David Allen and Ken Hawkins have talked about this for three seasons now. It’s no longer just talk.
Maryville High School athletics director George Quarles announced on Tuesday that Allen has been named the school’s new softball coach, replacing Hawkins, who stepped down from the position last week. Allen said he and Hawkins had discussed the latter stepping away from the game for some time, most recently prior to this season.
When Hawkins decided last week family commitments were just too pressing to ignore any longer, Quarles made Allen, the Lady Rebel assistant the last three seasons, his first choice.
Hawkins and he “talked back and forth this season before we even started that this was going to be his last season,” Allen said.
When Quarles asked if he’d like the job, Allen said he didn’t need long to decide.
“I said I’d like to give it a shot,” he said.
Hawkins had quite a run in 11 seasons as Maryville’s coach. The Lady Rebels won six District 4AAA championships, four Region 2AAA titles and made four state tournament appearances during his tenure. Maryville reached the state championship game in 2002, with former Tennessee Lady Vol Sarah Fekete as the ace in the pitching circle.
The Lady Rebels finished third in the state a year ago, reaching the region semifinals this spring. Maryville fell, 1-0, to Powell in Hawkins’ final game as coach.
Allen said he’s grateful for all he’s learned under Hawkins.
“We have a great tradition, and coach Hawkins has done a great job building the program to where it is today,” he said. “It’s a fun game. I enjoy watching it even when I’m not coaching.”
Maryville will be without staff ace Chancli Connatser, a Milligan College signee, in Allen’s first season as coach, but there’ll be plenty of talent on hand for another run.
The Lady Rebels return one of the state’s top players in junior shortstop Bry Blanco. The All-American candidate hit better than .600 this past season with 16 home runs, a better than .700 on-base percentage, almost 60 runs batted in and nearly 60 runs scored.
Junior Allison Barbee will move from third base to the pitching circle to take over for Connatser. Barbee, junior second baseman Jessica Connatser and sophomore catcher Haley Hilliard all hit over .400 this past season. Senior centerfielder Blakely Jones was hitting above that mark as well before injury slowed her progress.
With that to build on, Allen, a 1991 Maryville graduate, says he feels good about the Lady Rebels chances of making another run at the state tournament.