Ken Hardin was going to get back into softball anyway. He just upped his grade level a bit.
Hardin was targeted to take over T.A. Dugger’s middle school program before Elizabethton head coach Leanne Click resigned. So Hardin returned to the Lady Cyclones after a three-year absence.
Hardin was Elizabethton’s tennis coach this season, overseeing Danielle Vines’ run to a Class A-AA state singles title. He was stepping out of that sport regardless, and now Click will move into his former position.
“I had been planning to get out of tennis,” said Hardin. “When she resigned the softball position, (athletic director) Mike Wilson approached me and I took it.”
Hardin took over the Lady Cyclones’ program in 2004 and guided it to unprecedented success. He led Elizabethton to three straight 30-win seasons (2009-11) and the 2010 team reached the Class AA sectional before losing to perennial state power Corryton Gibbs on the road.
Click took over in 2012, and in each of her three seasons the Lady Cyclones reached the region semifinals before losing to Greeneville. Last year’s team was 22-11, and Hardin will be dealing with the loss of several key players — including pitcher Lindsey Cunningham and power-hitting catcher Caley Hodge.
“They lost a very talented class,” said Hardin. “It will be a rebuilding effort, and it would have been even if she had stayed.
“We will just have to see. I’ve got to get everything squared away, and see what I have.”
Hardin will have to wait for the dead period to pass, which begins Sunday and lasts two weeks. But he said he hasn’t lost touch with coaching softball.
“I’ve been working with the Little League kids,” he said. “And we took an 18-under group to Florida for the southeast region.”
Hardin said he believes he’s ready for the challenge once again.
“I think I will work and coach just as hard as I did before,” he said.
And he’s even ready to renew the rivalry with friend Grady Lingerfelt, the head coach at perennial power Unicoi County.
“I look forward to it,” said Hardin. “We always played them as often as we could. We will try to get back to the point we were before.”comments powered by Disqus