Embry named head softball coach for Lady Bulldogs

By STEVE DIFFEY,

Holmes Community College reached into the high school ranks to tab one of the most successful softball coaches in the history of the state of Mississippi as its head coach for the 2020-21 season.

The Holmes Community College Board of Trustees approved the hiring of Trae Embry, currently the head coach at Neshoba Central, last week..

Embry has won the last seven fast pitch state titles and the last eight slow pitch state titles at Neshoba Central High School. The Lady Rockets won district titles in slow pitch each season and won district titles in fast pitch from 2014 through 2019. The team is currently competing in its 2020 season. The 2018 team was No. 1 in the USA Today poll. His team produced Gatorade Players of the Year from 2014-2018.

Prior to Embry coming to Neshoba Central, he served as head coach of the slow pitch and fast pitch programs at Eupora High School, winning the state title in 2005 and 2007 in slow pitch and the fast pitch state title from 2005-2007. His 2008 team was the state runner-up, was district champions from 2002-2008 and 2011 and was North Half champions 2005-2008.

Prior to this season, Embry had an overall fast-pitch coaching record of 428-72 and an overall slow pitch record of 413-104.

"I want to thank Dr. Haffey and Coach Wood for this opportunity," Embry said. "I'm originally from Eupora, and I've always known that Holmes could be a place where you could win softball games," Embry said. "I talked to Coach Wood and Dr. Haffey, and everything that I wanted seemed to fall in place. It's definitely a great opportunity for me and my family."

Holmes is getting ready to start the renovation of the maintenance building into a multi-purpose facility for football, baseball and softball with a large weight room and indoor turf.

"I think there are some facility upgrades that are really going to help in recruiting and help in getting the team ready to play for championships," Embry said. "That's one of the big attractions of the job for me that it's being done," Embry said. "I've seen the blueprints for that. It gives you a place to go in on days like today so you can still work. It gives you an opportunity to work every day and not really take days off."

A weight training program will be important for his team. "Weights are a vital part of any top softball program, and they also help with preventing injuries," said Embry.

Embry said good players, coaches and a great relationship with administration has made him be successful at Neshoba Central. "I've been very fortunate to have great players, great assistant coaches and administration that backs us," Embry said. "I expect a top notch work ethic from players and coaches and that we just really believe going in that we have a great opportunity to outwork everybody we play.

"I expect that we are going to compete on a high level with high energy," he said. "I feel like the players I play with know we have to adjust. We've been fortunate to really have good pitching the last few years, and we have to be able to small ball and score runs. We really like to play the game really fast and really aggressive. That's something I teach in practice and work on every day."

Embry said he's vocal on the field. "I'm pretty high energy," he said. "I've calmed down in the last six or seven years, but I am pretty high strung. I know what we put into it. When kids see how much it means to me it seems like it just overflows into them and make them want to play that much harder."

He said he knows recruiting will be huge on moving from high school to the college game. "That's no doubt one of the main things that's different," Embry said. "I think for me, I have a lot of contacts in the state. I've been coaching for 20 years. I know tons of people. I feel like my contacts will be the greatest attribute there.

Having strong pitching is important, and Embry said he has to find some dominate pitchers. "I think with us looking for 2020 kids, we've gotten ourselves behind the eight ball with not having any pitchers signed," he said. "We'd love to have a dominate pitcher come in, but if you don't, I've been in those situations in years past. You make the best of what you have and tend to play better defense when they are out there. It's going to be of those deals that we are going to hit the trail running trying to find these top notch pitchers, but if you don't you'll make the best out of what you have."

He feels his coaching philosophy will carry over from high school to college as well. "That's been the way I've played for 20 years," he said. "You may come in and may not be able to run. We'll make some adjustments there. You have that philosophy of what you want, but you have to adjust that to every team that you are coaching."

"I've always wanted to coach college ball," he said. “It's an opportunity that has presented itself and my family and I have made the decision.”

Embry's personal honors include: Mississippi Association of Coaches Coach of the Year, 2006 and 2013; National Federation of High school Coaches Association State Coach of the year, 2006, 2013, 2015, 2017; District 4 Coach of the Year, 2004; MACJ Fast Pitch All-Star Coach, 2006; NEMSAP Fast Pitch All-Star Coach, 2003; MAC Slow Pitch All-Star Coach, 2011; Clarion Ledger Coach of the Year, 2005, 2015, 2018, 2019; Mississippi Prep Coach of the Year, 2017-2018; and NHSACA National Coach of the Year Finalist, 2018.

Embry and his wife, Tera, have two children, Hayden, 20, who is a student at Itawamba and a member of the Indians' tennis team, and Mary Claire, 11.