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Chatman quits as baseball coach

Three successive seasons of on-the-field success won't keep Hernando High baseball coach Ernie Chatman from leaving a position he has held three times.

Chatman has resigned as baseball coach but will continue as athletic director and boys varsity cross country coach, principal Elaine Sullivan said.

"It's been something he and I have discussed ever since I asked him to come back into baseball," Sullivan said. "It's been something he's really thinking about every year.

"I try to outwait him and get one more year out of him each year, but I couldn't this time. We have the need, so I asked him to come back for another year, but he's not going to. I guess I'm just blessed to have him for the years I have."

Chatman would not publicly discuss the reasons behind his decision.

"I certainly don't want to make a big deal out of it," he said. "I don't have a real good answer (why). I just decided it was a decision that needed to be made. That's really vague, I know, but it's really hard to say a whole lot more.

"Elaine and I talked about it for a while," he added, "and that's just the way it ended."

Chatman's teams went 19-8, 27-3 and 30-5 the past three seasons, including a 1993 club that was state-ranked in Class 3A and won its district championship before being eliminated from the state playoffs by nationally ranked Tampa Jesuit.

Two Leopards pitchers, Landon Hessler and Brent Stentz, were selected by the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres respectively in Major League Baseball's recent amateur draft.

Chatman's 13-year record is 295-122. He coached Hernando from 1975-83, left for one season as head coach at Saint Leo College, and coached the Leopards again in 1987.

"I certainly was hopeful he'd do it again," Sullivan said, "but I certainly understand. I knew this would eventually happen. I guess sometimes you just have to decide it's time to do things a little differently."

Sullivan said she is keeping options for a replacement open and may not name a successor until late August.

"My first choice is to look on staff and see who has experience that may want to step forward," Sullivan said. "Another option is to look at people at other schools, and even people outside the schools who may be qualified."

Chatman did not rule out returning for a fourth stint sometime.

"Once I came back from Saint Leo, it was not in my mind I'd coach baseball again at that time," he said, "and once I got out in '87, I certainly didn't think I'd be doing it again, but in '91 it just kind of happened."

There may be one other head coaching vacancy at Hernando, Sullivan said.

Head wrestling coach Dennis Percevecz had been working with the school's exceptional student program, but Sullivan said his position has been eliminated and he is not expected to return to the school.

Percevecz can continue coaching the team if he remains in the area, Sullivan said, but he is pursuing out-of-the-area teaching positions.

"That's up in the air," Sullivan said, adding she did not have a potential replacement in mind.

Another head coaching position, Sullivan said, has been filled in-house: Scott Borgeson will take over as girls varsity cross country coach from girls varsity track coach Barbara Twichell, who will return to the girls basketball program as a varsity assistant.

Borgeson, who was Hernando's boys head cross country coach in 1983, worked extensively this past track season with Hernando's distance runners, three of whom placed in 3,200-meter races at the Class 3A state meet.

Sullivan said there will be two other coaching staff changes: John Rhoden will assist varisty head coach Brent Gausted and assistant Jon Miller in softball, and Pine Grove Elementary physical education teacher Bruce Morgan will take over as junior varsity boys basketball coach from Marion Jones, who Chatman said will be working at Central High.

Morgan has previous basketball coaching experience in West Virginia, including a stint as a high school varsity assistant.