Milestone victory

Tom Hatley walks away from coaching after 30 years at James Island, where his teams won 536 games, 11 region championships and two state championships. (File/Staff)

A year after wondering if he would be the coach in 2015, James Island baseball coach Tom Hatley earned his 500th career victory — all at James Island — in his team’s 12-0 win over Goose Creek on Monday night.

Hatley was relieved of his duties as athletic director last April and thought, at the time, there was a possibility that his would not be retained as the head baseball coach.

But Hatley did return for his 32nd season as baseball coach and has turned in a remarkable season that will include a Region 7-AAAA championship if the Trojans handle their business this week.

“We’ve got a lot of great players, a lot of great assistant coaches and we have a great baseball community on James Island,” said Hatley just before receiving the celebratory Gatorade bucket splash. “Five hundred wins in high school is a lot, but we’ve had a lot of losses, too. It means I was able to stick around long enough, and I wasn’t sure for a time there that I would be here this year. That makes it special to accomplish what we have this year. This is a special group of boys who work really hard. I have great assistant coaches. I just sit and watch and let them go.”

Hatley has guided James Island to three state finals appearances (1994, 1996, 1999), winning Class AAA state championships in 1994 and 1996. According to the records kept by the South Carolina High School League, Hatley is the 10th coach in state history to reach the 500-win milestone.

James Island, which had its only losing season under Hatley in 2014, moved up to Class AAAA this year. James Island was not expected to contend for the Region 7-AAAA title, but is in the driver’s seat entering this week’s three-game region series against Goose Creek.

The Trojans notched two wins each over region favorites Wando and West Ashley, and Monday night’s win improved James Island to 10-3 in region play. James Island would win tiebreakers with Wando and West Ashley.

“I think we were predicted five out of six or something like that. We just competed one pitch at a time, and our pitchers throw strikes and sometimes we get a ball to fall in there for us,” said Hatley. “What’s more important for me is that this team is playing for a region championship, and that’s really special.

“The reason you get into this coaching business is to help develop these young boys into young men and adults. The most satisfying part, more than 500 wins, is seeing how successful these boys grow up to be. We have had a lot of great, dedicated players at James Island. They get the credit for 500 wins. I just stuck around and enjoyed the ride.”