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Lady Eagles softball has a Riddle to figure out

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
When Chuck Riddle was approached a couple of weeks ago about taking over the W.S. Neal Lady Blue Eagles softball head coaching position, he admitted there was a little hesitation.
After all, Riddle was already in involved in one spring sport at the school as assistant baseball coach. It also comes near the end of a long school year for Riddle, who has also served as an assistant football coach at W.S. Neal Middle School and assistant boys basketball coach at W.S. Neal High School.
"My hesitation didn't last long. I enjoy working with (W.S. Neal baseball) Coach (Coy) Campbell and think the world of his work. I talked over the situation with him and he was very supportive of me coaching the softball team the rest of the spring. I'll still help out with the baseball team when there aren't conflicts with the softball schedule," Riddle said.
Revolving door and lack of success are two items that have usually been associated with W.S. Neal softball. Riddle is the program's fourth coach in three years and third in the last two for a program that has won just one game on the field in its existence (last year against McKenzie).
The Lady Blue Eagles were 0-3 when Riddle took over for preceding coach Angela Carr. W.S. Neal has since dropped its first two games under Riddle's guidance.
Riddle admits it will be tough to change W.S. Neal's fortunes this spring. The Lady Blue Eagles began the season with 19 players, but that figure has dropped to just 14. Eight of the 14 remaining players are eighth graders.
"It's going to be tough for us to compete. For all intent, we're asking a bunch of middle school girls to have to compete against older, more experienced high school players," Riddle said. "Right now the wins and losses aren't what is important. The important thing is for the girls to play and learn the game."
Last year W.S. Neal played only 11 games and just nine in the regular season.
"We're trying to get some more games on the schedule. We're going to try to get some of the teams on our schedule to play doubleheaders. Right now that part is tough at our field because our lights aren't working. We may be able to have a home doubleheader in a couple of weeks when the time changes and we have an extra hour of daylight to work with," Riddle said. "The other thing our players need to do is get involved in some kind of summer program. They can't expect to put the balls and bats down at the end of April, pick them back up at the first of March and expect to be better if they don't play more during the summer."
Even though Riddle, who is a 1994 graduate of W.S. Neal, has been with his new team only a few days, he has already grown attached to his players.
"I'm really enjoying working with these girls. I want to be there for them and let them know I'm behind them 100 percent. I want them to know I care about them," Riddle said. "I don't know what the future has for me with this program beyond this season. If I'm not coaching this team next year, I want the person who is to show support, encourage and give the kind of instruction these girls deserve. The program needs some continuity. It's been tough on the program having so many coaches since it started, but I'm glad to be a part of it."