Ellis to take over as Lady Wave softball coach

Nathan Ellis and Casey Finch say they’ll remain friends as well as competing coaches.
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

West Point native Nathan Ellis has a way of being at the right place at the right time.

Early in his coaching career, he was able to step right in and fill a vacancy at Oak Hill Academy, becoming the school’s softball coach in 2013 while he was still a senior at Mississippi State.

Three years ago, he transitioned to West Point High School, becoming an assistant to softball coach Casey Finch. Now Finch has moved to New Hope and Ellis has been tapped to take over.

All that remains is for the school board to approve the move when it meets next month.

Ellis graduated from Oak Hill Academy in 2008 and went on to get an associate's degree from East Mississippi Community College before transferring to Mississippi State University.

When he was a senior at MSU, he got the fast-pitch softball head coach job at Oak Hill. He went to school the morning and coached in the afternoon.

“When I graduated from high school, I didn’t think about being a teacher or a coach. I thought I would stay in athletics, maybe as a physical therapy assistant but that didn’t work. That’s what took me so long to get on this track,” he explained, citing the chance Oak Hill coach Brian Middleton gave him to help with basketball his junior year in college that got him on the coaching path.

“I’ve been fortunate to be at the right place at the right time, to have people and schools give me opportunities. I’ve tried to run with them. I’ve enjoyed it along the way,” the 29-year-old Ellis said.

He praised Finch for what he’s learned from her, especially in the last year.

“Last year was by growing year, I gained the most knowledge. I knew I was ready to be a head coach if the opportunity came along. And it did and in the perfect place, a place where I already know the players and they know me,” Ellis continued.

“She’s helped me out a lot, especially this summer with the transition,” Ellis said of Finch.

The feeling is mutual.

I’m so proud for him. Nathan is extremely dedicated to improving himself within his craft. He has been around the game for years through watching and helping his sister develop in her career and through coaching in various capacities,” Finch said.

“He’s the kind of guy who spends hours picking apart every kid’s mechanics to see what he can do to help them improve. I’m grateful that I’ve had him for three of the five years I was at West Point to build this program. Nathan is so deserving of this position, and West Point softball will continue to build on the things we’ve dreamed of over the years. Nathan’s the coach who you want on your staff and he kind of person you have to be very smart coaching against. He knows what he is doing, and he is just getting started. West Point softball is very special to both of us, and I know it’s in the best hands now,” she added.

Last week, they met up in summer league play, with Finch’s New Hope team coming to West Point Tuesday and then West Point going to New Hope to close out the summer season Thursday night.

They will compete as Class 5A district foes next year.

“It was different being on opposite sides. But it was a fun experience. I’m ready to take this head on now,” he described.

Finch agreed.

“Just an overwhelming sense of pride and love for everyone on the dirt on both sides,” Finch observed. “Lots of love and hugs exchanged. The bonds and memories we have will always be strong.

“When they made a great play or got a big hit, I cheered just like them! We still have lunch and dinner and talk softball. We will go to the same clinics. He will be a groomsman in my wedding. He has always been family,” she concluded.

The Lady Green Wave lost five players from last year’s team but returns a large nucleus of young players with experience. Ellis hopes to build on that.

“The players know me, they know what to expect. And I know them, their strengths. They’ve worked really hard this summer and we have some more young players coming. We’ll miss the five players, but with the foundation they left, I feel really good about it, we’re going to be fine,” Ellis concluded.

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