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Eric Neel hired as newest Darton softball coach

Neel led prep teams in Mississippi to five state titles in seven seasons

Darton State College has turned to Eric Neel, one of the top prep softball coaches in Mississippi, to give its softball program some stability. (Wayne County News, Miss./Special to The Herald)

Darton State College has turned to Eric Neel, one of the top prep softball coaches in Mississippi, to give its softball program some stability. (Wayne County News, Miss./Special to The Herald)

ALBANY — Darton State College has turned to one of the top prep softball coaches in Mississippi to give its softball program some stability.

After longtime Darton coach David Dews and interim coach Larry Willis both turned in their resignation letters within four months of each other last year, the head coaching job of Darton’s successful softball program had started to turn into a revolving door.

Enter Eric Neel, a championship high school coach from Mississippi who was named Darton’s newest coach on Friday.

“I’m excited about the opportunity given to me from the administration, faculty and staff at Darton,” Neel said. “And I’m eager to get to work with the many talented softball players Darton already has.”

Neel comes to Darton from Hattiesburg, Miss., and has led multiple high school programs to a level of excellence both on the softball field and in the classroom. His teams have won five state championships over his seven seasons as a head softball coach. Neel’s programs were All-State Academic Teams each of his seven seasons as well.

“We feel that coach Neel’s qualities and experiences will allow him to navigate the transition from the high school level to the college level very successfully,” Darton athletic director Mike Kiefer said. “He’s very personable and a good communicator, and his teams are known for strong fundamentals and a hard style of play.”

Neel amassed a career record of 172-65 and a .726 winning percentage in Mississippi. He’s a coach who’s also well respected in his community and was given a key to the city of Waynesboro in 2012 after leading Wayne County High School to three consecutive state titles.

And now Neel is ready to bring that kind of success to the Lady Cavs program.

Neel will have his first official meeting with the team on Sunday, and softball practice will begin Monday afternoon.

He’ll work with 11 freshmen and seven sophomores returning from a 2013 squad that went 36-12 before getting knocked out of the Region XVII tournament in the semifinals.

“I’m excited to see what kind of softball program we can turn this into,” he said.