On March 24, softball head coach Kim Wilson crossed the 700-win threshold as part of a career spanning more than 20 years. The victory was the then-10th straight for the team, now sitting 20-6 overall (3-1 NJAC) with 14 games left in the season. I sat down with the Profs’ longtime skipper on Wednesday evening to discuss a variety of topics related to her time in brown and gold.
This is your 20th season with Rowan, and 26th overall. What would you say is the most rewarding part of the job at this point?
Just having great kids that graduate. I get an opportunity to watch them become young women. I think they come in as little girls sometimes and it’s neat to see them blossom and turn into adults.
Over the years, has anything in your philosophy as a coach changed?
No, probably not. I think maybe I’ve mellowed a little bit but I think it’s also you can talk to the kids now a little differently than you could in the past. Twenty years ago was a little different. Overall, my coaching philosophy is play good defense, score one more than they do and have good pitching.
You came into the year very close to that 700-win mark. Obviously at some point you knew you were going to hit it, maybe sooner rather than later. To view it in terms of the whole season, how exactly did you take that 700th win?
I actually didn’t know about it. In December, you kind of have to turn in your coaching record to the NFCA, our association. But then I never think about it again, so it was a surprise to me. In December, I thought “OK, it will happen at some point during the season,” but then I kind of lost track of it. It’s really the wins will come if they’re going to come. You know, if we’re doing our job, the wins will be there.
The team had a little celebration for you there at the end of the game.
They did (laughs).
So you’re saying it’s more of a “how much it helps in the long run” sort of thing?
No, I’m not dismissing it but it’s not… Each season is unique and there’s a bigger goal. I mean the coaching wins will come if we’re doing the little things right and we’re playing for championships at the end of the season and that sort of thing.
That win added to the streak your team was on coming back from Florida. You guys have been on a roll really since coming back. What would you say your takeaway was for the first month of the season?
We played some really good teams the first weekend that we played down in North Carolina, teams that had eight to 10 games on us, so it was good to go out and put some pressure on ourselves. And then when we went to Florida, we started playing teams that were more evenly matched as far as how many games they have in, it felt like we were gaining experience. I think every day we’re gaining experience, and going into the NJAC season we still have a lot to learn and we still have a lot to do. We’re obviously going in the right direction.
It helps to have players back that have been here and are leaders and know the team. On the other hand, what were maybe some of the tougher positions that you had to fill this season?
We lost a center fielder, a second baseman, a third baseman. I think we’re talented in those positions, we just don’t have the experience we need and that’s coming. Going into it, we’ve had a lot of people compete for those positions. I think we’re getting better. Overall I think these kids will outplay some of the other ones but you know that just takes time.
Who would you say, maybe part of that group as well, has stepped up or surprised you to this point?
I think [freshman] Carly Anderson’s done a good job. She’s playing second base rather than shortstop. Nicole Paiotti’s playing third base, doing a nice job. She’s a transfer and she’s got two years of college experience. And then in center field we have a freshman out there so she’s learning the ropes as we go. It’s a little different when you’re a freshman and you’re taking charge in center field, and you’ve got to just do it. But I think they’re all doing a great job.
Things are seeming to click at the plate now and I know from what I’ve seen the past few years, the team can get going on offense and you guys score double digits a lot. What can you say that’s a testament to, just playing one at bat at a time? Is it a small ball kind of approach?
I think any one of our kids in our lineup can actually hit a home run. Our mindset is one base at a time, but I think that anybody puts pressure on because any kid can at any time can hit a home run also.
I don’t want to leave out the pitching, we focused on that for the past week’s story and it was a big part there. But, again, going to what I’ve seen over the few years I’ve been here, pitching has been a strength of the team. Is that something in recruiting you really focus on, bringing in some top pitchers?
Yeah, definitely. [Senior] Beth Ann [Hyland] played for a state championship, was in the final rounds of the state championship in her high school career. [Senior] Allison [Nolan] was also in the semifinals and that sort of thing. [Freshman] MacKenzie [Juodaitis] came in and she’s an All-State kid from Connecticut. So I think that’s part of what we do. [Sophomore Ashley] Lesch had a lot of success in high school. They’re selfless. At any time, any of them have to be ready to go. You just never know when it’s not one kid’s day and it’s somebody else’s day.
Recruiting as a whole, are you starting to see interest from maybe more areas in South Jersey? Do you get a big range of players who can come in here?
We get a lot of kids from North Jersey. We have a kid from Connecticut, two from Delaware now. I feel like we’re actually going further away. A lot of kids want to go away to school, so the North Jersey kids come down here, the South Jersey kids go up North and then some will come home. We do have a pitching recruit coming in from Washington Township right down the road for next year. There’s no rhyme to exactly who wants to come.
With the way things ended last year, obviously it was a deep playoff push, and the team has had success in the past, but what is maybe something about that run that you’ve learned to take into future seasons?
Some of it was two years ago, they took it for granted that we won the conference, we won the region and we went to super-regionals, so going into last year, I think we took it for granted that it’s easy and we can just do it. Going into regionals last year, I feel like we were looking forward to the end of the road and not focusing on that weekend. We’ve kind of righted the ship with that I think, not looking too far down the road.
That was my next question. Is it kind of everybody on an even keel and trying to not look too far ahead?
Yeah absolutely. That’s important for us, you know, it’s a long season. It’s a short long season. Now we’re into an 18-game season for the NJAC and then it will be basically six teams have to make the NJAC tournament, so that’s the next round, playing good that weekend and then going into NCAAs.
What can you hope the team accomplishes and you’re able to do by season’s end?
I mean, I’d love to be playing in the national championship and I’d love that for this group. I think they’ve worked hard. Our seniors have really bought into the process and the program, I would like to see that happen for them. There’s a long way to go between now and then, though.
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