The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic brought disappointment to many athletes and coaches who were sidelined during the spring sports season.
For Big Walnut softball coach Jeff Hatfield, it was “the last straw” in helping him determine to end his coaching career at his alma mater.
“At the end of the year, we got together for 30 minutes with the players, and seeing the seniors just broke my heart,” Hatfield said following the June 16 announcement of his resignation. “You just put all this work into it as players and coaches, and the rug gets pulled out from under you.”
This spring would have been Hatfield’s 14th season at Big Walnut, where his teams went 201-145 and won OCC championships in 2008 and 2009 and a Division I district title in 2014.
His teams reached a district final three other times.
“He was clearly dedicated to his players and the entire softball program,” athletics director Brian Shelton said on the school’s athletics website. “As the athletic director, I never had to worry about softball. Coach Hatfield always took responsibility for his program. He puts 100% into everything he does, and I appreciate what he has done for our softball program. We are going to miss him.”
Hatfield expected to have “one of his best ever” lineups this spring with senior all-state third baseman Hailey Krinn, who batted .536 with 14 doubles, six home runs and 24 RBI in 2019, leading the way. The lineup also would have featured senior catcher Molly Sharpe (.456, 4 homers, 32 RBI), junior shortstop Arielle Brown (.420, 3 homers, 26 RBI), senior second baseman Alyssa Tarney (.388, 19 RBI) and senior pitcher Autumn Imhoff (.375, 1 homer, 14 RBI).
Hatfield refers to his former players as his “daughters.”
“At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships,” he said. “I was blessed to be a part of the program, and coaching these girls was better than playing in high school or college.”