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  • Courtesy Beth Peters and her father, Bill Nix, pose after they won their first sectional game as members of the same coaching staff at Bishop Dwenger.

  • Courtesy Beth Peters (née Nix) and her father, Bill Nix, after Bishop Luers' 1998 sectional championship. She was the team's best pitcher and he was an assistant coach for the Knights.  

Sunday, June 16, 2019 1:00 am

Daughter, dad find success on diamond

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

When Bishop Dwenger softball coach Beth Peters was 10 years old, she ran home from her first softball tryout with some news for her father, Bill Nix.

“My dad had only played slow-pitch softball, which was very different from fast-pitch softball,” Peters said, laughing about volunteering her father's services. “I told him he was my softball coach and he looked at me like he was trying to be nice, but he looked like he wanted to kill me.”

Nix did end up coaching that season and continued coaching her through little league and into high school, when he became an assistant at Bishop Luers. He stayed on with the Knights after she graduated, but four years ago he became the pitching coach at rival Bishop Dwenger, where Peters had been named the head coach.

That father-daughter coaching relationship reached an apex in May when Dwenger beat Lakeland to win the first regional championship in Nix's coaching career.

When Peters tried out in little league softball that first time, she didn't know much about the game; she just went because a friend was going. She was one of 13 players that were going to be cut from the team unless they found a coach, hence her request to Nix. 

Coincidentally, Nix was sidelined from slow-pitch softball that year because of wrist and elbow injuries, giving him some free time. Despite some qualms about the potential quality of a team made up of players who would otherwise be cut, he agreed to coach, expecting it to be a one-year commitment.

“I was envisioning Walter Matthau in 'Bad News Bears,'” Nix said. “And the first few practices, that's kind of what it was. Then I started finding all the information I could on the game of fast-pitch. ... What I thought would be one year went on for quite a while.

“I guess I was lucky she gave me that look like, 'If you don't coach, I don't get to play.' With most dads, that's all it would take.”

Nix's coaching of his daughter continued when she went to Luers and became a star pitcher for the Knights, helping them to sectional titles in 1997 and 1998. 

As a player, Peters was, in her words, “extremely competitive and emotional” and she was probably the toughest player for her father to coach, not only because she was his daughter, but because she was a perfectionist.

“I didn't just want to win the game, I wanted to win every single pitch that I was throwing,” Peters said of her playing days. “He probably learned most of his patience having to deal with me in high school.”

That competitiveness carried Peters on to a college pitching career at St. Joseph's in Rensselaer, while Nix stayed on at Luers as an assistant coach.

After college, Peters began her own coaching career and ended up at her alma mater's biggest rival, Dwenger, as an assistant coach. She said her decision to go into coaching was partly from seeing how Nix had affected his players over the years. She still talks to some players from her high school days who tell her how great a coach Nix is.

“I saw my dad have an impact on people right away in his coaching career,” Peters said. I wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to just be passionate about the sport I love and spread it to other athletes because I saw my dad do it.”

Peters was named the head coach at Dwenger in August 2013 and Nix became the pitching coach for the 2016 season. He was at first a bit intimidated with the Saints because he didn't know anyone at the new school, but Peters pushed him to accept a larger role on the staff and to take on more responsibility.

“I'm glad she did, because it's been a lot of fun,” Nix said.

Nix brings years of experience to his job as the Dwenger pitching coach and the patience he learned from coaching his fiery daughter in high school is particularly useful now. 

“We're all really competitive, but my assistant coach (Jeannine Logan) and I are the loud competitive,” Peters said. “My dad is calm, measured, he's been around a long time. He has that calm, nice presence that the girls feel like they can approach him with anything.”

Nix helps develop the pitching gameplan along with Peters and Logan, both of whom pitched in college. During games, he calls each pitch and focuses on the pitcher's strengths to help them maximize their abilities.

The formula has been successful: Dwenger won sectional championships in 2016 and 2018, although the Saints fell in the regional round both seasons.

Those losses continued a rough stretch for Nix in regionals. Coming in to 2019, he was 0-7 in his coaching career in regional championship games, a stretch that included 1-0 losses to end the high school careers of Beth and her sister, Joy. 

When Dwenger won the sectional again in 2019, setting up a matchup against Lakeland for the regional title, Nix joked that he planned to take the night off rather than attending the game. 

Instead, he was in the dugout when the Saints completed an improbable comeback with five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win 7-6 and capture their first regional title since winning the state championship in 2010. As the team was celebrating on the field, Nix embraced Peters.

“His knees buckled and he came up and he came up and gave me a hug,” Peters said. “I was like, 'Dad, are you having a heart attack?' I was so worried, but we were just so happy.

“It felt really cool, it took me back to those moments (when he was my coach in high school). It just made it even more special because it really clicked after the game, 'Wow, this means so much to him.'”

The Saints lost in a semistate matchup with Benton Central, but Nix and Peters will be back in 2020 and, Nix hopes, years into the future. He admires the coach his daughter has become and enjoys that he might have played a role in inspiring her to get there.

“Her (playing) experience and her competitiveness helps her a lot in coaching,” Nix said. “She wants the best for every girl that plays in her program and there's no doubt she wants to win. She's made her way very well.”

dsinn@jg.net