By: Jim Steele
Kristi Brown was just as surprised as the rest of the McKenzie High School softball team last Friday when she learned, during the post-game gathering, that head coach Becca Jones would be stepping down.
She made the announcement following the Lady Rebels 3-0 substate loss at Scotts Hill. Less than a week later, Brown was just as surprised to be named Jones' successor.
"I didn't know Becca wasn't coming back until she told the team Friday," Brown said. "All this has happened so fast, so (being named head coach) hit me by surprise."
Brown takes over a team that has a long legacy for success, going back to the days when the coach played at McKenzie High School. Her predecessor led the Lady Rebels to three substate appearances, a state-tournament berth and a the team's first district championship in 20 years. Brown said she is pretty stoked, but she realizes there are expectations, too.
"I'm very excited," she said, "but there is a lot of pressure to succeed, big shoes to fill since they've gone so far and done so well. it kind of makes me nervous."
The Lady Rebels have a several key members returning next season from a team that won 21 games in 2017.
"I think this team has a lot of ability. I think they can go a long way if they try hard every day and use their talents," she said.
The season hasn't even been over a week and the newness of the new responsibility hasn't allowed the new coach much time develop her approach as the team's mentor, but will be working her plans for next year's squad as the summer goes on. She says she'll have tryouts for soon and may have another tryout session in the fall. The coach says she's looking forward to coaching her daughter, Karli, who will be a sophomore next year. She was 2-2 as a pitcher and struck out 18.
"I'm excited about the opportunity (to coach her daughter), but I'm not sure she's very excited," said Brown.
The Lady Rebel coach played for McKenzie High School back in the mid 1990s as an eighth grader. Christina French, who played college softball at Union, will return to the team as an assistant coach.