One Pitch at a Time
ECU's new softball coach brings an impressive record
and an emphasis on recruiting local players
By Kathryn Kennedy * Photos by Jay Clark
Coach Beth Keylon-Randolph doesn’t want people to judge her team based on its record alone. The Pirates finished 29-24 this year heading into tournament play. But Keylon-Randolph seems pleased. That’s probably because her coaching style is less about winning games and more about how her athletes play them.
Record at a Glance
- Compiled a 602-118 (.836) overall record in 11 seasons at Chattanooga State Community College.
- Her teams won 10 conference titles and nine regional titles.
- Since 2002, CSCC has won the Region VIII Tournament eight times and finished ranked in the Top 20 for 11 consecutive years
- Teams were ranked No. 1 in 2009 and 2012.
- Tutored 83 all-conference players, 23 NJCAA All-America selections, eight conference pitchers-of-the-year and five players-of-the-year.
- Was selected the 2012 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Outstanding Coach of the NJCAA Tournament.
“The process is one pitch at a time,” she said. “Hit it. Throw it. Catch it. Run.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t expect to win.“My dream was always to take a team to the women’s College World Series,” Keylon-Randolph said. “Take care of the little things and we’ll get the results we want.”
Her model seems to have worked well in the past. Keylon-Randolph’s coaching resume includes more than 600 victories, 10 conference titles, six coach-of-the-year selections and the 2012 National Junior College Athletic Association Championship. She arrived at ECU in October following 12 seasons as head coach at Chattanooga State Community College.
She also spent two years as an assistant coach at alma mater Tennessee Tech and another two seasons as an assistant at the University of South Carolina. She was selected as co-head coach of Team USA in 2007 during the World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand, and helped the squad to victories over Japan, Australia, China and the Czech Republic .
Keylon-Randolph said the feel of the Pirate Nation impressed her when she first came to Greenville. The support for athletics is in every shop window, on every car and painted across campus, she noted. Throughout the season, she’s gotten encouraging emails from fans after tough losses.
“Hang in there,” they told her.
She also quickly perceived that ECU is supportive of all athletic programs – not just the one that brings in the most money. The facilities built for softball and the other Olympic sports are crucial for recruiting, she said.
Keylon-Randolph also puts great emphasis on success in academics. It’s imperative for softball players to leave college with job skills or the grades for graduate school because playing professionally is not an option.
“After four years, it’s over for us,” she said. And she added that ECU supports that priority by offering academic services for athletes “unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
The team is in recruiting mode this spring and summer. Keylon-Randolph is taking a “local first” approach.
“We don’t want the best kids (in North Carolina) going to UNC and N.C. State,” she said. “We want them here.”
She’s also looking forward to leading individual player workouts this fall. It’s a time to challenge and push the student-athletes, she said, and to continue her “re-recruiting” of current players. That’s the term she uses to describe getting to know her team both on and off the field.
Keylon-Randolph replaces former coach Tracey Kee, who was removed from her position following an internal inquiry into program irregularities. Her departure ended a 16-year tenure as the Pirates' head softball coach. In response to any chatter about the exit, Keylon-Randolph has a straightforward message for her players: “I don’t know what happened, but it’s over. It’s done. We’re moving forward.”
And they’re doing it Keylon-Randolph’s way: one play at a time. Hit it. Throw it. Catch it. Run.