The Richmond Register

Sports

June 13, 2014

H.S. BASEBALL: Combs takes over at Madison Southern

BEREA — More than two decades ago, Brandon Watkins’ father, who was the principal at Lee County High School, hired Gene Combs to be the baseball coach at the school.

Watkins later played for Combs in high school and then coached against his  mentor.

“I’ve known Brandon since he was about five years old,” Combs said.

They remained friends throughout the years and when Watkins was leading the search for a coach to take over the Madison Southern baseball program, he had just one person in mind.

“There was really one name at the top of my list,” said Watkins, the assistant principal at Southern. “I had to stay after him for quite a while to convince him that Madison Southern was going to be his new home.”

On Friday, Combs was officially introduced as Southern’s new baseball coach.

He takes over for Dusty Hon, who was recently let go after three seasons.

Combs has had a tremendous high school coaching career. In 20 years, he’s won almost 400 games, made two trips to the state tournament and in 2012 he was inducted into the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Last year, Combs led Estill County to a 24-11 record and a district championship. The Engineers advanced to the 14th Region title game before falling to Hazard.

Combs left Lee County in 2006 and spent six seasons at Montgomery County.

In 2013, he was the head coach at Wolfe County.

“He’s the best in my opinion. I played for him. I coached against him,” Watkins said. “I’ve known him since I was a little boy.”

Combs takes over a program that has struggled in recent years.

Despite beating Bryan Station in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament in 2013, the Eagles have won just 23 total games in the past three seasons.

Last year, Southern was 6-22 and lost in the first round of the 44th District Tournament.

“I just feel like there’s lots of potential here,” Combs said. “We’ve always played Southern wherever I’ve been. They’ve got talent and they’ve always had kids who can play a little bit. I’m sure we will have lean years and then years when we can compete a little more. So, we will take it as it comes and try to do the best we can.”

Southern hasn’t won a district title since 2006 and in the program has had eight different head coaches since 2003 (including Watkins — 2007-2010).

The Eagles did graduate six seniors from last season, but are set to return a solid group of starters, highlighted by Griffen Norris and Devin Vanover.

“I do intend on being here a while,” Combs said. “This is not a stepping stone for me. This might be a footstone for me. I’ve got about 10 years left before I can retire and I’d certainly like to serve out my tenure here.”

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