Brian Rush has seen his fair share of injuries.
But those setbacks were relegated to the basketball court. Never has Rush seen such dismantling of a roster by way of injuries in the capacity of the school’s softball coach.
But there’s a first for everything and this past spring was the time.
Rush wasn’t sure how to settle on a patchwork lineup at the plate and the same defensively. He wasn’t even sure if his Lady Wildcats would survive the fact that at some point, more than five starters missed time because of various ailments.
Yet when the dust settled, Clarksville High had a 22-15 record, was 7-5 in District 10 play and ended the district tournament as the champions — the first tournament title in 22 years for CHS.
For his effort this past spring, Rush has been named The Leaf-Chronicle All Area Softball Coach of the Year. The award is voted on by the newspaper’s sports staff while the All Area Team is selected by the area athletics directors.
“The girls really rallied around each other,” Rush said. “I think we all knew it would be an uphill battle so they just decided to put everything they had into every game they played and we were able to really overcome a lot of those early obstacles.”
Just before the softball season started, as Rush was guiding the school’s girls’ basketball team to the state semifinals in Class AAA, he found out his top returning hitter, Alyssa Reed was possibly done for the season after suffering an injury. Reed did miss much of the regular season but returned down the stretch to provide much needed pop in the lineup.
Rush’s top catcher, Haley Bearden missed nearly three weeks with a compartmental bruise to her lower leg. Clarksville also had backup catcher, Hannah Thompson, out with a hip flexor. Rush’s team was so banged up that it had to pull out of an early season tournament because he couldn’t field a team.
“It was still a tight-knit group through it all,” Rush said. “I firmly believe that’s why we were able to weather it all. They were so close and they communicated very well with each other.”
The Lady Wildcats won 10 of their first 12 games and was 3-1 to start the district portion of the schedule. But a stretch of four losses in seven games in April made it look like the issues were mounting to the point of no return. But Rush was able to win five of his next six, including tournament games against Kenwood, Dickson and Northeat in the championship game. They gave up only one run in those three contests, beating the Lady Eagles 2-0 to advance to region, and it was the first district tournament title since 1990.
But that’s where the run ended as Mt. Juliet knocked off Clarksville 4-1.
“This was a very fulfilling year and group of girls,” Rush said. “Of course my assistants Joe (Warren) and Billy (Walker) were vital to the success because they basically ran the show while I was away. They carried the mantle when I was still in basketball and really got the girls off to a great start despite the injuries.”
Rush could see the seeds of two years ago growing when his current group of junior were freshmen and they upset top-seeded Northeast 3-2.
“After a while the experience factor begins to kick in and it’s just your time,” Rush said. “We wanted to continue playing past the first round of region but it takes steps to get there. Our goal is to get to state and this year we took another step to getting closer to that.”