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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Daryl Otwell (right) shakes Wetumpka principal Robbie Slater’s hand after being introduced as the new Wetumpka softball coach at Tuesday’s special called meeting for the Elmore County Board of Education.

Former Holtville softball coach Daryl Otwell has accepted the head coaching job at Wetumpka. Wetumpka principal Robbie Slater introduced Otwell after the hiring was confirmed at Tuesday’s special-called meeting for the Elmore County Board of Education.

“When it first came available, I looked into this a little bit,” Otwell said. “I talked to my wife about it and we prayed about it. We just felt like the timing was right. They’ve had a great history of program here and we just thought it was a good fit.”

Wetumpka finished the 2019 season with a 22-17 record and won the Class 6A Area 5 tournament. The Indians finished just one win shy of the state tournament after winning three consecutive eliminations games at the super regional in Oxford.

The Indians had two seniors graduate from the team but they still return seven starters and the team’s No. 2 pitcher in Mya Holt. Wetumpka had nine players who were freshman or younger and last season’s roster. 

“I thought (Jimmy) Reeves did a great job last year,” Otwell said. “I’m very familiar with the program, we’ve seen them year in and year out. They have a lot of good talent and a lot of young kids. I’m excited about getting in and getting to work.”

In 2015, Wetumpka finished with a school-record 42 wins and won the program’s first state championship. However, the Indians have seen a down tick in wins every season since then.

After spending the last five years at Holtville, Otwell stays in the county but moves to Class 6A for the first time as a head coach. Otwell compiled a record of 154-88 while winning five consecutive area titles and returning the Bulldogs to the state tournament for the first time since 2012.

“Over the past five years, a foundation was laid with a lot of hard work,” Otwell said. “If there was ever a day we were all going to leave, our goal was to leave it better than we found it five years ago. We felt like we’ve done that.”

Otwell helped several players reach the collegiate level on a softball scholarship during his time at Holtville, including all five players from the Class of 2019. Holtville has four upcoming seniors who will be leading the program in 2020 and Otwell said that was the hardest part about breaking the news to his former team.

“That’s a tough conversation to have,” Otwell said. “You have to explain to them that it’s an opportunity because coaches have goals too. They were upset but I think most of them understand why I did this. There’s no doubt they’ll get another great coach and hopefully they’ll continue to have success at Holtville.”

Otwell attended high school at Hokes Bluff and was named the 2006 3A Player of the Year in baseball. He extended his playing career at Calhoun Community College and Troy University before graduating and getting his first high school coaching job.

Prior to joining Holtville, Otwell coached three seasons at Escambia County, leading the Blue Devils to their first 20-win season in school history. Otwell spent one season as an assistant at Holtville under coach Robert Rollan.

“I feel like we’re climbing the ladder on programs,” Otwell said. “This is a little different with a bigger program and the tough 6A competition. We have our work cut out to create a team and create a bond in a short time. I plan to build there a while and build that consistency.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.