For Ricky Beale, coaching softball came natural.
The longtime Evans baseball coach took the reins from the retiring Colette Cassedy after the 2015 season. In two years, he’s transformed the Lady Knights into a local and state power.
After leading Evans to a 30-4 record, region championship and third-place finish in the state, Beale is The Augusta Chronicle All-Area Softball Coach of the Year.
“The fundamentals are very similar,” he said about the comparison between baseball and softball. “It was a good transition.”
Beale and Evans High School have been tied at the hip for much of his life. A member of two state championship baseball teams, he graduated from there in 1990. Beale then graduated from Augusta College and went to work as an assistant baseball coach at Butler for a year.
He returned to Columbia County, working for two years at Evans Middle School before becoming an assistant for coach Chris Segraves at Evans. After two seasons, Segraves left to become a school administrator. Beale took over in 2002 as the head baseball coach for the Knights. He is entering his 16th season at the helm.
Beale, 45, also coached football for a while, serving as the offensive coordinator for coach Marty Jackson in 2013 and 2014. After Jackson stepped down to become the athletic director at Grovetown, Beale asked Cassedy if she needed any help.
“I felt like it’d be a good opportunity to learn from her and Dez, the pitching coach at the time, and take it all in,” he said.
“I was more content to hang around over here and sit on the bucket.”
Beale is quick to credit his assistant coaches for helping him in baseball and softball. He also said his family helps with his success. He and his wife, Blaine, have three children: Justin, who played baseball at Evans, graduated from high school last year; Adam, a sophomore at Evans, helps with the book and with charts during games; Riley, a sixth-grader at Columbia Middle, is also around the program as much as possible.
“She was probably the happiest person when I took over softball. She’s able to come hang out and be around the girls,” Beale said. “And my wife is great. She’s at every game. It means as much to her when we win as it does anyone.”
Evans won plenty of games during the season, going undefeated against region opponents. The Lady Knights won 19 games in a row before falling to Pope, 2-0, in the first round of the Elite Eight. Evans bounced back to defeat Effingham County, Cambridge and Houston County. The Lady Knights had to play an unscheduled fourth game that same day after the GHSA made a change due to the threat of rain the following day. Evans ran out of steam, falling to Allatoona in a contest that ended close to midnight.
“They were exhausted playing four games in a day,” Beale said. “But if we had taken care of business (against Pope), we wouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation. Now they know they can play with anybody.”
While Beale is gearing up for baseball season, he also has an eye on the 2018 softball season. He returns everyone, including all-state players Leah Powell and Diamond Williams. Evans will be looked at as a state title contender.
“We’re coming off a season where we won 30 games. It’s going to be tough to duplicate that no matter who you put on the field, because everybody is going to be gunning for you,” he said. “What can I do to get these kids these better? That’s what it’s going to be about this offseason between now and August - what we’re able to do to improve the product we’re putting out on the field.”