Nelson’s Knights beat the odds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2002

ALDEN &045; At the start of the 2002 season, the odds were not good that Alden-Conger softball coach Gary Nelson would be doing any postseason newspaper interviews.

It was also a longshot for the young Knights to finish above .500.

Both happened.

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The Knights, who started three freshmen and three sophomores, went 11-10 while knocking off highly-regarded New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and Glenville-Emmons not once but twice.

It made Nelson the Tribune’s 2002 Softball Coach of the Year.

While Nelson doesn’t mind dealing with the media &045; for the most part anyway &045; he readily admits he might not always have what they’re looking for.

&uot;I don’t look at the stats too much,&uot; he said. &uot;If you asked me what our record was last year, I couldn’t tell you. The only stats I look at are what I need to for the papers.&uot;

Most newspapers didn’t expect a lot out of the 2002 Knights despite Nelson’s reputation as one of the area’s most respected coaches. He admits he had his doubts.

&uot;When you lose five seniors and Tasha Lackey, your only starting junior, is out for the year because of surgery, you can’t expect a whole lot,&uot; said Nelson. &uot;But it opened the door for a bunch of young kids who wanted to play.&uot;

The Knights’ success is even more surprising considering they had no B-squad in 2001. Nelson disbanded the team halfway through the season because not enough players were showing up.

While Nelson credited the youngsters for much of the Knights’ success, he said the seniors &045; Steph Ausen, Patty Boettcher and Molly Wasmoen &045; were vital to the team.

&uot;They told me after the season the had never had a winning season at any level,&uot; said Nelson. &uot;That just blew me away. And we had fun. We had fun.&uot;

Nelson also credited his assistant coach Rich Lackey.

&uot;He kept the kids’ heads in the game and he made practice fun,&uot; said Nelson.

NRHEG coach Wendy Schultz said it’s fun to face Nelson’s teams.

&uot;He has a good attitude,&uot; said Schultz. &uot;And it doesn’t seem to matter whether he has underclassmen or veterans, he always seems to whip them into shape. But he never seems to worry if he wins or loses. He’s just out there to have fun.&uot;