Darton softball stays course despite recent issues

Legendary coach Gene Dews brought a wealth of experience to Darton’s softball team as an assistant under his son, but health issues forced him to retire last week. (Herald file photo)

Legendary coach Gene Dews brought a wealth of experience to Darton’s softball team as an assistant under his son, but health issues forced him to retire last week. (Herald file photo)

ALBANY — David Dews said he’s heard for years how some softball junior college teams throughout the Southeast prefer not to play against Chipola College.

And now he says he knows why.

Dews told The Herald over the weekend of his vow to never schedule another game against the national powerhouse from the Florida panhandle following an incident that occurred last week during a doubleheader at Cavalier Field.

“Yeah,” Dews began, “we’re not playing them anymore.”

As Dews tells it, Chipola’s assistant coach, Jimmy Hendrix, took issue during and after Game 1 — a Chipola win — with what Hendrix perceived was a violation of the NJCAA rule book when Darton went into its defensive set during each inning Chipola batted.

“They had an issue with how we run our slant defense and he claimed we were making a defensive switch each time we did it — and thus had to report it — when that’s not what we were doing at all,” Dews said. “We weren’t switching positions, we just shifted players over. It was crazy. We’ve been running the same defense for years and not a single opponent has ever said anything before now.

“So after the game ended, he was still complaining to the ump. I walked over and I’m like, ‘Look, the players weren’t switching positions, they were just shifting over. It’s like saying every time Chipper Jones moves away from third and over toward short, he’s now the shortstop and not the third baseman.”

Dews said Hendrix was so adamant about the fact he was right, the Chipola assistant started swearing and griping loudly after not being able to convince the ump he was correct.

Dews added that Hendrix then got more and more heated as the conversation continued, so Dews called over his dad — Gene Dews, Darton’s assistant coach and a longtime JUCO softball coaching legend in Alabama who has 40-plus years of experience — and David asked his father to help Hendrix understand Darton’s position.

That’s when things turned ugly.

“Dad came over and tried to explain that his interpretation was wrong — or the ump would’ve called it — and that all we were doing was shifting,” David Dews said. “But (Hendrix) wasn’t hearing it and kept making a spectacle out of the whole thing. So my dad says to him, ‘The game is over. You guys won. Why are you continuing this? It doesn’t even matter.’ And he replied, ‘Yes, it (expletive) does matter,’ and he put his finger in Dad’s chest — and forcefully.”

Gene Dews reacted.

“So Dad pushed him,” David said. “I hate that it happened, but when someone puts their hands on you first, you have to defend yourself. And the guy put his hands on Dad first.”

After Hendrix, who could not be reached for comment by The Herald on Monday, and the elder Dews were broken up, Chipola not only pulled its players off the field and forfeited the second game — the coaching staff called the police.

“It was so unnecessary, making such a spectacle about it. The guy poked Dad, Dad shoved him back and that’s what we told the police, who took a report and then left,” David said. “There were a ton of witnesses — both teams saw it — and it’s just unfortunate.”

A few days after the incident, Gene Dews — as first reported by WFXL FOX 31 on Sunday — left the team, although athletic officials at Darton told FOX that the departure was unrelated to the incident and that Gene Dews was not going to be subject to any discipline or forced to leave the team. Darton A.D. Mike Kiefer confirmed that to The Herald on Monday.

David Dews told FOX that the grind of competition and coaching pressure once again brought to the forefront previous heart problems for the Cavs assistant.

Nonetheless, Darton won’t have to deal with Chipola again any time soon. That is, of course, unless the two programs somehow hook up in the NJCAA national tournament — which is a very real possibility.

Darton is currently ranked No. 19 in the NJCAA Top 25, while Chipola is No. 4, and both teams are in first place in their respective conferences.

David Dews would rather not see Chipola again, no matter the circumstances.

“They’re just a buncha of hot heads, and a lot of people have problems with them. It’s one of the reasons they have problems getting games,” David said. “They have a good ball club, no doubt, and I have no issue with any of their players. But the way the coaches act is just really low class. It was embarrassing. They’re supposed to be a top-notch program.

“The bottom line is we’re done. We don’t have to deal with trash like that. As long as I’m the coach at Darton, we’ll never play them again in the regular season. I told the girls after the game that I was sorry they were a part of that. But you have to defend yourself. You can’t let people push you around.”

Darton (26-10, 5-1), which is riding a three-game win streak, returns to action today at South Georgia College.