New Holtville softball coach Kaelin Dawson stands in between Holtville principal Kyle Futral, left, and athletic director Jason Franklin after being introduced at Monday’s Elmore County school board meeting.

With veteran coach Daryl Otwell moving to Wetumpka, the Holtville softball program needed to quickly find a coach who could step in so the Bulldogs would not miss a beat after returning to the state tournament in 2019. Holtville believes it found that coach in Kaelin Dawson, who has had a career as an assistant softball coach at colleges in Tennessee over the past few years.

“She has an extensive softball background,” Holtville coach Kyle Futral said. “She has coached at softball programs in Tennessee and she strikes me as a really hard worker so I feel like she’s going to continue to move our program in the right direction.”

Dawson was introduced at Monday’s Elmore County School Board meeting and showed immediate excitement about the job. After playing collegiate softball at Martin Methodist in Puslaski, Tennessee, Dawson was an assistant coach at Columbia (Tennessee) State College and Bethel University in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before taking a season off last year so she is ready to get back on the field.

“Originally, I’m from south Alabama so being closer to my family really encouraged me to apply for this,” Dawson said. “But also, I’ve been out of coaching for almost a year now so it’s just that eagerness to get your foot back in the door.”

Holtville is coming off its winningest season in program history after returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2012. The Bulldogs won 41 games for the second consecutive season and they won their fifth straight area title.

Dawson hopes she can lead the Bulldogs to another successful season but she also knows the quality of players the team lost last season. Despite graduating five players from last year’s roster, Dawson said she is excited to see what her new team can do in her first year.

“I’ve done a lot of research since I was contacted by Mr. Futral for an interview,” Dawson said. “They have a very strong winning background and have had a lot of help from their pitching so I’m eager to see what kind of pitching we have right now and what we can develop.”

After losing KK Dismukes to graduation, Holtville will have to look to elsewhere to find an ace in the circle but the Bulldogs may have options entering the 2020 season. Those options include upcoming senior Alexus Hindman who recorded a 1.01 ERA across more than 48 innings in an injury-shortened season.

Dawson said she got to meet with part of the team last Thursday where she met seven of the 12 players currently on the roster. While she was already impressed with what she saw, Dawson said she believes there is always room for improvement no matter how good the players are.

“I think that goes hand in hand with being consistent in your practice and your workouts,” Dawson said. “It’s about that dedication from me and my coaching staff plus the dedication from the team as well.”

With the offseason already underway, Dawson will dive right in to the job with as many team activities as possible under the AHSAA guidelines. Holtville players certainly have not had it easy but Dawson said she is going to look for even more from her players.

“We’re going to do as much as we can in the time that we have,” Dawson said. “Workouts are going to be pretty intense and will probably be a lot harder than what they are used to in the summer. I just want to see who’s willing to push themselves.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.