By Brandon Speck/Daily Journal
HATLEY – Nobody expected Hatley to win.
The Tigers were coming off a six-win season and coach Mark Guntharp had resigned to become head coach at Pine Grove.
When assistant John Harris got the nod, a new vision and approach turned out to be a good thing.
Harris, 30, is a Smithville graduate and came to Hatley in his first job seven years ago.
After leading the Tigers to a 25-5 season and within a game of the Class 2A championship series, Harris is the Daily Journal Coach of the Year.
Kossuth’s Daniel Threadgill, whose Aggies were Class 3A state runner up, and Josh Dowdy of Class 2A champ Bruce were also finalists for the honor.
“I think the key was the guys really bought in. They worked hard every single day, had a positive attitude and great senior leadership,” Harris said.
Hatley won its first 18 – with a time limit tie against Mooreville during spring break – two of those wins at Kossuth and East Union.
It was the second time Hatley came as close to the state finals. In 2007, the team was within a win from the championship series under Guntharp.
“I learned a lot from him,” Harris said. “I took some of that and put it with my philosophies.”
The senior group was led by Jake Self. Self and junior Russ Johnson led at the plate and on the mound.
Harris is also quick to point out the additions of assistants Jamie Edwards and Brian McCollum.
“They take a lot of stuff off my plate. Just as much as it is the players, it’s having a good coaching staff and I’m lucky to have them,” Harris said.
The father of three had the third one during the final week of division play against Hamilton.
Kentleigh, now 9 weeks, is the latest addition, joining Kayleigh, 4, and John Kyle, 2.
“It says a lot for my wife,” Harris said. “She deserves as much credit as I do.”