Former PBL softball coach Dwain Nance named IHSA Softball Coach of the Year

MARENGO -- Last June's IHSA Class 3A state softball championship game provided a strong connection to the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school district.
Marengo was coached by Dwain Nance, who served as the head softball coach at Paxton-Buckley-Loda from 2002-05. In East Peoria's dugout was Mark Prina, a 1996 PBL graduate and volunteer coach for PBL High School baseball from 2007-11, serving as an assistant coach.
The two met at a reception the Thursday before the state tournament.
"I recognized him, and we went over and talked to each other. He even gave me a ride back to our hotel. It was really neat," Nance said. "We hung out during my time in Paxton. We talked a lot about the game of baseball and softball. I thought he did a really nice job at East Peoria."
Mark Prina's father, Pat -- who was the head baseball coach at Paxton in 1976 and Buckley-Loda/PBL from 1980-2006 -- was at the game with one of Pat's daughter-in-laws, Bethany, who, as Bethan Stagen, played softball under Nance at PBL.
"That was kind of neat to have that PBL connection during the state championship game," Nance said. "Most of the girls that I coached at PBL are married and have kids. It kind of makes you feel old."
Marengo won 2-0 over East Peoria to claim the 3A state title. More than four months later, Nance was recognized as the IHSA's Softball Coach of the Year for the 2016-17 school year.
With that honor, Nance is also a nominee for the National Federation of High School Associations' award, which will be announced in January.
"I was fortunate enough to be the softball coach of the year. It feels wonderful," Nance said. "It takes a lot of hard work. We have a really good program up here, so we have a lot of people in place who have really helped me out. It's a reward for our program, so it's pretty neat."
After being relieved of his duties as PBL Junior High and High School coach in the fall of 2005 and resigning as a teacher the following April, Nance took over as a head softball coach at Marengo High School, which had an enrollment of 758 is in a town populated at 7,648 located near the Illinois-Wisconsin border in McHenry County.
Since then, Nance has led his Indians to a 340-95 record, a run that includes a state title in 2011 as well as 2017, state runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2015 and a fourth-place finish in 2008. 
One of the things that Nance said was similar to the softball program in Paxton was the existence of a travel softball program.
In Marengo, the Marengo-Union Girls Softball program has 12-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under teams that a total of about 130 kids participate in over the summer, according to Nance.
"That really helps," Nance said. "It's a really productive program."
In Paxton, Mike Herriott, whom Nance said was a "big supporter in the softball program," started the Paxton Thunder along with other softball fathers in the early 2000's.
"We have some of the same things here in place that we did in Paxton," Nance said. "When I got to Paxton, we kind of expanded it, and it really helped the program. By the time I was leaving, we had three teams -- 12U, 14U and 18U." 
During his four years coaching at PBL, he went 92-43. His teams won a regional championship in 2003, 2004 and 2005, with a sectional championship won in 2005.
"It's been fun. The girls worked hard. That what it comes down to -- if you can get the kids to work hard and believe in what you're doing, you can have a successful program," Nance said. "I've been able to surround myself with some really quality people."
Along with Herriott, whom Nance calls "a good friend," there are several other PBL-area people whom he keeps contact.
Dan Gee was an assistant coach at the PBL JH and PBL HS level. 
"He was a big help in what we were trying to do," Nance said.
Nance also said Joel Cluver, a radio host for WPXN in Paxton, "was a really big supporter" of the softball program when he was there. 
"His daughters played for me," Nance said. "I still keep in touch with a few of those people down there."
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Softball, Sports


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