The last time Nashville High turned a baseball coach into a softball coach, it led to a state softball championship.
The Hornettes may be trying tio create the magic again with the hiring of longtime junior varsity baseball coach Shaun Renth, who fills the varsity softball coaching position vacated by the retirement of Dempsey Witte.
Renth, 37, hopes to follow in the footsteps of current Nashville High baseball coach Chad Malawy. Malawy guided Nashville to a state softball title in 2001.
“I guess that’s the thinking, I’m not sure,” Renth said with a laugh. “We’ll see how it goes.”
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“It will will be like Chad,” Nashville Athletic Director Wayne Harre said. “Malawy did the JV baseball before and he took over the varsity softball, so it’s almost deja vu from 2000. I know (Shaun) was interested in being a head coach and this is an opportunity for him to run a program, so he’s looking forward it.”
Witte and the Hornettes tacked on two more state softball titles, winning the 2A championship last spring and also in 2012. Nashville finished third in 2013, so expectations are exceedingly high at one of the area’s top programs.
There would be additional pressure for any coach following Witte, whose five-year record was 173-19 including a 39-2 mark last spring.
“I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t,” said Renth, who grew up in Nashville and played three sports for the Hornets before playing baseball at Kaskaskia College. “They’re used to winning and that’s what they expect. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a daunting task to take over for a coach like Dempsey, who won two state titles and took third place in a five-year span.”
Renth has coached the JV baseball team at Nashville for 16 years.
Witte and Harre, who called pitches for the softball team for the years, aren’t returning but coaching experience remains with former head coach and longtime assistant Charlie Heck, assistant Patrick Weathers and new assistant coach Breanne Poelker.
“That’s going to be huge,” Renth said. “Charlie’s been around for years with the program and he was the head coach for a while. He and I see things very familiarly. It’s going to be nice to have that staff together.”
Renth has been a teacher at Trinity St. John Lutheran Grade School in Nashville since 2002. He also coaches the junior high baseball team there and serves as athletic director.
“I’ve always wanted to be a head coach and this seemed like the right fight and the right opportunity,” said Renth, who sought out Malawy to get advice before deciding to apply. “I asked him what he experienced and he thought it would be something I’d be able to do. I’ve coached with him for 10 years and we talked quite a bit, so if he thinks I can do it,I put a lot of stock into what he says.”
Also helping in the transition to a new coach is a strong nucleus of returning talent from the state championship team.
While the Hornettes lost several star-level players, including pitcher Maci Ingram, outfielder Emily Thompson, infielder Jordi Harre and catcher Daley Buchanan, six starters return.
That group is led by pitcher-first baseman Deidra Holzhauer (four homers, 43 RBIs), sophomore third baseman Paige Kasten, junior Alli Liske, sophomore catcher Carly Stanowski and sophomore infielders Brooke Burcham and Mackenzie McFeron.