I have covered a lot of high school baseball games in my career. I can’t remember attending one and seeing a female on any coaching staff.
After sending out an inquiry on social media, I learned there are more females coaching baseball than I thought.
Lynnville-Sully has one. After coaching the softball program for 16 years, Stacey Alberts joined the baseball staff last summer. The Hawks have gone 53-5 in her two seasons and reached the state semifinals this summer.
“Pitching and pitch counts in the game of baseball make the two sports quite a bit different,” Alberts said. “Softball can be more predictable in that way when you know who is going to be on the mound and the characteristics that are consistently on the field. Because of that, the specificity of practice can be very different when you know one athlete typically plays one and possibly two positions.”
Alberts joined her husband Scott Alberts’ baseball staff two seasons ago. The coaching duo also teamed up in softball and directed the Hawks to the state tournament five times together.
Scott spent 10 years as an assistant coach under his wife. She guided the Hawks to seven state tournaments, nine conference titles and an overall record of 359-167 in 16 years.
“Stacey has a unique ability to break things down and help an athlete start achieving success and then continue challenging for continued growth in that athlete,” Scott Alberts said. “She knows her stuff. It took her a little bit of time to figure out the difference between the two games, but at this point, I don’t want to do this without her. She’s a huge asset to this team.”
The L-S baseball team already had a strong coaching staff with Scott Alberts and long-time pitching coach Dustin Dunsbergen. They added recent L-S alum Blaize Kuhlmann this past season, too.
But adding an eight-time conference coach of the year and a six-time district coach of the year is never going to be a bad thing.
In 2020, the L-S Hawks went 10-8 and batted .260 as a team. The offensive numbers continued to rise in 2021 and a .281 batting average improved the record to 18-11.
One positive thing Stacey Alberts said about her husband and how he coaches is that he does a great job delegating responsibilities.
Dunsbergen handles the pitching. When Scott brought Stacey on board, he wanted her to focus on improving the team’s batting average.
“Coaching is setting a vision for the team and then guiding the team along a path to achieve that vision,” Scott Alberts said. “In Stacey’s final two seasons with the softball team, her team’s batting average had increased by approximately 100 points. She was getting really good at seeing the swing mechanics and helping athletes break things down and then build them back up.
“On the baseball side, we were struggling in this area, and I knew if we could just have a dedicated resource who could reinforce what we wanted on a daily basis that we would see positive change. In two years, our team batting average has gone from around .280 to around .360.”
The Hawks batted .339 in Stacey Alberts’ first season as an assistant coach. They were 24-3 that season and lost in the substate championship game.
This past season, while hitting wasn’t the only reason they reached the state tournament, the Hawks improved to .361 and finished in the state semifinals with a 29-2 record.
“I’m not certain this change was me,” Stacey Alberts said. “I believe we have very good athletes at Lynnville-Sully and have been fortunate to have two very good years while I have been here. Again, coaching takes a lot of bandwidth. So, more than what I specifically did, I believe coming in and paying attention to the metrics helped everyone stay on track. I’m sure experience over the years just means that I see what is needed early and quickly implement a deviation. I’m not a gimmick person. I have a very direct and fundamental approach to the game.”
Giving up the softball program after so many years wasn’t exactly easy for Stacey Alberts.
But with one son entering his senior season and another son still yet to play for the high school program, she wanted to be a part of their journeys.
Unfortunately for her, a female coaching baseball is not that common. Fortunately for her, the Hawks had already started their uphill climb. That allowed her to take a little bit of time to integrate herself into the program.
“There is absolutely no question that change is scary and that I had doubts,” Stacey Alberts said. “It seems common for a male to coach softball but not as common the other way. I can’t speak for the athletes, but from my standpoint, getting integrated with the team took a little time.
“I was very conscious that I didn’t want to overstep. Scott and Dustin have done a wonderful job with this program and I understand that this sport requires more than two people to be at their best level.”
The Hawks were at their best this summer, too. It had been more than two decades since L-S played in the state tournament.
It wasn’t just because the hitting improved tremendously from two seasons ago.
Dunsbergen’s pitching staff had an earned run average of 1.60, which ranked third in Class 1A. The Hawks’ fielding percentage was second-best in 1A at .962.
But the offense was indeed great. The .361 batting average ranked fifth in 1A and the Hawks also were top five in the class in homers, RBIs, runs, doubles, total bases and slugging percentage.
“Once she made the decision to retire from softball we started talking about how she could help our baseball team,” Scott Alberts said. “At first there was some concern about how the boys would handle having a female coach, but those concerns were averted as Stacey quickly started to help the boys achieve positive results on the field.
“Every athlete wants to experience success so all they needed to know was that Stacey was there to help them achieve it and they bought in.”
While the Hawks were making their first trip to state in more than 20 years, Scott Alberts said after their narrow 1-0 loss to the eventual state champions that the Hawks expect to compete for state berths regularly.
Lynnville-Sully lost a handful of talented seniors, but junior starters Corder Noun Harder, Blake Van Wyk, Lucas Sieck and CJ Nikkel are back. So are sophomore starters Carson Maston and Lannon Montgomery.
Noun Harder and Montgomery both batted .400 or better and Maston and Sieck bring back plenty of pitching experience, too.
While it won’t be easy to get back to state, history is on the side of Scott and Stacey Alberts. They know how to build and sustain winning programs.
“We went from three wins and 29 losses my first softball year to competing at state my fifth year,” Stacey Alberts said. “Scott was a huge part of that change as was an incredible group of parents, athletes and community members.
“We still bang our heads against one another at times. We also have some pretty good fights you all would like to hear about at other times. But, we work through it and find our way to understand where the other is coming from. At the end of the day, we both love what we do in coaching these athletes and feel privileged we get to do this at Lynnville-Sully.”