Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — After spending a year in Unioto’s softball dugout as an assistant coach under Pat Bouillion, Rob Hull knew the Shermans were a special bunch.
So when Bouillion announced his resignation after the end of last season, Hull jumped at the chance to fill his predecessor’s shoes.
“When the job came open … being around the girls last season, it’s something special just because of their talent,” Hull said. “You see how hard they work and that made me want to come back, coach and apply for the head coaching position. I want to see this program succeed.”
And so the Hull era at Unioto has begun. The school’s Board of Education made Hull’s hire official in July.
Since, he’s continued to develop a relationship with his players and assistant coaches while attempting to change the program’s culture. The Shermans ended last spring with a 12-15 overall record, which included a 2-11 mark outside of the Scioto Valley Conference.
“We’re trying to change the culture all around,” Hull said. “We want this group to have to learn to win. We want them to compete in practice … practices are all about competition because the only way to get better is to compete against each other. I think that’s been my biggest thing coming in this year, trying to change that culture.”
He’ll certainly have plenty of talent to work with while doing so.
Unioto returns its top two pitching options in senior Jocie Fisher and junior Hallie Pinkerton — both are expected to be two of the league, and district’s, best.
“Having Jocie in the circle, being a senior, her leadership is hands down the best,” Hull said. “She’s been very successful in the circle. With Hallie, she’s gritty. She just grinds it out and she’s a tough, tough pitcher. They both have a winning mentality. They believe they’re going to win every game. I’m looking forward to watching them do what they do throughout the year.”
Alongside Fisher and Pinkerton is a supporting cast that includes feared hitter Haley Holt, first baseman and team leader Tori Neff — who is now fully healthy — returners Kaleigh Uhrig and Jerzi Paul, incoming freshmen Carissa Wheeler and Avery Miller, and so on and so on.
You get the point. Hull will have plenty of firepower at his disposal.
Oh, and Jayla Campbell — who hit .371, tallied 24 runs and stole a league-high 34 bases in 2017 before suffering an injury that kept her sidelined last spring — is making a return to the diamond.
“With Jayla coming back … very strong in the middle infield, her speed, bat … everything,” Hull said. “When she gets on base, there’s fireworks. Her leadership as well, she’s stepped up big-time, bringing some of our freshmen along. She’s helping us build that winning culture.”
Nobody’s perfect and Unioto won’t be either.
But if the Shermans can finish games, or learn how to put opponents away early, they certainly have the potential to contend for conference, sectional and district titles.
“Mistakes are going to happen. But we can’t dwell on them. We have to forget about them and go out and play the next play,” Hull said. “We need to learn to pick our teammates up. That was a big thing I noticed from last year to this year, there’s a lot more talking going on. We also need to finish games. Last year, we struggled to do that. We need to learn how to close out games.”
Unioto begins its season at 11 a.m., Saturday at Chillicothe before opening its home schedule on Monday, hosting Hillsboro.
“We have the confidence that we can go out and beat anybody,” Hull said. “With some of our freshmen stepping in and seeing the varsity pitching, they’re going to gain confidence. Then, our senior leadership that we have … I’m looking forward to getting to it.”