Coach Griffin exceeds expectations in Lady Eagles’ second season of fast-pitch

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2003

[5/18/03]As Kevin Griffin drove to his first fast-pitch softball practice for Porters Chapel Academy last fall, he was expecting the worst.

All he knew was that the Lady Eagles had only won four games in 2001, their first season as a fast-pitch program, and they had just a handful of experienced players returning.

“Coming in, it was definitely not what I was told it was going to be,” Griffin said with a chuckle. “It ended up being remarkably better.”

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After that first practice, Griffin set a lofty goal of 18 wins for the second-year program. The Lady Eagles didn’t quite get there they finished 17-11 but Griffin did nab The Vicksburg Post softball Coach of the Year award.

“It kind of blows my mind that we were able to get that many wins, but then again I think of several games we could have won and we could have easily won 22 ballgames,” Griffin said.

Before the season, such numbers were unthinkable.

The Lady Eagles went 4-7 in 2001, and that season was considered wildly successful. Most of the players from that team were back, but they were still learning the fast-pitch game.

Before anyone could realize it, though, the Lady Eagles started the season 4-2. The team set a goal then not to dip below .500 again, and lived up to it.

Led by senior Courtney Angel, who led the state with a .658 batting average and also had nine doubles, three triples and 27 RBIs, the Lady Eagles never dropped below .500 again. Three other players Amy Rutledge, Ashley Brown, and pitcher Betsy Bryan all batted over .400, and Bryan was consistent enough in the circle to give PCA a chance to win most games.

They played conference champion Deer Creek tough, twice losing in close games, and had several other winnable games rained out.

“I believe once we started 4-2, I just continued to stress the fundamentals and making routine plays, and not being spectacular,” Griffin said. “I emphasized the fact we set a goal that we wanted to stay above .500, and we stayed above .500 the whole year.”

With one corner turned for the program, Griffin is setting his sights even higher. He won a Georgia state championship as coach of Windsor Academy in Macon, Ga., in 1998 and can see the potential for a state title winner at PCA down the road.

For next season, though, he’ll settle for consistency. He wants the Lady Eagles to match or surpass this season’s win total and challenge for a conference title. Several key starters including Angel will be lost to graduation, but Griffin believes it’s not out of the question.

“We’re losing three starters, but I really feel like we have an opportunity to win close to 20 games again next year,” Griffin said. “Our district is still going to be really good. Deer Creek has, by far, the top pitcher in our district and they’re going to be tough again. But we were only two base hits away from knocking them out of the state tournament this year, so anything can happen.”