Every coach can name a favorite victory or two in his or her career.
Shon Ranton, the softball coach at Aubrey High School, has a mere 500 to choose from.
Ranton celebrated his 500th victory when the Lady Chaparrals beat Paradise 12-1 in a tournament game in Whitesboro on Feb. 14. Anticipating the win, his team had a banner on hand to commemorate the occasion.
For Ranton, the most memorable game was in the state tournament in 2007, when the Lady Chaps were down 3-0 in the semifinals against Prairiland and were coming to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Aubrey rallied to win, 4-3, and just the suddenness of the ending, especially because the team had done little offensively up to that point – just two hits in six innings – made that victory stand out. The Lady Chaps lost to Troy in the state final, 6-3, though.
“Because nothing was working for us,” Ranton said about the semifinals game. “We gave up three runs in the stinking first inning, and then we couldn’t put anything together until the last inning.”
He thought his team was destined to win it all, “but it just didn’t pan out.”
Ranton described winning the 500th game as the culmination of a long process.
“I feel very fortunate to be in one place for so long, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have good parents and kids that work. That creates our talent level, because it’s the parents who put in the work taking the kids to practices and playing outside of school. The kids are dedicated to being as good as they can be.
So, I promise those wins don’t happen without those two factors – the parents and the kids. I’m just the reaper of the benefits, you know?”
Ranton credits the work assistant coach Leslie Andrews in helping shape the program, as she has been at the school since the 2003 season. Kylie Roos has also taken over a huge part of the responsibilities.
In his 25th year at Aubrey, Ranton has coached softball throughout that time. He coached at a private school, Notre Dame High School, in Wichita Falls before coming to Aubrey.
The softball program began at AHS in 1994, and Ranton’s first year was 1995. Ranton has taken three teams to the state tournament: 2002, 2004 and 2007. The 2004 also lost in the state championship game, 1-0, in eight innings to Danbury. In 2008, the team made regional finals in 2008 and was one game away from state before losing to S&S. That team won 30 games.
Several teams stand out in Ranton’s mind, including the three teams that played in state tournaments.
“The ’07 team was unique in the sense that we were coming off a season before where we were 14-10 and didn’t make the playoffs,” he said. “We were one game out. We went from 14 [wins] to 31 wins that year and then lose in the state championship game. So that was a team that really surprised me with level of play that we got to and were able to maintain.”
The 2004 team was led by three seniors who left an indelible mark: pitcher Sarah Looper, second baseman Christie Hartwell and shortstop Joni Greenway. They batted 2-3-4 in the order.
“Those three definitely led us throughout the whole year,” he said. “They controlled the team in the sense of our focus and didn’t let us slack.”
In the ’04 title game, no Lady Chap struck out, as the ball was put in play by each batter, Ranton said.
“We just couldn’t find the hole anywhere at the right time,” he said.
He emphasizes players have to dedicate a lot of time and gain game experience outside the season just to be able to compete during the regular high school season. Ranton hopes his players have learned the lessons in practices to carry with them during games.
“It’s so easy to lose focus in practice and not stay on task, and every time you do that, it makes you regress to where your execution may not be there in games when it really counts,” he said.
As far as coaching itself, the most enjoyable aspect is the “thrill and satisfaction of seeing work equal success,” Ranton said.
Laney Roos and Jessica Grimes, players on this year's team, enjoyed being on the squad when the 500th win occurred.
“It’s pretty fun to be a part of it because he definitely deserved it,” Roos said.