Rend Lake College Softball Coach Dave Ellingsworth said he wasn’t trying to reach a career milestone. He just wanted to win a game. He got his wish and made a mark Friday, March 11, in Florida after edging Jefferson Davis Community College at the third annual Jimmie Stewart Memorial Tournament at Okaloosa-Walton College in Niceville, Fla.
“In my mind, I guess I was just down-playing it,” Ellingsworth said of approaching his 500th career victory. However, his players apparently saw it differently.
“They wanted it really bad. The fact that it meant that much to the players says a lot about them,” said Ellingsworth.
The exciting finish to the game caused his new milestone to strike home, he said. The Rend Lake College Lady Warriors took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, only to have Jefferson Davis (Brewton, Ala.) tie it up by the top of the third. A quick response from RLC put the Lady Warriors up 5-3, but again the Lady Warhawks came back with two runs to tie the score in the top of the fifth.
RLC added a run in the bottom of the fifth, but JDCC again tied the game with a solo homer in the seventh.
In the top of the eighth, infielder Natalie Barnard drove in the winning run. The play at the plate was almost a candidate for an instant replay.
“It was one of those games that’s just back and forth. We never relinquished the lead, but they kept tying it up,” Ellingsworth said. “I didn’t think winning my 500th was that big of a deal at the time, but now it’s really neat.”
Ellingsworth attributed much of his success to the talent of his players. “We’ve had several All-Americans and a lot of good people,” he said.
Ellingsworth is in his 11th season as head coach of the Lady Warriors softball squad, and served as assistant coach to former Athletic Director James “Hummer” Waugh for six years prior. His honors have included being named Great Rivers Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1994, GRAC Co-Coach of the Year in 2000 and Region XXIV Coach of the Year in 1996.
In his first season as head coach (1994), Ellingsworth’s squad won a GRAC championship, capping off a 27-8 spring showing and earning him Coach of the Year honors. In his second season, the Lady Warriors produced the most wins in the 17-year history of the program with a 37-21 composite.
All his third team did was go 31-13 in the spring and 46-21 overall, earning him Region XXIV Coach of the Year honors and the Lady Warriors’ first-ever Region XXIV Championship. This was followed by an appearance at the NJCAA Women’s National Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., in May 1996.
Many of those same players returned to win 29 of 34 contests in Fall 1996 – the only setbacks were against four-year opponents – and go 32-16 that spring for a record composite of 61-21, 15 more wins than any other team in Lady Warrior history.
Team highlights during Ellingsworth’s tenure include:
• 2003 – 2nd Place Region XXIV
• 2002 – 2nd Place Region XXIV
• 2001 – 3rd Place Region XXIV
• 2000 – GRAC Co-Champions (conference record 12-2)
• 2000 – 3rd Place Region XXIV GRAC Champions (record 14-1)
• 1998 – 3rd Place Region XXIV
• 1994 – GRAC Champions (conference record 14-1)
• 1996 – Region XXIV Champions
• 1996 – NJCAA National Finals (finished ninth in the Nation)
• 1996 – Lady Warrior Jaymie Cowell selected to NJCAA All-Star Team; plays in the Canada Cup
The RLC Lady Warriors softball squad has produced several Academic All-Americans, including Angela Berry (2003), Erica Smith and Amy Murphy (2002), Traci Helmer and Amy Gulley (2001), Cortnie Berry (2000), Rebecca Adams (2000, Distinguished Academic), Jennifer Wren (1999) and Robyn Houghland (1995, Distinguished Academic).
NJCAA Softball All-Americans from the Lady Warriors include Meridith Ramsey (2001, Third Team), Jennifer Calandrilla (1999, First Team), Jaymie Cowell (1997, Second Team / 1996, First Team), Nicole Murray (1996, Second Team), April Long (1995, Second Team) and Joni Reid (1992, Second Team).
Ellingsworth is a graduate of RLC’s predecessor, Mt. Vernon Community College, and was a freshman reserve in both basketball and baseball. Prior to taking early retirement in the 1998-99 academic year / season, he was a full-time instructor in the Industrial Technology Department, teaching Fluid Power, Automated Systems and Robotics. Prior to returning to his home area in January 1977, Ellingsworth taught at the Southern Illinois University Aviation Technology program from 1971 to 1977.
Ellingsworth spent four years as an Army pilot, earned an associate degree from the SIU School of Aviation Technology and a bachelor’s degree from the SIU School of Technical Careers.
So what does a coach do when he reaches a milestone like this? To Dave Ellingsworth, it’s a no-brainer: “Now all I want to do is go out and win some more games.”