Kristi Utley back leading Lady Bucs softball

HENDERSONVILLE — A familiar face roams the coaches box at Beech High School once again.

Athletic Director and former girls’ basketball coach Kristi Utley is back in the dirt leading the Lady Bucs softball team after a nearly 10-year hiatus.

Utley has coached each of the four state titles Beech has in program history, as well as runner-up finishes in ’98, ’99. To say she is qualified to run the softball program is a vast understatement, and seeing as how the softball program has gone through a great deal of change in the last several years, no one was better to step in and take over.

“Anytime you get the opportunity to impact kids in high school sports you want to do that,” she said. “You want them to love each other, you want them to love the spot and you want them to improve. If they want to play at the next level I want to help get them there.”

Just as she was on the hardwood, Utley’s philosophy is simple and true: aggressiveness and taking advantage of opportunities presented.

“These girls just have to understand that every play needs to be as aggressive as they can,” Utley said. “You can’t take any plays off at the plate or in the field and if they do that, they will do great things.”

The Lady Bucs are 8-4 coming off an 11-1 victory over city-rival Hendersonville are winners of four of their last five contests.

Beech started the game against HHS with one run in the first, and capitalized for eight runs over the next two innings before putting the game to bed in the bottom of the fourth with two more runs.

Caroline Hicks and Brianna Faulk both pitched well for the Lady Bucs throwing a combined 87 pitches, giving up just three hits, one run and striking out six batters.

At the plate Beech collected nine hits with four players having multi-hit days.

“We’ve hit the ball well and ran the bases well,” Utley said. “We are continuing to do what we need to do.”

Leading 1-0, Beech jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning following three consecutive singles, a double and Hendersonville error as Briley Johnson, Emily King and Keyleigh Midget all scored.

Hendersonville had a chance to tie the game at five in the top of the third with bases loaded, but a two-out strikeout ended their chances.

Beech added four more runs in the home half of the third and two runs in the fourth, including a solo shot to center field from Kaitlyn Graham.

As for Utley’s future leading the softball program?

“It’s open — I haven’t decided,” she said.