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WESLEY CHAPEL — The mannerisms haven't changed in nearly a quarter-century. Veteran Chamberlain softball coach Bob Diez spent every pitch of Friday's game at Wiregrass Ranch pacing and prodding, chiding and cheering.
No sense messing with a modus operandi that has produced two state titles, seven final four berths and now, a huge personal milestone.
A shortstop-sized, 65-year-old bundle of nervous energy, Diez (pictured, center) earned career victory No. 500 with Friday's tense 2-0 victory against the Bulls (3-2). Afterward, he deflected credit to a generation of Chiefs who have committed themselves to make their green jerseys represent excellence.
"We just keep the program going, get better, get better and stay where we are," said Diez, a former fastpitch player who took the Chiefs job in 1992 only because it came with the driver's education position for which he had applied.
"This year we're supposed to be down; we're 5-1 right now. ... The green means something and that's how we play."
On Friday, the Chiefs got all the scoring they'd need in the top of the second, when sophomore No. 9 hitter Gerkeria Scott smacked a two-out single to leftfield, scoring Elizabeth Diaz (2-for-3, one run). They tacked on another on a hit and two errors in the fourth.
Senior ace Rachel Dwyer took care of the rest, tossing a three-hitter while striking out 11 to offset an offense that stranded 11 baserunners. Twice, she ended an inning with runners in scoring position with curveballs for called third strikes.
"I felt great. I was in the zone tonight," Dwyer said. "I really felt it was my night and I'm glad we could do it for Coach."
Moments after Dwyer's last pitch — a swung-at strike — Diez gathered his players in rightfield, thanked them for the milestone triumph, and told them he was glad it was over "so people will stop bothering me about it."
"I was lucky, I've had athletes the whole time," said Diez, who had coached a handful of sports before arriving at Chamberlain, but never had coached girls. "I tell you what, they've made me look pretty good."