Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

SOFTBALL -- Roark coaching at USC Upstate

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Kenzie Roark

Former MJHS pitching star
In sports, it's not uncommon for a player to transition to coach when his or her playing days are over.

Some would say it's a way of giving back to the sport that gave them so much opportunity.

Mt. Juliet native "Kenzie" Roark would agree with that statement.

Since she pitched her last game at Virginia Tech in 2011, the former Hokie standout has made the move to coaching.

She is currently in her second year as the assistant coach for the University of South Carolina Upstate Spartans.

Roark is primarily the pitching coach but assists with whatever is asked of her.

Prior to this, she was the pitching coach at East Tennessee State for two years.

The Spartans returned to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year, second for Roark.

The Atlantic Sun Champions played in the NCAA Auburn Regional and upset Oregon State in their first game before losing to Auburn and Jacksonville State, closing out the season 43-15.

"It was good for us to get a win like that," said Roark. "Last season we graduated eight of our starting nine.

"So getting back to the postseason after cleaning house was a pretty good year. We've got a good group of girls who bought into the program were fortunate to make it back."

"We are excited about the future and now we have all these young kids with postseason experience under their belt.

"We have a great class coming in to supplement what have and we only lose one starter (to graduation)."

Roark knew she wanted to coach during her sophomore year at Virginia Tech.

Her head coach told her if she took a fifth year, she could get experience there and have it paid for.

That led to being a student assistant for the 2011-2012 season.

"I could've graduated in four but when he gave me that opportunity I was like well, I will take a victory lap and do it that way," said Roark.

She was the ace of the Hokies staff for the latter three years and is second all-time is appearances with 155, fourth with 510 strikeouts and 661.1 innings pitched and sixth with 51 wins.

Roark was a standout pitcher at Mt. Juliet High School, graduating in 2007, and led the Bears to two state runner-up finishes.

Her senior season earned TSWA All-State honors and first team All-Midstate after going 29-7 with a 0.14 earned run average.

While in high school, Roark and her catcher called their own game and that prepared her, for having to call pitches now.

"I've always tried to be a student of the game," said Roark. "I'm in charge of getting the scouting reports for the other team so I feel pretty prepared when I'm calling pitches."

However, some games are more difficult than others.

One of Roark's pitchers, Holly McKinnon, was working on a no-hitter in the conference tournament and that made things a little more stressful on the pitching coach.

"That was the hardest game to have to call pitches because you can't mess up once," said Roark.

"It just depends on the game but the closer ones are definitely tougher to call."

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ETSU, Kenzie Roark, Lady Bears, Mt. Juliet High softball, softball, USC Upstate, Virginia Tech
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