The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local Sports

June 6, 2014

Former Stanly middle school, Dixie coach reaches 2014 3A state finals

Thursday, June 5, 2014 — The first year that former South Stanly head basketball coach and longtime Stanly County Dixie Youth Softball coach Rob Enloe took the reins of the Sun Valley High School softball program was less than easy.

The Spartans, whose ball field at the Indian Trail school lies the farthest away geographically from the building than any other, started six freshman four years ago and posted a 4-18 overall record.

From those humble beginnings, Enloe and his players have returned the Sun Valley softball program this season to a height of success that the school has not seen since the late 1990s as the Spartans have advanced to the 3A state finals series opening Friday at Walnut Creek Softball Complex in Raleigh.

The Spartans’ only other state championship came in 1997 as Sun Valley claimed the 3A title the same season that West Stanly earned the 1A/2A title.

Enloe’s squad, which has two seniors this season, including one who has signed to play at Greensboro College, is 24-5 this season and is hitting .424 as a team with an on-base percentage at .485. Five players on the Spartan team are hitting .459 or more this season and the team has 240 RBIs and 24 home runs in 29 contests.

The former Rebel Bulls basketball coach spent eight years in Stanly County from 2000-2008 and credits his time spent in the county as having shaped the ideals that he now uses at Sun Valley.

Among the mentors Enloe credits for those philosophies is Orrin Huneycutt, the long-time local softball coach that has a field named after him at Endy Optimist Park. Huneycutt won the Dixie Softball World Series in 1991 and nine of 10 state titles as well.

“He taught me how to communicate with players,” Enloe said.

“We never panicked this year, even on the three-hour ride back after losing 5-0 to Enka. We never pushed the panic button.”

Sun Valley beat an Enka team that had not lost twice to the same team, not been shutout and not lost at home all season along, all three of which happened in the 8-0 third game victory for the Spartans.

Referring to Huneycutt’s teachings, Enloe said that he did like his mentor and surrounded himself with good assistant coaches. He said that coaches Dave Collins and Amy Howell are both “top of the line” and added that “they could be head coaches if they wanted to be due to their knowledge and skills.”

Huneycutt also taught Enloe the effectiveness of using work stations to build the skills needed for the game of softball.

“In our hitting sessions, we have hit live pitching twice the entire year,” Enloe said.

“The rest of the time, it’s station work after station work, so much to where my girls hate to hear ‘Go to your stations.’”

The Spartans coach also said that he learned the value of role players and having faith in putting players into a certain situation. An example was going with No. 2 pitcher Payton Taylor in Game 2 of the regional series and getting what he called “the game of her life.”

Enloe said that the character of coaches in Stanly County was displayed to him just after his team beat Enka in the regional finals when West head coach Wesley Kidd and North head coach Greg Speight both called to congratulate him.

In many ways, what Enloe has created in Sun Valley is what he terms a “microcosm” of South Stanly in Indian Trail in terms of the sense of community.

“There are kids (at Sun Valley) that don’t go to other events but go to softball,” Enloe said.

“We have built our own mini community, to which I attribute part of my success. Our parents will be up there (in Raleigh) with coolers full of  water and Gatorade (for the players).”

The rebuilding of the program was with a long-term approach, which Enloe said was difficult in this current society which is about “instant gratification.”

“These kids have put together and sacrificed time, spent hours practicing. I’d like to think that I convinced a number of the players that if you work long enough, something good will happen,” Enloe said.

For Enloe, credit does not go to him but to his players, to his basketball coaching mentor Bobby Lutz, and to Huneycutt.

“I’m just paying it forward.”

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