head coach at Saginaw Valley State
University. Waiting in the wings to take
the Grenadiers’ head coaching position
was Floyd Central High School softball
coach Joe Witten, who was hired in
August to help the Grenadiers continue
their successful run.
I followed the program since its
inception,” Witten said. “My wife
played softball here. I knew that the
program had a lot of upside. This is
a hotbed for softball. I know Coach
Buckingham recruited a lot of players
from the area and brought a lot of
interest in softball.”
Witten’s career record at Floyd Central
stands at 222-82-4, for a .721 winning
percentage. His resume includes five
conference championships, a regional
title, and one appearance in the state
finals, so he is no stranger to running
successful programs.
The timing was paramount for me,” he
said. “I spent a decade at Floyd Central,
and I felt that I had done all that I could do
there. The time to transitionwas now.”
Witten inherits a team that lost
six starters from last year’s squad,
including the school’s career win leader
in pitcher Kayla Duke. However, plenty
of players remaining who gained
valuable experience last season.
I think the group here is as good as
any that has been here,” Witten said.
We think that we can win a national
title because the girls who return have
tasted success, and we have new,
integral players who have transferred
in or are freshmen who can make an
impact.”
The Grenadiers were ranked No. 20 in
the NAIA Coaches’ Poll entering the
season.
The previous success during
conference play – and now in the
national tournament – has helped
the IU Southeast program raise its
profile to a national level. Teams are
calling everyday to try to get on the IU
Southeast schedule and to scout the
Grenadiers before they might have to
face them in the NAIA tournament.
Now, if a school beats IU Southeast, it
takes on more meaning for the victors.
I feel like we have become more
competitive,” Sutherland said. “If
schools beat us, it is like they won the
World Series. “
Though the coaching staff changed,
the expectations remain the same for
the program. The team’s recent success
does not mean the next championship
will come any easier.
I don’t want them to rest on their
laurels and think that just because they
won their pool and advanced to the
single-elimination round and were a
hit away or a pitch away from getting to
the Final Four that they are going to get
back there just like that,” Witten said.
We are no longer a sleeping giant. The
team has made a lot of noise, and now
we are a force to be reckoned with.”
IU Southeast
Spring 2013 11