution, a great athletic department and with the success of everybody here, it was an easy decision for my wife Sloane and I to join the Jackrabbit family.”
McSweeney’s staff is finalized with Gomez-Olson returning to the Jackrabbit program as an assistant for a second season. The former decorated Iowa State standout, Gomez-Olson spent two seasons as head coach at Bemidji State prior to her first season at South Dakota State during the 2021-22 slate. The Jackrabbits repeated as Summit League tournament champions in 2022 and advanced to their second straight NCAA Tournament.
“It is incredible to be able to retain Brittany on my staff,” McSweeney said. “There are no words for the amount of support she has provided as I’ve got started at SDSU. She has been an incredible resource for me as we’ve went through this transition process.
“Brittany is a relentless worker. I think she is very excited to get a new experience as we’re going to have her hand in just about everything. Her background lends itself well to us and I’m excited to give her some opportunities in coaching a variety of areas and I think she brings a level of greatness to SDSU. She has the background, she’s played at the highest level and was successful, while she has an enormous amount of ability to connect with our players.”
With her coaching staff now complete, McSweeney and the program looks ahead to building around a team that is expected to return 14 players from its roster a season ago and will welcome more than 10 newcomers to the program.
“I recently did a Tour of the Jacks through the midwest to meet with the current team and just worked to get to know them,” McSweeney said. “I’m excited to make those connections and build those relationships. There’s a level of excitement to have a fresh set of eyes on a talented group like this. There’s no telling what can happen next.”