Madison County coach Doug Kesler is taking his final trip around the bases this year at the helm of the Red Raider softball program.
Last Thursday, the 16th year coach reached a pretty significant career base — his 400th career win, which came with a 4-2 victory over Heritage at home. On Saturday, his players, fellow coaches and supporters honored the soon-to-retire coach with a cake, a ball signed by the team and a banner prior to the MCHS showdown with Apalachee.
“Number one, it means you’re old,” joked Kesler Monday about the 400-win milestone. “But I’ve been blessed to have great kids and great assistant coaches. I’ve always been fortunate to have a great staff and parental support. It’s more about the kids and coaches I’ve had than it is about me. I’ve just been very fortunate to have those folks around me. I’ve been able to surround myself with good people and that’s the big key to it. It’s more of an accomplishment for our program than an individual accomplishment.”
The winningest coach in Georgia fast-pitch history said Monday that he has tried to live by Colossians 3:23, both in coaching and in life: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
While Kesler’s coaching helm is coming to an end this fall, there’s still plenty of softball left, and plenty of big-time objectives — first and foremost, a state championship. The Red Raiders have finished runner-up at state twice in Kesler’s tenure, including a second-place finish last year.
Now, the 25-2 Raiders are aiming to get back to Columbus and to grab the top prize in Class AAAA. Madison County fell short in heartbreaking fashion last year, losing in extra innings in the championship round after battling back from the state tournament losers’ bracket.
With its 8-0 region record in 2013, Madison County has already secured a berth in the state playoffs. But the region tournament awaits. And those matchups will determine seedings for the state tournament.
Madison County will open the 2013 Region 8-AAAA playoffs against the winner of this week’s Lanier/Eastside series. The Red Raiders will play two games Saturday at home against one of those teams at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. If necessary, a third game will be played Monday afternoon. If Madison County wins that series, they will play Thursday, Oct. 10 at home for the Region 8-AAAA championship. The Raiders will then open the state tournament. If they win the region title, they’ll be assured of hosting the first two rounds of state. If they finish second, they’ll host the first round, but may have to hit the road in the second round. If they win the first two rounds of state, they’ll travel to Columbus at the end of October to participate in the eight-team championship series for the Class AAAA crown.
Already, Madison County’s 2013 squad is enjoying some rarified air in MCHS softball program history. The team is rivaling the 2009 stout Red Raider record. That year, Madison County started the season 24-1, en route to a 27-4 finish. Madison County nearly equaled the 2009 start, going 23-1 to start this year. But the club dropped a game to Franklin County last week to fall to 23-2. However, the 26-2 team still has a chance to etch its place in history as school’s first softball state champions.