Tag Archive | "Steve Harrington"

Lady Highlanders react to resignation, LHHS looks for new coach

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Lady Highlanders react to resignation, LHHS looks for new coach

Posted on 30 June 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

La Habra High School Softball Coach Steve Harrington stepped down shortly after the season despite an immensely successful two-year run at the helm.

Photo courtesy Miguel Pola –  All about coaching: Steve Harrington resigned late last month as head softball coach at La Habra after leading the Lady Highlanders to a 21-8, 9-1 season and helped them move to Division 1 in CIF.

Despites only being at La Habra for less than two seasons, Harrington developed a bond with his team that has arguable impacted each of them.
So much so, that upon hearing of his decision to step down, a large group of team members and parents demanded a meeting with school administration to plead for Harrington to remain with the school.
Eleven varsity softball players, along with parents, La Habra High School Principal Karl Zener and Athletic Director Frank McCarroll held a meeting with last month to fight for Harrington.
According to former Lady Highlander and assistant coach Regina Andrade, who was present at the meeting, the players, parents and Andrade`each voiced their support of Harrington for helping to better the team and the program as a whole.
All 11 girls showed up with heartfelt letters in-hand, explaining how Harrington had, and continues to impact their lives both on and off the field.
The meeting concluded with the administration stating that it was out of the their hands because Harrington had resigned earlier in the week.
After the meeting, the group of players and parents went to the district office to fight for Harrington. According to multiple sources, the only solution provided was to have Harrington re-apply for the position.
McCarroll could not comment on the personnel situation.
“We wish Coach Harrington the best and thank him for the past two years,” Zener said.
Harrington was able to help lead the Lady Highlanders to remarkable on-the-field success in his short time with the team.
A little more than a month after arriving, Harrington lead the team on an unprecedented 27-game winning streak, which only came to an end during the 2016 CIF semifinals.
After the team’s success in his first season the Lady Highlanders became the first team in any sport in the history of the school to be moved up and compete in CIF Division 1.
Many parents and players reacted to the promotion with some fear that the 2017 season would be difficult.
Harrington though, didn’t sweat it. Instead he reacted by working to inspire the team to believe they absolutely belonged at the top. And convinced the team that they would not only compete in Division 1, but beat a lot of the top team’s in the division.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The Lady Highlanders finished the 2017 season with an impressive 21-8, 9-1 record, and along the way beat some of the top ranked teams in the nation.
The Lady Highlanders were actually ranked in the top-10 in the nation back in March, after defeating Orange Lutheran and the No. 1-ranked team in the Nation Los Alamitos in back-to-back games during the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions in Bullhead, Arizona.
Few people know what Harrington has done, and continues, to do behind the scenes for his girls.
His reputation for being a hard-nosed coach is earned. According to him, he makes his players put in the work and hold them accountable.
He explains that it comes from a place of wanting to help his players become the best they can be.
The touching letters penned by some of his players to the school paint a picture of what is underneath that tough exterior.
They tell a story of a coach, a mentor and for some, even a father figure who went out of his way to make sure all of his players were able to compete at the highest level on the field, and be the best version of themselves off of it as well.
“Steve has impacted my life in many ways,” catcher Alyssa Rios said. “He brought my confidence up when nobody believed in me, not even myself and turned me into a catcher I never thought I could be.”
“Steve showed me the more detailed parts of the game,” first baseman Alyssa Palacios said. “He’s also showed me how far confidence can get you and he’s just made me see the game in a different aspect that makes the game quicker and more fun, he’s an awesome coach and an awesome person in general.”
“Coach Steve really cared about me and always had my back,” shortstop Savannah Tourville said. “Not only is coach Steve coaching us but he really cares about each player and wants us to get to the next level and help us in the future after college.”
Harrington’s impact was also felt off the field for many of the girls. Perhaps none more so than Rios.
“He also helped me through my depression,” Rios said. “My dad had passed away about 11 months ago and he was there for me, pushing me to be a better person and I thank him for that everyday.”
“He’s given me opportunities of a lifetime with college,” she continued. “He’s overall an amazing person and a father figure in my eyes.”

Many of the players echoed sentiments about Harrington’s generosity, pointing out how he bought the team matching cleats at the beginning of the season and helped pay for some players to travel out of state for the Tournament of Champions.
“He always told us that money was not an issue,” Tourville said. “He helped out with free lessons and paid for many other things, even simple things like buying the team breakfast and giving us that time to bond.”
Palacios explained that he would help out the girls who couldn’t afford the Laughlin trip or the banquet, and that there would be a way for them to go.
Harrington still helps the girls when he can. He’ll attend travel pall games and provide a free lesson here and there. He’s also working his connections in the softball world to help set up college scouting visits for the girls still without scholarship offers.
“He’s contacted a few schools for me and one of them really likes me,” Rios said.
“He’s helped me after the season to prepare me for college,” Palacios said.
In his two seasons, Harrington helped the La Habra softball program grow and develop into one of the top programs, and he is ready for his next opportunity.
La Habra is currently accepting applications for the coaching position and hopes to have someone in place by the start of the school year.

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Nikki Butler: Lady Highlanders indisputable leader

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Nikki Butler: Lady Highlanders indisputable leader

Posted on 06 May 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

After the Lady Highlanders’ extra innings win at Sunny Hills two weeks ago, the team had all left to board the bus, but one player stayed behind gathering her gear and cleaning up the visiting dugout.

La Habra High School Catcher Nikki Butler.

La Habra High School Catcher Nikki Butler is a leader on and off the field for the Lady Highlanders. .

As she lugged her catcher’s gear into the bag, then threw it over her shoulder, Nikki Butler—who just moments prior hit the game winning home run—turned to walk away when her coach called out “oh that’s mama bear… if the girls need anything, she’s always got it.”
That moment captured the essence of what Butler means to the La Habra softball team.
Introducing her with the standard athlete denotation—you know, the team, position and name, followed by some recycled superlatives—wouldn’t properly capture her impact on the Lady Highlanders. Sure, she is all of the above. But Butler is more than just La Habra’s catcher. She is the team’s quintessential leader off the field and a maestro behind the plate.
So what’s a leader off the field look like?
Before the coaches arrive for a Monday practice, Butler takes the junior varsity team and runs them through the drills they will be doing for the day. Next, she rounds up the Lady Highlanders varsity squad for a team jog around the track. By the time the coaches arrive, both teams are already off and running into their respective drills.
On the field, Butler handles a talented group of pitchers and anchors a solid defense.
Butler calls pitches and directs the defense like a conductor would an orchestra. To truly appreciate Butler’s mastery behind the plate, you must first understand her trailblazing coach.
All coaches draw up gameplans, but Steve Harrington elevates it to an artform, orchestrating strategies like a composer. For over two decades, Harrington’s inimitable system and coaching style demanded that he called all in-game strategies from the dugout.
Astonishingly, Butler began picking up Harrington’s system within the first couple months, prompting him to do things a little differently.

Lady Highlander's Nikki Butler helps coach the La Habra JV team before their practice.

Lady Highlander’s Nikki Butler helps coach the La Habra JV team before their practice.

You see, Butler became a student of the game at a young age thanks to her dad Craig, who also played the position. She has been working on her skills behind the plate for 13 years with him.
“My dad always taught me to just go with the flow, and I really liked it,” she said about playing catcher. “My dad has taught me everything I know, I have never been to a catching coach.”
She said that her travel-ball coaches and now Harrington have helped put the finishing touches on her game.
Though Butler and Harrington have a symbiotic relationship now, the two had their differences early on.
Harrington was impressed with Butler’s confidence and knowledge of the game from day-one, but those same attributes,which he loved, made it difficult for her to fully embrace his system.
“Nikki is a very confident girl and she really has a wealth of experience,” Harrington said. “She sees the game pretty well and she is coming off doing it the way it’s been done the past three years, but that system doesn’t work for me.”
The chasm came to a head rather quickly.
“So I’m sitting here implementing my system—which I know works—and she [was] trying to integrate some components from the other system, and that is when we butted heads,” Harrington explained. “I flat out told her, ‘A, you can figure out how to run my system and forget about that other one; or B, you can get out of here and play travel ball.’”Butler
Many players in her shoes, who have had lots of success and received scholarship offers, would have looked at Harrington sideways, holding the mindset of, what can he possibly teach me, I already know how to play the game.
Butler took the ultimatum like a challenge. Deep down she knew that it was an opportunity to take her game to the next level. So Butler quickly became a pupil of Harrington’s system.
“She started asking a lot of questions,” Harrington said. “Then one day at practice I noticed she was taking notes on her cellphone.”
Harrington said there are still times when she will ask him what to do in certain situations, but for the most part Butler now orchestrates the games autonomously behind the plate.
“Sometimes he can just give me a look in certain situations during a game and I know that we are thinking the same thing,” Butler said.
Butler said that learning from Harrington the past few months has elevated her game and better prepared her for the collegiate level.
“It definitely gets complicated, as a hitter against him and as a player for him, you don’t know what he is going to come with, so you just have to have an open mind,” Butler said.
Butler’s aptitude on the diamond turned out to be a perfect union with Harrington’s complex system.
“He [Harrington] always comes to games prepared with a plan of what he is going to do when we play a specific team or coach,” Butler said. “He is definitely different when it comes to shifting the defense, you can never fall back on your heels in any game, but I feel like with him, you wouldn’t ever come close to it because you really don’t know what he is going to come at you with.”
Immediately after the Lady Highlanders beat Mater Dei to win the Woodbridge Tournament, Harrington felt Butler had figured it out and commented on how impressed he was with her ability to handle the game from behind the plate.
The Lady Highlanders have two of the top pitchers in Orange County in Janelle Rodriguez and Hannah Johnson. Their success rides on Butler’s ability to call the right pitches in the right situations and keep them locked into the game.
Rodriguez said that Butler’s confidence behind the plate and her initiative to take control of a game is what sets her apart.
“Sometimes I don’t even know what she is going to call, because she likes to mix it up and doesn’t want to throw the same pitch every single time, she wants to understand the batter,” Rodriguez said. “We will talk between innings and figure out how we want to pitch certain batters.”
Rodriguez also feels Butler’s ability to put the game in perspective has helped her a lot, especially when she gets in tough situations.
“I just remember her telling me one time, ‘it’s just for the fun of it and not a yes we are going to college for it, but… just have fun with it,’’ Rodriguez said. “She is really loud behind the plate and that’s what I like, in between pitches we’ll say ‘ok we got this’ and we know our game plan.”
Besides implementing the game plan and getting the most out of La Habra’s talented pitching staff, Butler also plays the position extremely well.
Baserunners haven’t stood a chance trying to run on her. On the season, Butler has only allowed one stolen base.
“Some teams don’t even try [to steal],” said Richard Flores, La Habra assistant coach. “And if they do, they get thrown out, she really takes that avenue away.”
Flores, who has been coaching at La Habra with Butler all four years, wasn’t surprised by how well Butler picked up her new coach’s system.
“Nikki grew up playing catcher, she studied the game and absorbed it” Flores said. “She really is the maestro of the defense.”
In addition to her defensive mastery, Butler also plays a pivotal role for the Lady Highlanders offense. She is one of the team’s top run producers, batting in the middle of the lineup.
Opposing teams have taken notice of Butler’s prowess with the bat as well. In critical situations she has been pitched around and intentionally walked.
Sunny Hills tried to do so a couple weeks ago, but that didn’t deter Butler from seizing the moment. Instead of standing there with the bat on her shoulder waiting to be walked, Butler stepped into one of the pitchouts and launched a home run over the center field fence, lifting the Highlanders to an extra innings win.
Her ability to lead the team and orchestrate the new system has helped the team put together a record season thus far. The Lady Highlanders are 22-1 overall, 6-0 in league and have now won 19 straight games.
Butler feels the Lady Highlanders transformation this season is a reflection of Harrington’s approach, which has been an equal mixture of discipline, gameplan and preparation.
Butler said that the team’s goal at this point is to finish out league strong and then focus on winning a CIF Championship.
She and Harrington are both confident that the Lady Highlanders have the talent and tools to do it this season, but know they have a lot of work to do before that happens.
In April, Butler officially signed her letter of intent to play softball at New Mexico State University. She said the overwhelming support from the community in New Mexico was strikingly similar to La Habra, which made choosing the Land of Enchantment a surprisingly easy decision.
“It was kind of a love at first sight thing, it totally shocked me how much I liked [New Mexico State],” Butler said. “The coaches, the girls and everything is so family oriented, going out there would be like my home away from home.”
Butler said she is looking forward to playing for the Aggies and studying criminal justice.
For now, Butler will continue to focus on helping the Lady Highlanders continue on one of their best  seasons ever.

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Lady Highlanders crowned champs over Mater Dei

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Lady Highlanders crowned champs over Mater Dei

Posted on 03 April 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

After notching a complete game against Villa Park in the semifinals, Hannah Johnson tossed three scoreless innings in relief, helping the Lady Highlanders hang on for the 6-5 win over Mater Dei in the championship game of the Alan Dugard Softball Classic Tournament.LHHS SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP_Web

The No. 4 team in California, Mater Dei didn’t go away quietly on Saturday night. With runners on second and third and two down in the seventh, closer Harley Wells fielded a comebacker cleanly and fired the ball to first base, picking up the save and the title for La Habra.

Head Coach Steve Harrington was impressed with how his team responded to adversity against one of the top teams in California, especially in such a high pressure situation, which he admitted La Habra had never experienced before.

“That’s kind of our mantra, to be resilient and these kids demonstrated that today,” Harrington said. “They had a great deal of heart when their back was against the wall and they didn’t start ripping at each other, they started praising each other.”

Harrington said he knew playing Mater Dei was going to be tough until the final out.

“Number one they are a fantastic team, they are well coached, they are good people and good kids,” Harrington said. “I know some of those kids, they are good players, so we knew this was going to be a battle back and forth.”

The end couldn’t come soon enough for the Lady Highlanders, who had to play back to back games totalling over four hours of play that began at 5:15 p.m.

The Lady Highlanders got on the board in early, scoring their first run in the second inning on a RBI single from Nikki Butler.

The rest of the offensive action for both teams happened in the third.

La Habra added to their lead with five more runs, all coming with two outs in the top half of the inning. With the bases loaded, starting pitcher Janelle Rodriguez lined a two-run single into the outfield. Butler came up big again with a bases clearing double to the right-centerfield gap, giving her 3 RBI in the game.

After replacing starter Gabrielle Sandoval, relief pitcher Danielle Kahn hit the first batter she faced, then allowed an infield single that brought home the final run.

Mater Dei surged back into the game in the bottom half of the inning, scoring four of their five runs. The first two came on a squeeze bunt. Rodriguez fielded the ball quickly and underhanded it to Butler, who blocked the plate and applied the tag a hair late. The second run scored on Butler’s throw to second. The Lady Monarchs added two more before Rodriguez settled down to retire the final out in the inning.

Harrington said that he didn’t get frustrated, instead he tried to encourage his team reminding them they had a big lead, not to dwell on the mistakes.

“The last thing a kid needs is for you to yell at her and tell her what she already knows,” he said.

Rodriguez was cruising along until the uncharacteristically sloppy inning, finishing with 2 earned runs and 4 strikeouts in just 3 innings.

“I was hoping that mentally the way we prepare, the way we play, that we would be able to weather that storm and rather than get caught up in the hype of it all,” Harrington said.

Johnson picked up her second win of the day, going 3 innings with 2 strikeouts. She also tossed a complete game against Villa Park, racking up 9 strikeouts. Johnson was credited with an unearned run in the seventh, after the throw from shortstop on the would be third out sailed wide of first base.

Wells inherited a high-leverage situation, entering in the bottom of the seventh with two on and no out. However, despite the throwing error, Wells proved up for the task and handled the pressure well.

Rodriguez and Frankie Mendoza each hit a solo home run against Villa Park earlier in the day.

La Habra (16-1), the No. 3 team in California has now won 13 straight. Mater Dei (16-3) had won their previous seven coming into the title game.

The Lady Highlanders start Freeway League play April 12 at Sonora.

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