Sports

Don Wood takes helm of South Whidbey fastpitch team

Don Wood’s strategy is simple.

Runs, and then some.

Wood is the new coach of the fastpitch softball team at South Whidbey High School. He is taking over a crew from former coach Chuck Burton that finished 10-10 last year (12-10 overall) and advanced to the District 1 playoffs.

“We’ve been real fortunate to have great people from the community step up and head our girls fastpitch; Chuck Burton, Todd Lubach, and now, Don Wood,” said athletic director John Patton.

Patton noted Wood’s many years of coaching experience, through Little League and select clubs. Patton also praised the new coach’s knowledge of the game, and his attention to detail.

“He has years of experience coaching, and coaching this group of girls,” Patton said. “He has a great knowledge of the game, and a great rapport with the kids.”

Patton said the team has enjoyed strong leadership in its coaching ranks over the years, and that will continue with Wood at the helm.

Beyond a continued focus on the fundamentals, Wood also expects to see more bunting and “small ball” play in the coming season.

“We definitely plan on doing a lot of running,” he said. “We’re going to be fast on the bases.”

“I’ve learned in fastpitch a lot of games are won and lost by one run,” the coach said. “I’m going to emphasize smart base running and aggressive base running.”

Wood is no stranger to fastpitch softball, despite a long résumé in slow-pitch that found him on third base for a top-level team back east.

He played for the Iwakuni Yanks while stationed in Japan in the late 1980s with the Marine Corps. Wood played third base for the Marine team that represented his base in fastpitch tournaments in Japan and Korea.

“We did fairly well. The Japanese teams were very tough, very small-ball.”

“They do a lot of bunt, move the ball, move the runners, generate runs,” he explained. “As Americans, we like to get up there and hit it as hard as we can.”

It was a real learning experience, and one that underscored his love of the game and the strategy that’s needed to win.

“I just really loved the game; it was a lot faster-paced,” he said. “It was a nice break from slow-pitch.”

He’s been involved in coaching the current crop of seniors since 2004-05, and was the head coach of the Island Intensity fastpitch select club for two years before his daughters were in the high school program.

Given the team’s expected returners, it’s not unrealistic to set postseason play as a goal.

“I’ve been very positive of our chances of making it into the postseason,” he said. “I think they have the ability.”

The team also expects Katy Piehler to return to the mound for the Falcons.

“We’re going to put a good defense behind her so she can stay strong and hit the strike zone,” he said.

Wood is a familiar face to Falcons fans. He has helped with the high school program for the past three years. His daughters — Allison, a senior, and Brittany, a sophomore — both played last year.

Wood also wants to make sure the varsity team is intertwined with the junior varsity team, something that will be essential for making a run in the playoffs.

“I expect our junior varsity to be as competitive as our varsity team,” he said.

“And when we get into the post season, I’m looking for some of those JV players to step up and really help us.”

Tryouts start March 1.

There’s scuttlebutt that the size of the turnout at tryouts will be big — bigger than usual.

“I’m just excited to get out there and see who shows up and see who’s ready to play some ball,” Wood said.

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