Harris guides South to state

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Cardinals face Bullitt ast on Thursday at 1:30.

By Bobby Brockman

Campbellsville and Taylor County were knocked out in the Fifth Region Tournament semifinals in baseball last month. However, there will still be a local connection when the eight-team Forcht Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament starts today at Applebee's Park in Lexington.

Wynn Harris, a 1999 Campbellsville High School graduate, is in his second season as the head coach at South Laurel (London) and the Cardinals will face Bullitt East today at 1:30 in the second game of the state tourney. (Lawrence County faces Owensboro at 11 a.m. in the upper bracket while Lexington Catholic meets Marshall County at 6 p.m. and Trinity goes against Harrison County at 8:30).

Harris, who played third base and pitched for the Eagles, signed with Cumberland College (now the University of Cumberlands), where he played exclusively as a pitcher.

After his playing career and graduation from Cumberlands, he stayed on as a graduate assistant before going to Southern Arkansas University (Magnolia, Ark.) and was headed back to Magnolia, Ark. when he was approached about an opening in his field (social studies).

"I kinda got lucky," Harris said on Monday by phone. It just happened that his wife-to-be's dad (Steve Wright) was the AD and successful basketball coach at South Laurel.

So Harris went to South Laurel in 2006 as an assistant and got the head job in 2008. He had helped coach the Somerset Twins a year or two earlier and met G.J. Smith, whose son was on the South Laurel team, and was just retiring as South's coach before the 2006 season.

"There were a lot of good men here with Coach Smith and Coach Wright," Harris said. "I was really pleased about getting the job."

And in 2008, he did become headman of the Cardinals.

"It was a feel good thing for me," Harris remarked as the former Eagle became the Cardinals' head coach.

"We were just talking about that the other day," Harris laughed. "I told them I didn't own a red shirt until I came to South Laurel."

Harris, who admits he was not a stand-out athlete, feels he can associate with current players.

"I feel like I've got a passion for the game, especially in high school, not just coaching baseball but teaching," Harris assessed as one of his strengths.

"I also have the joy of working with kids and to make and create relationships," Harris offered of another strength.

Harris said another of his attributes is "just hard work."

"When you're 5-8, 190, you're limited," Harris said. "A lot of that carries over in coaching.

"Some people might second-guess when you don't have the talent some other players have. Not that I was, but I always tried to be smarter."

Harris' parents, Buddy and Mildred Harris, still live on the corner of North Central and Robinson avenues.

"They come to games that are three hours away for them," Harris said of his biggest fans.

Harris said he's fortunate to inherit such a good team at South Laurel.

"We're pretty talented," Harris said. "We're junior-senior heavy (six starters are seniors and the rest are juniors). "I feel really blessed.

"We're hitting the ball from one to nine (in the order). In the post-season we're outscoring the opposition 75-17 and we 10-run ruled our (three) games in the region.

"We've got good talent, but we can't just show up. We have to play well.

"Everybody's good, well-coached and prepared."

Harris and some of his staff did see the Semi-State 3 finals on Saturday in Hodgenville where Bullitt East won the last two games over Elizabethtown.

"Bullitt East is strong fundamentally," Harris acknowledged.

As a senior at CHS, the Eagles knocked off four-time defending champion Taylor County in the first round of the 20th District Tournament, won the district title and fell in the Fifth Region Tournament semifinals to LaRue County.

This will be Harris' second trip to state at South Laurel.

"I got to go (to state) as an assistant my first year," Harris said. "The first time I was little bit overwhelmed. This time I feel like I'm more prepared as a coach.

"And some of the kids that are seniors now were there as freshmen. We shouldn't be so stage-shocked with the environment of the thing."

Editor's note: South Laurel fell to Bullitt East 16-5 in the first round of the state tournament on Thursday.