By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Rick Lane finally got his wish.
The coaching veteran is back in softball, having taken the reins at Independence.
“This is a job I’d been looking at for 10 years,” he said. “Softball is my favorite sport, and I’ve coached them all.”
Lane coached Marsh Fork to berths in the 1995 and 1996 state softball tournaments. He later became a teacher and girls basketball coach at Independence, and following that, was an assistant coach in volleyball.
But Tom Poe, who started softball at Independence, held a lock on the job until he retired in 2010. An assistant coach and former player, Ashley Jackson, took over the past two seasons.
When the Shady Spring softball job came open this year, Lane applied and got the position.
He would have been happy there. But almost immediately, Jackson resigned at Independence.
Lane reneged on the Shady job and took over the Patriots.
“It was just a matter of being closer to home,” he said.
Lane has inherited a team that is very young. The Patriots return just two seniors from last season’s team, shortstop Kelsey Hart and first baseman Kayla Meadows.
Standout pitcher Brooke Foley is a junior.
“We’re going to rely on youth and athleticism,” Lane said. “None of them have played extensively in the past. They’re all softball players, but have to find spots for them.”
Independence opened its season with an 8-7 loss to Wyoming East. Lane wasn’t disappointed at all with the Patriots’ effort.
“We gave up just one earned run, and all our runs were earned,” Lane said. “I look at it as an excellent game. We were down 5-0 and we handled it well. I was proud of them.”
Foley is the key. Lane said she’s showing maturity.
“Brooke’s composure was outstanding in the Wyoming East game. She gave up a home run and it just rolled off her back,” he said. “She hit a home run off their pitcher and they had to pull her out.
“Brooke is an athlete and she works hard.”
Both Meadows, the first baseman, and Hart, the shortstop, can hit for power. Both saw action last season for Independence.
Junior second baseman Elizabeth Epling is quick on her feet and knows the game.
Freshman twins Katy and Jessie Lilly are at catcher and third baseman, respectively. Lane is very high on both.
“Katy plays like a college kid. She has a big-time arm and is not afraid to try to pick people off first and third,” Lane said. “She still has some work to do behind the plate, but she’s a natural leader.
“Jessie has another big arm. I wasn’t used to seeing arms like that in single-A ball.”
Courtney Haga, a quick sophomore, is in left field. Freshman Savannah McCormick, a freshman, is very fast and fearless. Sophomore Taylor Parker, the right fielder, can hit for power.
Junior Taylor Parker and sophomore Brittany Allen, who both play multiple positions, are the top subs.
Lane admits he doesn’t know how good the team can get.
“We’ve had the worst weather situation I can imagine,” he said. “They need field time and to get to know one another.
“We’ve been on the field once — the day we played. They’re pretty good now, but they need to get better.
“If this team meshes, they’ve got unlimited potential.”
— E-mail: dstillwell