Belcher reflects on 100th win with Wahconah softball
Dustin Belcher can barely believe he's coached 100 softball games for Wahconah Regional High School, let alone won 100 of them.
So it's easy to understand why he doesn't want total ownership of those victories.
"You appreciate it more when you look back on it," he said. "I've just been very fortunate to have so many great players in the program. The wins are the kids' wins."
The 100th career win for Belcher came early last week, a 15-1 rout of Renaissance. In his sixth year as Warriors coach, Belcher has his team at 4-2, 3-2 in the North Division.
Success is certainly nothing new to the Wahconah program. It's become a yearly habit, first under Ken Pease and now under Belcher. After filling in for Pease as head coach in 2008, Belcher was tapped to take over the program full-time in 2010.
That year, he led the Warriors to a Western Mass. championship, the program's first since 1987. It meant a lot to Belcher that his team won that title. Wahconah's community had been through a lot; longtime girls soccer coach and athletic director Bob "Boog" Powell, who had tapped Belcher as softball coach, died in October 2009.
"That group in particular, that had been an emotional year," Belcher said.
The next year, though, led to Wahconah's greatest success.
The Warriors went 24-1 in 2011, winning the first state softball championship for any Berkshire County team. Wahconah rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Division II state title game to force extra innings, beating Burlington 4-3 in 11.
"That was a phenomenal game," Belcher said. "We were down and had to come back to win the game. Being the first team in the county to win a state title in softball is special."
Belcher's teams have continued the success of previous teams. Wahconah reached the sectional semifinals in 2012, and won Western Mass. again last year, routing Belchertown 10-0 in the championship game.
Creating success is hard enough; sustaining it can be an even more daunting task. Belcher does that work as both softball coach and Dalton CRA's program coordinator.
"Dustin and I, along with a bunch of other people, put a lot of work into the youth program in town," said Pease, who also won 100-plus games as Warriors coach. "The numbers continuously go up under Dustin's reign. We've increased the travel programs. He's been instrumental in where the state of Wahconah softball and Dalton softball are today."
And he still enjoys the work, year in and year out.
"Each year brings a new challenge, certainly," Belcher said. "I'm having a great time this year with a very young team."
It's that kind of work, in fact, that helped Belcher earn another pretty prestigious title at WRHS: head boys basketball coach. In his first year after taking over from longtime coach Ed Ladley, Belcher went 13-8 and the Warriors earned a first-round bye in the Western Mass. Division III tournament.
For Pat West, Wahconah's athletic director, it's accurate to call Belcher's success nearly unprecedented.
"He is a very good coach. He's very organized. I'd say that's a meteoric rise," West said. "He's a busy guy from Dec. 2 to now.
"He's got a laser-like focus on the basics, and he doesn't deviate. He's an excellent teacher, and he gets the kids to take ownership of their season. All that taken together, and I think you end up with a pretty good coach."
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