FORT BRANCH -- Many talented softball players have made the rounds through the Gibson Southern softball program throughout the years.

There's been numerous players who have been named to post-season teams and many who have proceeded to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level.

The Lady Titans have captured 13 sectional championships, 12 Pocket Athletic Conference titles, 11 regional, made nine Final Four appearances, been State Finalists five times, brought home three state championships and two semi-state titles.

Although the players on the field have changed every few years, there's been one constant throughout the Titans' success.

Gary May.

Sans the 1997 PAC title, May has been a part of the Gibson Southern coaching staff for all other of the Titans' championships.

May became an assistant in 2001 before taking over the program in 2007 and as amassed 300-plus wins as the head coach.

This past spring, May guided Gibson Southern to a sparkling 26-2 record including PAC, sectional and regional championships and as a result is the 2018-19 Daily Clarion Allen Hopewell Coach of the Year.

"There's a lot of great coaches in the area ... there's a lot of great coaches here at Gibson Southern so I am honored," May said of his third time being named COY.

There are also some talented coaches in the Titans dugout along side May, according to the skipper.

"Our success would not be possible without them," May said of his assistants. "They are invaluable. I ultimately make all the coaching decisions, but they all give me their input and they are not afraid to let me know if they disagree and to tell me we should try something different. But once the decision is made, everyone is onboard. Regardless of how it plays out, no one

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ever says 'I told you so' or 'we should have did it this way.' They are all 100% onboard and that is what it takes to run our team."

Those assistants include Greg Wilson (outfield), Don Rhodes (hitting), Kendra Barrett (bunting), Alissa Luigs (pitching) and Sydney Matsel (base running).

Aftering falling in the sectional championship game the season prior, May envisioned his team would have a bounce back season.

But did he imagine a 26-2 year in which both losses were one-run extra-inning games?

"I knew we would have a good team, but I was thinking we would probably lose maybe four or five games," the Titans coach admitted.

Although the team made a run to the semistate, it was an impressive performance in a trio of sectional games that made May the most proud.

Gibson Southern, playing in Class 4A due to the IHSAA success factor after a state championship in 2015, had the most arduous path to a sectional title of any team in the field.

The Lady Titans opened with host Evansville North -- who played Gibson Southern to a 1-0 game in the regular season and also knocked off Castle in regular season.

After getting by the hosts, Gibson Southern had to knock off the defending sectional champions (Castle) and then Reitz in the championship game.

"Goodness, we definitely earned that," May said of the sectional championship. "Honestly, we were probably the third pick of the tournament, but we definitely did not back into it.

"Then we turned around and won the regional but it just did not feel quite the same as winning the sectional. When we won that sectional, that was pretty cool ... right up there with some of the other things we have accomplished along the way over the years."

So what makes the Titans a perennial power year-after-year?

May mentioned he takes the same approach to the season, at the start of every year.

"When we start with weights in September or whenever, the very most important thing we do is what we are doing right now," May explained. "We keep that mentality the whole season. We can't go into the sectional and start telling the kids 'Ok, let's just take this one pitch and one inning at a time,' it has to be something that we have done from the beginning.

"It's been engrained and something we do year after year and I really do believe it's because of this mentality that we have won a lot of games we probably should have. It's kind of a culture and they all do a great job of buying it."

The players also buy into what May and the Titans' coaching staff believe is best for the team, even if it may not be a popular choice among some of the players.

A lineup change a little over a month before postseason play played a vital part of the Lady Titans deep postseason run, according to the head coach.

The move involved a couple of seniors as well.

Colby Rogers started the season as the starting second baseman and struggled defensively, at times.

May decided to move Rogers to leftfield and insert Emilee Edwards to the infield.

The coach also made a switch with the batting lineup as he swapped spots with senior Kat Dickenson (second) and Rogers (sixth).

"Neither one of them took the moves as a demotion," May said of his seniors. "They both embraced it and wanted to put the team first, whatever was best for the team."

And then things started to click for the team, even more than they had already been for the 1-loss team.

"Typically somewhere in May is when we get locked in," the coach explained. "And when we made our final moves I thought we really had a good chance to make a run at this thing. Things could have taken a turn for the worse (after the moves) but everyone embraced it."

With another change in the IHSAA's success factor, the Titans will again be in 4A for at least the next two years.

The Titans also graduate their starting pitcher (Lyndsi Adamson) who was responsible for 20 wins inside the circle this past year, a four-year starter in Lauren Lingafelter in addition to Rogers and Dickenson.

But once again, the Titans will have May and his coaching staff, so another deep postseason run is likely.

Stay tuned ...

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