It’s a sign the Greenon Knights’ softball team is heading in the right direction. For the first time in years the team might have as many wins as players on the varsity roster.
Second-year coach Rick Armstrong knows all about wins, recently earning his 400th. Now he’s working on adding players.
“To be honest, I kind of always looked at it like if I stick around long enough eventually I’m going to accumulate a few wins,” Armstrong said of reaching another milestone in his Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame career. “I really enjoy it. I’ve been successful with it a little bit. And I keep learning.”
The game is different from when Armstrong took over as a head coach 25 seasons ago. It’s gone from a seasonal sport to a year-round activity including travel ball for the top players. Bats are better. Hits have gotten shorter with a small-ball game, among other differences.
“The game has changed,” Armstrong said. “It’s gone from when we had a lot of the big hitters. You’d hopefully get somebody on and a big hitter would come up and hit the long ball. Now it’s a short game.”
Armstrong, who is 404-192 in his career at Kettering Fairmont and Greenon, feels like he’s building a winner. The Knights were 7-5 following a tough 2-1 loss to Indian Lake (12-2) on Tuesday.
The seven wins matched last season’s total (7-18). The 14 wins in Armstrong’s two seasons match Greenon’s total from 2008-2012 combined.
The Knights aren’t ready to challenge for a Central Buckeye Conference title just yet — the program’s last league title came in 1987 — but they are on the right base paths.
“You have to build the interest and you gotta get them to buy into what you’re doing. I’ve been very happy at Greenon,” Armstrong said. “The kids I’ve had have worked hard. They’re very coachable. We’re trying to change the mindset a little bit. We have to work in the offseason and plug away to get better.”
Greenon has 11 players on varsity and 10 players on junior varsity. Last season the junior varsity played 23 games. In the four seasons before Armstrong arrived the JV team played nine games total.
“I’m hoping next year we’ll have some more kids come out,” Armstrong said. “I’m a little disappointed we didn’t have any from the senior class. That’s OK. The kids we have this year keep working.”
As will Armstrong. He has no timetable for retiring from softball, but he does know he won’t be coaching for the next major milestone.
“I don’t know I’ll stick around that long,” Armstrong said, chuckling at the idea of 500 career victories. “We just keep plugging away. These young kids have really improved a lot and they’re working hard. I enjoy that. I’ll stick around a few more years and see if we can get this program headed in the right direction.”