Two of a kind; Beirne, Herring named co-coaches of the yearPublished 5:02pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Being a good coach is about more than just filling out a lineup card and making the right moves during a ball game. A good manager also knows how to handle egos and expectations and this season no one did that better than Northside’s Jack Beirne and South Creek’s Patrick Herring.
At Northside, Beirne had to have a veteran Panthers team buy into the fact that a few young stars where going to play a vital role during the season and kept jealousy and entitlement from infiltrating the locker room.
At South Creek, Herring had to deviate from softball’s one-ace tradition by using a two-pitcher rotation. Something easier said than done, especially when both pitchers are capable of being the lone horse and are playing for potential scholarships.
However, both coaches where able to successfully sell their causes and keep team chemistry positive, which enable both Herring and Beirne to be named the Washington Daily News Co-Softball Coaches of the Year.
Beirne’s Panthers greatly benefited from the infusion of young talent as Northside captured a share of the Four Rivers Conference crown just one year after falling to make the playoffs.
Though South Creek placed third in the loaded Four Rivers Conference, Herring was able to reap the rewards of having two battle tested pitchers in the playoffs as the Cougars leaned on senior Taylor Moore and junior Lauren Sitterson all the way to the NCHSAA 1-A state title game.
Beirne’s efforts led him to be voted the Four Rivers Conference Coach of the Year, an honor he shares with his wife Louise who works as an assistant coach, and said that this season would not have been so successful if not for the cooperation of his entire team.
“It took a lot of work on everybody’s part,” Beirne said. “Some girls that have historically had a lot of playing time had to humble down and say ‘you know what, I have a role with this team it just may not be as significant as it was before.’
“There wasn’t a whole lot of complaining. Usually when you have something like that happen you have people show a little bit of a negative attitude and I didn’t see a whole lot of that this year. Any time you can keep everybody positive that’s a good thing.”
That positivity and unselfishness helped Northside (16-5) bring home a conference title and reach the third round of the playoffs.
Selflessness was also the driving force behind South Creek’s 25-6 record and second-place finish in the state. In hindsight, the decision to rotate Moore and Sitterson seems like a no-brainer, but the truth was it was a difficult decision that came with many potential trappings and loads of opportunities to be second-guessed.
Herring avoided those pitfalls by being up front and honest with his players from the get-go.
“We started that from Game 1,” Herring said of the rotation. “I told the players straight out that they would be splitting time. A lot of times in softball teams have one ace. I looked at the girls and told them that we’re going to go into this with two starters and you have to be there to pick each other up. One game one of you might struggle a little bit but the other will come in and get the save or vice versa.
“I told them this is just the way it’s going to work and you guys need to buy into this system and if you do things will work out well.”
That it did, as the Cougars reached a state title game for the first time in any sport in the school’s history.
The two coaches did more than just handle the emotional aspect of the game. Beirne freely used several lineup combinations and rode hot bats that helped make the Panthers one of the most feared offensive teams in the league.
Herring’s squad may not have had all the firepower that that Northside did but his team was well versed in the fundamentals of small ball which helped capture huge playoff wins.
Overall, it was a great season for both teams and with several talented players coming back next season the Cougars and the Panthers should continue to be fearsome for the foreseeable future.