Doug Plank's first experience as Beaufort High School's softball coach wasn't ideal.
The career engineer was transitioning into teaching and taking all the courses and training that came with the new role. Plank coached the Eagles in 2009 when his daughter, Leta, played, but he resigned under the academic load.
After five years in the classroom, Plank is comfortable taking the job again.
"I thought at the time, if the opportunity ever presented itself again, I'd look at that," Plank said. "I felt like that I could do something to help the program."
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He brings decades of experience. The 63-year-old played competitive softball in men's leagues more than two decades, competing in national tournaments. He also coaches the Beaufort Bombers travel team, which is closing in on its 10th year.
Plank has spearheaded improvements to the Eagles softball field since taking over. The field has a new fence, the scoreboard was brought in and new foul poles erected. The dugouts are undergoing renovations and the field was graded.
"All the things we had on the backburner to do, he's getting it done," Beaufort High athletics director Jerry Linn said. "He's rallying the parents to get behind him in all his efforts."
Plank and assistant coach Scott Rast are traveling to Atlanta this weekend for a softball coaching clinic, which include major college coaches from throughout the country. The Eagles return a lot of experience, Plank said, and many play all year as part of the Bombers.
He made no promises but is optimistic.
"We can be competitive," Plank said. "We can surprise some people. If things go right, who knows?"
The Eagles have been coached the past three seasons by Jay Gratton, who stepped aside during the fall. Gratton took over when his daughter was a senior on the team and stayed two more seasons. He also spent three years as the Eagles junior varsity coach. The Eagles varsity made the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. They finished 8-12 last season.
THA LOSES COOK
Thomas Heyward Academy's girls basketball team had a tough act to follow coming into this season after last year's team went undefeated on the way to the SCISAA Class 2-A state championship.
Any prospects of a repeat got tougher this week when the Rebels (13-2) lost Chandler Cook for the remainder of the season for personal reasons.
Cook, a senior post player, was averaging 4.9 points, seven rebounds and 2.5 steals.
"It was a challenge before," Rebels head coach Gary Mazzanna said. "Now it's a real challenge."
The loss makes an already thin bench even thinner. The Rebels seven nonstarters this season have accounted for just 23 points.
Junior guard Allison Brendlen will step into the starting lineup, according to Mazzanna, and eighth-grade starter Ellie Bryan will move to a post spot.
BA'S WESLAKE NEARING MILESTONE
Beaufort Academy's Miranda Weslake should surpass 1,000 points for her high school career, should all go well tonight against Thomas Heyward Academy.
The Eagles guard is seven points shy of the mark. Only a junior, Weslake also averages five steals and two assists per game.
She scored a season-best 30 points her last start, a Jan. 4 loss to Bible Baptist.