Winning at Westran

1 decade 1 year 1 week ago Sunday, September 16 2007 Sep 16, 2007 Sunday, September 16, 2007 11:22:52 PM CDT September 16, 2007 in Sports

Kelly Odneal walked on the Missouri Baseball team but a motorcycle accident in his junior year ended his hopes as a player. He took it as a sign to coach and about 30 years later he's the most successful softball coach in Missouri state history. He casts a long shadow and when you talk about Westran softball, coach Odneal is the first thought that comes to mind.

"Whenever it seems like he's telling you something wrong you just have to remember that he's been here twice as long as I've been alive," said Westran senior catcher Lauren Okruch.

His method isn't just about X's and O's; Although, he puts them on balls to make sure his players look into their gloves. Odneal started winning from the moment he got the job.

"To the final four in '86,'87, '88, '89, so we kinda got things going right there," recalled coach Kelly.

Year after year, win after win; Three state championships and lots of final fours, all are chronicled on the Westran wall of fame.

"It's a good reminder. It tells us that it's happened in the past because he knows the skills to teach us. So it kinda motivates us," says Okruch.

"We look at it like that's what we need to do: to be better than the year before. Better than the people before us," says senior outfielder Melissa Head.

"You don't just play for yourself and you don't just play for your teammates. You play for the reputation that this program has," said former player and now assistant coach Nicole Devenport.

But the wall isn't just a reminder of the past, it is intimidation for the opposition.

"The other teams walk in that dugout and go, 'Oh, no Westran'," said Okruch.

Coach Kelly is also a historian. He remembers all the players and often reminds the current team of the program's prolific past.

"You're saying that's Marlissa Perry, well I would say there are not too many of you here that could hope for that, but it's possible is what I'm saying," said coach Kelly.

Earlier this season Odneal passed a milestone. His 500th career softball coaching win.

"I could tell you a lot more about the losses than I could the wins," remarked Kelly.

Coach says talent doesn't lead to wins, it's work ethic and focus on the fundamentals.

"500 is apparently a big deal. Channel 8 is here," joked Kelly.

While history hangs in the shadows, coach Kelly makes sure each team realizes to get their faces on the Westran wall, it is simply up to them.

"I already have plenty of memories and I always talk to them about one more feather in my hat," said Kelly.

Most people know Odneal as a softball coach, but he also owns a pair of state titles as a baseball coach at Sturgeon. He says he has no plans to retire. Coach Kelly is also an inventor, he says he thought of putting bats in a warming pouch years ago during the state tournament. Now the warmers are sold nationwide.

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