Hayes honored as WDN Softball Coach of the Year
By By EUGENE L. TINKLEPAUGH, Staff Writer
Damon Hayes said accepting the job as the Williamston Tigers’ softball coach was the “best decision I’ve made in my life.”
Coaching a group of good girls makes it all worth it, Hayes said. Last season, he led some great ball players to a conference championship and four rounds into the state playoffs. The Atlantic Conference’s No. 1 seeded Tigers were one win away from a sectional championship and a trip to Raleigh.
The Tigers lost to Gates County in the sectional round of the NCHSAA Class 1A state playoffs after beating Camden, Southside and Manteo.
Williamston seniors, catcher Hillary Wynne, center fielder Samantha Williams and right fielder Morgan Roberson, went farther in the playoffs last season than in their three previous prep seasons.
Mid-March the Tigers were 1-7. The team turned it around and finished the year 17-10. Junior starting pitcher Morgan Miller was 13-5 on the mound this season.
For his team’s exceptional turn-around and exciting playoff run, Hayes has been selected as the Daily News Softball Coach of the Year.
Hayes also said his assistant coach, Marilyn Miller, contributed to the Tigers’ successful season.
The mid-season turnaround, he said, was a consequence of “never giving up the whole year.”
According to Hayes, the Tigers “always stayed positive, and we had a great leader on the field in Hillary Wynne, our catcher.”
Hayes said it took somebody different on the diamond to pick up the team and carry it at different tough spots this past season.
Hayes’ starting second basemen and shortstop were freshmen, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from their fielding prowess.
One of the highlights last season Hayes points to is the Tigers’ first-round win against Camden. Williamston was down late in the game, but pulled off a rally in the seventh inning and won 2-1 thanks to a walk-off double that scored the two runs.
The Tigers’ big win against Albemarle’s top-seeded Manteo was also a great moment for Williamston softball.
Williamston beat Manteo 1-0 with the help of a gem Miller pitched.
Hayes said he was surprised with his team’s tenacity and how quickly Miller matured on the mound.
Last season was Hayes’ fifth as the Tigers coach. This is his second year being named coach of the year.