LETTS, Iowa — This weekend turned out to be a lot busier than Mike Bunnell expected.
On Friday afternoon, Bunnell was notified he had been chosen as the new Louisa-Muscatine High School softball coach. He replaced Jeremy Sedam, who coached the Falcons for one season before stepping down last Monday, May 4.
Softball season kicked off Monday with the start of practice.
“I’m trying to get to know the girls. I know most of who they are as people,” Bunnell said Monday evening in a phone conversation after his first practice. “I have no clue as far as softball who they are. I spent the weekend looking at stats … while trying to put together practice plans for the week.”
Bunnell, a L-M Junior High special education teacher, has 16 seasons of softball coaching experience under his belt, including seven as a head coach.
Much of his experience came in Arizona, where he taught and coached after a stint in the military, but he did coach the 2011-12 season at Harmony High School in Farmington, Iowa, another Southeast Iowa Superconference school. Bunnell is also a Central Lee High School graduate.
“We had two quality candidates. We struggled with who to take,” L-M activities director Tom Wilson said of choosing Bunnell. “... To keep everything in place without a lot of shifting, Michael was the choice we had.”
For Bunnell, the opportunity to coach softball was one he couldn’t pass up despite recently taking a position as an assistant coach to Casey Cantrell with the Falcons baseball team.
“I’ve coached a lot of softball and I just love softball,” he said. “… When this came open, it was no-brainer.”
With such a short period before his first practice as coach, Bunnell will be using much of the next few days of practice to get acquainted with his players.
“It’s going to be an evaluation period. There’s some drills that I do to evaluate pitching, catching and fielding. We did a bunch of those [Monday],” Bunnell said. “… It’s kind of good. It helps me because it gives me a clean slate to evaluate them.”
The Falcons are coming off a 10-21 season last summer that saw them take positive steps throughout. They return nearly every player with just two seniors graduated off the team, and Bunnell hopes that will allow him to continue that upward trend.
“We want to build on that. We don’t want to take a step back,” he said. “We want to make sure we take a step off that, keep doing the things we want to do to keep getting better.”
To do so, the Falcons will be the aggressors.
“We want to be aggressive. We want to create things that happen to us, we don’t want to wait for them to happen. That’s something I learned from my mentor in Arizona. I like that style,” Bunnell said. “... The other thing that I’m really big on is fundamentals. We’re going to work a lot of fundamentals all year. We’re going to limit the amount of errors we have.”
Bunnell hopes the Falcons can continue to improve, but acknowledges the late start will be an obstacle they'll need to overcome.
“We got to stay positive. It’s a tough situation coming in this late. I don’t think it a situation we can’t overcome. If I was looking at goals, I want to continue the process,” he said.
“That would be a good scenario for us, to be that sleeper that can do some damage come district time.”