Sports

Nashville softball coach resigns; teams won two state titles in five years

Nashville players celebrate the winning run over Fairfield in the first round of the IHSA Class 2A state tournament. The win propelled the Hornets to the second title of coach Dempsey Witte’s career.
Nashville players celebrate the winning run over Fairfield in the first round of the IHSA Class 2A state tournament. The win propelled the Hornets to the second title of coach Dempsey Witte’s career. Photo courtesy of the Southern Illinoisian

Nashville High softball coach Dempsey Witte has resigned after a five-year reign that included a pair of Class 2A state championships, three state tourney trips and an incredible 173-19 record.

Nashville won its third state softball title and second under Witte last spring when the Hornettes finished 39-2. Their “worst” record during the Witte era was 27-5 in 2011 and Nashville won at least a regional title in each of his five seasons.

“I think he was really into detail,” said Nashville Athletic Director Wayne Harre, who worked closely alongside Witte as the Hornettes’ pitching coach. “He wanted things done a certain way and the girls kind of ran it that way. They expected it to run that way and that’s what happened.”

Harre, who resigned his softball coaching position after the state title run last spring, recognized the coaching work done by Witte as “remarkable.”

“To win two state titles and to get up there three out of five years, that’s a tough deal,” Harre said. “There’s a lot of talented teams we had to beat to get there. The girls really fought hard for him.”

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Harre said Witte, 36, will remain on staff as a girls basketball assistant coach, but added that Witte and his wife, Jenny, recently had a second child and that weighed into his decision.

”It was a tough decision,” Witte said. “My family was expanding and me and my wife sat down and talked about it. We had a baby daughter a couple weeks ago and also have a 2-year-old son. My wife’s been extremely supportive of me and it’s been a fun ride and a great run. It’s just time for me to step back a little bit.”

To win two state titles and to get up there three out of five years, that’s a tough deal. There’s a lot of talented teams we had to beat to get there. The girls really fought hard for him.

Nashville Athletic Director Wayne Harre on former softball coach Dempsety Witte

This was a decision Witte wrestled with for some time. It’s tough to walk away from such a successful program with so much talent returning frmo a defending state championship team.

“It was an extremely tough decision,” he said. “I talked about it with quite a few people and it’s one of those deals where you went back and fort. Telling the girls was pretty tough, that was one of the toughest meetings I've ever had.

”It feels more like I'm hitting the pause button a little bit and will have some family time. Who knows what the future holds?”

Witte had two Division I softball players in Southern Illinois University Carbondale pitcher-first baseman Shea Harre and Southeast Missouri outfielder Nicole Deering. The program produced numerous other college players as well.

Harre felt one of the reasons Witte’s teams were so successful was his ability to separate the summer travel softball from the high school program. Many of Nashville’s players also played volleyball and basketball as well.

“The girls play a lot of softball in the summertime, they go to hitting coaches and pitching coaches,” Harre said. “He did not push them into coming in the offseason. When the (high school) season started, he would start and I think that kept it fresh for them. I thought that was very important.”

Witte was a bit hesitant to take the head coaching position five years ago, but found immediate success and kept on winning. Now it will be someone else’s turn to try their luck.

“I think whoever they hire will have something to work with and they'll do a good job,” Witte said. “Things worked out pretty well for me, I had a good staff around me. I’m certainly going to help the next person as much as I can because I’d really like to see a smooth transition.”

Harre isn’t sure who the next coach will be, or who may apply for the varsity coaching opening. The job will be posted within the district first.

Whoever is hired will be expected to continue the successful operation of one of the top small-school softball programs in the state.

Nashville has reached the state tournament seven times since 1999, winning state championships in 2015, 2012 and 2001. The Hornettes finished third in 2013 and 2004 and fourth in 1999.

“We’re sure going to try to have one by the end of November at the board meeting,” Harre said.

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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