May 7, 2013

Granger becomes North Murray softball coach

Devin Golden

— Steve Granger has been North Murray High School’s head baseball coach for four seasons.

Now he will double up on his head-coaching diamond duties.

Granger became the new head coach of the Lady Mountaineers softball program on Monday. He replaces Daphne Winkler, who stepped down to focus all of her time as Bagley Middle School’s assistant principal and a mother of two kids. North Murray athletic director Roger Rainey said Winkler informed him last week of her decision.

“When you’re an administrator, there’s a lot of extra time involved,” Rainey added. “It has taken a lot of time.

“What she stressed to me was she didn’t feel comfortable doing that and being the head coach because she didn’t want to shortchange the program.

“She just wanted to kind of step back. I think it’s just an issue with the time.”

Winkler said she “wants the best” for the players on the team.

“This past year I was hired as an assistant principal at (Bagley) Middle School.” Winkler said. “It was hard. We still did well and made the state playoffs, but I felt I held the girls back. There were times I went to practice and my phone was ringing with stuff still going on at Bagley.

“I felt it wasn’t fair to not give the girls someone who could devote 100 percent of his or her attention.”

Granger, a 1990 graduate of Southeast Whitfield, has been the baseball coach since the school began in 2009. He has been the assistant softball coach for two seasons, all under WInkler’s leadership. Granger’s experience with the program, and knowledge of the game, made it an easy choice, Rainey said.

“I think his leadership and experience being around baseball and softball is similar,” he added. “Being in the program and around the girls makes this an easy transition. He was interested and excited. We felt it was a simple fit for our program at North Murray.”

This past season, the baseball team finished 10-13 under Granger’s coaching and narrowly missed out on the Class 3A state playoffs. Last year, the squad finished 11-13 and also missed the postseason.

“He already has a good rapport with the girls,” Winkler said of Granger. “I think they’ll be happy he’s the coach, because they were nervous when I told them I was leaving.”

Lestine Hensley was the school’s first softball coach, serving for the first two years before Winkler stepped in. In each of Winkler’s seasons as head coach, North Murray reached the Georgia High School Association state playoffs.

In 2011, the Lady Mountaineers reached the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs and were one series win away from advancing to Columbus for the state tournament. In 2012, the team lost in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.

The softball program was the second in school history — behind the boys soccer team — to reach the state postseason.

“I really don’t want to leave them, because they have a good team and should compete at the state level,” Winkler said.

The Lady Mountaineers plan to return seven starters from last year’s squad, which included just two seniors — Hannah Hensley and Jocelyn Blair.

“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Granger said. “Our team made it to state two years in a row, and I’m expecting coach Rainey expects the same from me. Our goal is to win a region championship and try and make it to Columbus. It’s the same goals we’ve had from the beginning since coach Winkler took over.”