During her playing days at Centenary, Parkway assistant coach Bonnie Matak was known as a quiet soul who worked hard and usually got the job done.
One day, she was in the bayou outside the Ladies’ field fetching balls that had been hit into the mud and goo, when then coach Mark Montgomery discovered the Houston native had broken his bat speed monitor.
In a fit of rage, Montgomery yelled Matak’s name, causing the demure young lady to stumble into the muck in fear.
“That’s my funny Bonnie Matak story,” said Montgomery, who recruited the youngster during her prep days in Texas. “I’m extremely proud of her in the transition she’s made to Parkway, but I find it hilarious that such a soft spoken person is now ordering players around. I love it.”
Matak has been instrumental in making the Lady Panthers into one of the top hitting teams in the area. Her instruction has enabled Parkway to advance to the LHSAA Class 5A state softball tournament in Sulphur, where her girls will face St. Amant at 4 p.m. on Friday.
“She has been a saving grace to me,” Parkway coach Neil May said. “I was looking for someone to come in and do the job without a lot of training, and Bonnie has been terrific. The elite level that she played at in college gave her the experience to bring a lot to the table in our program.”
Many of the Lady Panthers have blossomed under Matak’s tutelage, but sophomore Alexis Rayborn and freshman Haydn Parker have especially developed into dynamite hitters.
Rayborn is averaging .542 with 9 home runs and 29 RBIs heading into her first visit to the state party.
“When we first met coach Matak, she was really quiet, but when we got to know her, she became really easy to talk to about anything,” Rayborn said. “When we got into our season, she was good at tweaking me on small things that helped me to start hitting a lot better.”
In her first season in a Lady Panthers uniform, Parker has also been a force at the plate with a .465 average and 42 RBIs. Parker became enamored with Matak when she was hired in June.
“I thought she was cool,” Parker said. “She has given me confidence in my swing, because she had the same swing in college. I didn’t realize she was going to be so rough on us at first. She’s good at giving us consequences if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do.”
The young coach mined from her past experiences in instituting rules and regulations for her prepsters to follow. One is a severe punishment for not productively getting a bunt down when called upon.
“We have to run a lap with our bats held over our heads,” Parker said.
May credits much of his team’s current 10-game win streak to the efforts of his petite assistant coach.
“Being as young as she is, Bonnie can do everything the kids can do – bunt, slap, hit – all day long,” May said. “If I can’t be at the practice field, I don’t have to worry about writing out what needs to be done. She can take it and run with it.”
May said Matak has taken Parkway’s good players and made them great by showing them little things in their mechanics.
“And she is one of the most loyal, caring people you could be around,” he said. “Coach Montgomery told me I’d never find a harder worker and that has been true. She does whatever I ask.”
Currently dating deployed Senior Airman Tyler Schwab initially kept Matak from moving back to Houston following graduation.
“But I’m not planning on going anywhere since I have the opportunity to coach this amazing team this year,” Matak said.
Meanwhile, the assistant apparently still has trouble staying on her feet.
“Coach Matak has fallen down a couple of times on the field, including one time running the bases for us,” Parker said.