On a warm and windless evening in central Iowa, dust, and grass fly in unison as select high school softball teams gear up for what could be a run to the hallowed ground of the softball state tournament.
Within the confines of ADM High School, between the chalk lines and the foul poles, stands a coach on the precipice of a state tournament berth. A lot has transpired for this coach to get to where she’s at, with a chance at history on the line.
The night before the ADM softball Tigers take the field for a chance at their 14th state tournament appearance, first-year head coach Jodi Doty views over the battleground of what will be the Region One championship game. On the line is the chance to be one of the first coaches in ADM softball history to take a team to the state tournament in just their first season at the helm, joining an elite group.
Coach Doty is at the helm of Class 4A’s second-ranked Tigers on the heels of a 28-6 season and from the way she conducts herself to the way her team plays, you’d never think this is her first year within the coaching ranks. Then again, when you count all the years as a player and a softball umpire, it’s really not that surprising to see the accomplishments role in while coaching.
“Being around the sport for so long I felt like the transition would be fairly smooth and it sure was,” said Doty. “Being an umpire really helped me view the game from a different perspective and I feel the firm knowledge of the rules has helped me become a more well-rounded coach.”
Even with the expertise, she’s gained, it’s still a year of firsts for Doty, including her first stint coaching in the postseason. Throughout her time as an umpire, Doty has called a multitude of playoff games and was given the opportunity to take part in two state tournaments, most recent coming last season. Now, after swapping attire, she has a postseason win and a chance at a state tournament berth on the line. There’s no doubt it’s been a whirlwind of a season but one she’s been extremely happy for.
“It’s definitely been different and it’s taken a little getting used to,” began Doty. “The great thing about it is that I have great coaches helping me out and I have phenomenal athletes and just great people playing for me. I’ve stepped into a community that has a strong passion for softball and there’s not much more you can ask for.”
ADM has been a ranked power for the entirety of the 2019 regular season and they’ve routinely proven why by being ranked top ten or better in Class 4A in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and batting average. Perhaps the scariest aspect about ADM for opponents is that they are producing all the success in a similar fashion to last season, with just one senior at the helm. The team has been operating with a fairly large junior class and a strong core of underclassmen but with the way they’ve conducted themselves, you’d never know.
“One thing I’ve loved about these girls is that all the upperclassmen and some of the underclassmen have really stepped up and taken on some form of leadership this season,” said Doty. “Everyone has their own style but they’ve all helped to make this team one unit which is exactly what you see with high caliber teams. We’ve been able to do so much more as a team thanks to these girls.”
With Doty’s entrance into the ADM coaching ranks, she’s replaced a long time great Rick Dillinger, now a member of the University of Iowa softball program. It’s often hard to replicate or even exceed the work done by a predecessor but as the players themselves will tell you, it’s been a smooth transition to the new regime.
“It’s been fascinating being coached by coach Dillinger and now coach Doty because they are both great coaches,” said senior Emily Hatchitt. “It wasn’t a difficult transition at all, in fact, it was rather easy because of how well she coaches. She has a great coaching style that is aggressive yet laid back at the same time. Just like Dillinger, Doty is doing a great job of bringing out the best in us. Doesn’t put too much pressure on us yet she always keeps pushing us.”
Now, all that will be funneled into tonight’s game which features a match-up with an Oskaloosa team that has been red hot through the postseason. While the main focus as noted by coach Doty is working within, she did note the different pitching style that they will be facing come 7 p.m.
“Against Newton, we faced a little slower pitching than we’re used to and I think that threw us off a bit,” began coach Doty. “Oskaloosa has a pitcher that throws harder which will work well for us yet we still have to be aware of any offspeed stuff. We’ve got to continue to sit back and play our game.”
Just hours remain before coach Doty and the Lady Tigers take the field for the Region One title game and the chance for another state tournament berth.