BELMONT – Heading into Tuesday’s non-conference showdown with Mineral Point, Belmont head coach Jeff Hodgson didn’t have his 300th career victory on his mind. He just wanted to lead this year’s Lady Braves to their next victory.
Hodgson’s Braves scored four times in the home-half of the fifth to snap a 1-1 tie, then held off a late rally to defeat the visiting Pointers, 5-3, at Bond Park on April 17.
The win kept the #6-ranked Lady Braves unbeaten on the season at 9-0 and gave Coach Hodgson his 300th career victory.
“I’m a good softball coach in Belmont. I don’t know if I’d be one somewhere else, but this works for me. It’s been the right situation for me,” said Hodgson, who currently holds a 300-114 overall record in his 18 seasons at Belmont. “I’m excited I got a chance to do it with this group of kids. They have really done some amazing things for us this year.”
The Braves tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning on a run-scoring single by pitcher Kalyn Kamps, then grabbed the lead in the fifth on back-to-back two-run singles by Niki Jenkins and Kamps.
The Pointers plated a pair of runs in the sixth to trim the deficit to 5-3, but Kamps put on the clamps from there and shut out the guests the rest of the game.
Kamps scattered seven hits and walked four (two intentional) en route to the complete-game win, and she struck out 11 batters along the way.
Kamps also helped her own cause by going 2-for-3 with three RBI. Jenkins went 2-for-2 with two RBI and a run, while Katelyn Schobert doubled and scored for the Braves.
Coach Hodgson took over the Belmont softball program from Mary Reynolds in 1995 and quickly turned the Lady Braves into a winner.
“When I came here I was given more talent than a coach could ask for and they taught me how to win,” Hodgson stated.
After posting a 6-10 record in his first season at the helm– his only losing season to date, Hodgson and the Lady Braves shined on the softball diamond posting 16 consecutive 12+ win seasons, which included 11 conference championship titles, 10 regional titles, five sectional titles, five state appearances and a state title in 2002.
“We got to go places and play teams a lot of other teams in our area didn’t get the chance to play. Now, it’s much easier for us to win games,” noted Hodgson. “Playing good teams can only expose your weaknesses.”
Hodgson admitted a big part of his success is due to the support the program has received from the school, the community and his own family.
“They have allowed this to happen by buying into our program,” he said.
Hodgson is quick to acknowledge the contributions of long-time assistant coach Phil Spensley as well as all his other assistant coaches over the years, and he also cited the work done by the youth coaches in the summer has helped the program sustain their place among the top teams in the area and the state.
“I’m glad it’s out of the way,” Hodgson said about the hubbub surrounding his 300th win. “I don’t like the focus on me. I rather have it on the players, especially the seniors. They are having a great season. That’s who I really want to talk about.”
And, with the way the team has been playing this year, there will be plenty more to talk about for Hodgson and the Braves.
As for the wins, they will continue for years to come for the Belmont coach if he has his way since he has a daughter he would like to coach through high school.
“She’s in pre-kindergarten now, so if I get my wish I’ll coach until she’s done,” he admitted.
Who knows how many wins he’ll have by then.
Belmont heads to Potosi for a key Six Rivers West game on Thursday, April 26, and the Braves return home to face Fennimore in a non-conference contest on Tuesday, May 1. Both games are scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
Mineral Point… 100 002 0 - 3 7 1
Belmont………. 000 140 x - 5 7 1
Leading Hitters: Niki Jenkins 2x2, Kalyn Kamps 2x3. 2B- Katelyn Schobert.
WP- Kalyn Kamps. LP- Wood.