BENTON, Tenn. -- Bill Triplett had been a high school baseball coach for 17 seasons, the last eight at Polk County. But after last school year he decided to resign from his coaching position so he could watch more as his daughter, Lydia, played softball.
Little did Triplett know then he would be watching her from the third-base coach's box.
He said before school started in August that he was asked by Dr. James Jones, the county's director of schools, if he would be interested in coaching the high school softball team.
"I wanted to be a dad and just watch games," Triplett said. "I didn't want to be baseball coach. I wanted to watch Lydia. I had the chance to watch her about three or four games the last two years when she was a freshman and sophomore. I just wanted to sit back, relax and enjoy it."
But the Tripletts had a family discussion about the matter. That included Bill and wife Linda, Lydia and their oldest daughter, Katy, whom he had coached before in summer softball.
Not only did Bill end up accepting the job, but the Lady Wildcats are taking a school-record 24 victories into Monday's Region 3-AA semifinal at 5:30 p.m. at East Hamilton.
Eight region semifinals involving Chattanooga-area teams are scheduled Monday, although the National Weather Service is forecasting a 40 percent chance of showers with thunderstorms possible during the day with a 30 percent chance at night.
Region finals are scheduled for Wednesday. All finalists will move on to Friday's scheduled state sectionals, where winners will advance to the state tournament.
Coach Triplett said this year has been an education for him about the differences between coaching softball and baseball. He said scouting reports are scarcer in softball, for one thing, and he has learned that suicide squeezes don't work as well.
Toughness is one aspect Bill has brought to the team, his daughter believing he's been toughest on her. There have been some nights at home this spring when the two didn't speak.
But Lydia said the team has improved through that toughness, though it took some getting used to by some of her teammates. There was a $2 fine for missing a sign, which helped contribute almost $40 toward the team cookout held Saturday.
"I definitely hear stuff he doesn't hear," Lydia said, "but it's not that bad."
She noted that her cousin, Jordan Triplett, doesn't like the yelling but has been a big help with a 16-9 pitching record. Another junior, Sydney Sloan, has been the offensive leader with a .456 average, 11 home runs and 45 RBIs -- all team highs.
The future looks bright at the top of the order with freshman Danielle Harvey batting .404 this year with 30 stolen bases and 41 runs scored. Lone senior Caroline Jenkins is batting .340 and anchors the infield at shortstop.
"Caroline has been a blessing to coach," Bill Triplett said. "She's been a leader from the get-go. She doesn't always succeed, but she leads."
Lydia's .431 average is third on the team behind junior catcher Lily Cuzzort's .439, and she leads the Lady Wildcats with 17 doubles.
She started out in coach-pitch baseball when the family lived in Oakdale, which had no softball for young school-age girls, but since turning 13 she has taken up golf and has started to excel. Last fall she finished sixth in the Class A/AA state tournament, and she plans to play golf in college.
"I like that I can go out every day and play," Lydia said. "In softball, it's hard to do that."
Coach Triplett said Caroline's father, Jason Jenkins, has been a big help as an assistant coach calling pitches. Bill hopes noncertified assistant Mike Laycock, the team's calming influence, ultimately will be able to take over the coaching.
But in a recent meeting with Dr. Jones to confirm a return for another school year, Bill asked the director, "Does that mean I have to come back as the softball coach, too? And he said yes."
Then Lydia reminded him he needed one more approval.
"If Mom will let you," she said.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.