The perfect Father’s Day gift
Three years and two states between them, the Pinder sisters achieved a rare feat that few people will get to see coming from the Lahontan Valley.
After leading her high school club to two consecutive state championships, the youngest of the Pinder family, Jill, joined her sister in the college ranks to continue her impressive career at Division III Lewis and Clark in Oregon. Two states to the east, Kate Coffey, who married last year, capped her four-year college career after playing two seasons at Division II Dixie State in Utah. Both sisters were fortunate to play one season together with the Greenwave before Coffey began her collegiate career at Chadron State College (Neb.) while Jill spent the next three years helping Fallon write history.
Although Coffey is done playing competitive softball, her kid sister has three more years to match her sibling’s success while she begins a new chapter with her husband.
THE RED STORM CHASER
Her first start in college opened her eyes and made Coffey want to switch schools after two years with Chadron.
“My first-ever college start was against Dixie and all I can remember is telling my mom and dad how much I would love to play for that program,” Coffey said.
After transferring to Dixie State in St. George, Utah, Coffey saw little playing time as a junior.
Then things started to change dramatically.
She married Bill Coffey before her senior year and then he was shipped overseas to complete a military tour in the Middle East. But that didn’t distract her from ending her career with one of the best seasons she’s ever thrown.
“Playing my final year as a newlywed with Bill in Afghanistan only made me a better player,” the psychology major said. “I was so focused on softball and school that the time passed super quickly. Bill did an amazing job of knowing the time difference and my practice schedule that I almost never missed a phone call. It was a mutual understanding that he was focused on what he had to do in Afghanistan and that I was focused on accomplishing my goals at school.”
Coffey pitched the Red Storm to two elimination victories in the conference tournament, going 22 innings and allowing only two runs. After beginning the year as a closer, she switched to the starting role where she racked up 104.2 innings and posted a 13-5 record with a 1.98 ERA. She also tallied eight complete games.
Her parents, Phil and Denise, watched many games at Dixie State and Lewis and Clark (Ore.), but were pleased with how their middle child performed this year. The four years, though, went by quickly for the family.
“It’s like anything else. It goes by fast,” said Phil Pinder, whose oldest daughter, Laura, lives in Reno. “You have a little time to reflect. I tell people to enjoy it. It was definitely the life for her, no doubt about it.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN YEAR ONE
Jill Pinder knew high school was not the end of the softball road. She wanted to follow her sister and play competitively in college after her success on the high school diamond.
Pinder wanted to play for a Division I club, like her former teammate, Sara Parsons, at Nevada, but she felt a better fit with a smaller school. Academics were one of the deciding factors at Lewis and Clark and the environmental studies major has enjoyed every second in Portland.
“Playing Division III offers me an amazing education and I am still able to play softball,” she said. “I enjoy being in a big city and my college campus is beautiful so it is always nice walking around campus.”
On the field, Pinder was used immediately and finished second on the team in ERA (5.31). She threw 54 innings and posted a 4-5 record for the Pioneers.
“She immediately came into the program and onto the mound with a presence,” Pioneers coach Shawna Feldt said. “She had a good freshman year and we really expect big things out of her in her next three years. She has a ton of potential that we’re really excited about, and expect her to lead our pitching staff in the years to come.”
Feldt was also impressed with Pinder’s work ethic and she has been a good addition to Lewis and Clark, which had its best season in almost two decades and won its first-ever postseason game.
“Jill is an exceptional worker on the mound and in practice and we’re really glad to have her in our program,” Feldt added.
Her father sees a bright future at Lewis and Clark after the season she had as a freshman.
“Considering you’re a freshman and having success she had and being a big part helping team with the most successful season in 12 years, as former coach and parent, I’m happy about that,” Phil Pinder said. “For the growth, she sees what she has to change and work on to be more successful to be at that level. That’s huge to see it. She’s always been the kid who wants to work on those things. Is there a guarantee? No, but the attitude is huge.”
Coffey was her sister’s biggest fan during Fallon’s state run in 2011 and 2012.
“Watching her win state is one of my favorite memories,” Coffey said. “I remember running on the field after she won it the first year in Mesquite and just hugging her and crying because I was so incredibly proud of her. Watching her set records and win state made me so happy.”
But none of that was possible without Coffey being a good role model on and off the field. While her sister was fortunate to play her final two years in the Division I-A, Coffey spent all four playing with the big schools and competing against the best in the state.
“I always knew my No. 1 fan was in the dugout and had my back when anything went wrong,” Jill Pinder recalled when she was a freshman. “Kate played first when I pitched and having her by my side made me stronger because she always believed in me. She taught me a lot about being a leader. She brought out a very competitive side as well, which has helped me be successful to this day.”
With the age gap being three years and playing one season together with their father, they wanted the best for each other and didn’t let anything come between them.
“I loved every moment of my senior year with her and I loved watching her grow into an amazing athlete,” Coffey said. “It’s never been a competition for us we both just want the other to do well and succeed and she has done both and I couldn’t be happier or more proud to call her my sister.”
FULL HOUSE ON THE DIAMOND
While it didn’t last long, the Pinder sisters played one season together in 2009 with their father at the helm. Their mother wasn’t too far away, either, as she watched both girls grow up and become college stars.
There was no favoritism on the field as each sister wanted to prove that she was the best on the field, regardless of who was coaching or pitching.
“Having my father as a coach was good since he taught me a lot and I knew I always had a fan in the dugout,” Jill Pinder said. “My dad only wanted the best for me and our team.”
Coffey recalled that her father was harder on them because he saw what the future could hold with these two playing past high school.
“As a coach he pushed me harder than anyone else ever had, which only made me a better athlete, but when it was time to get in the car and go home he became my biggest fan as well,” she said.
And the formula worked before Phil Pinder hung up his cap after Fallon won its second straight title in 2012.
But even watching his girls this past season, he still has those coaching urges with numerous scenarios running through his head.
“You have that conflict as a parent and a coach. You always want the best,” Phil Pinder said. “It’s natural to want the best but you’re always a realist. Not only do I teach my girls but all athletes. It’s learning to take the positives with the negative. If you have a negative, what can do to make a positive? If you have a positive, what do you do to make it better and keep the success going? Whether my kids playing or not, I’m always thinking as a coach and the bigger picture beyond what they’re competing at the time.”
Through the four years each has spent playing for their father, the Pinder sisters grew stronger, which not only benefited their family but helped the softball program become one of the best in the state. And it started with one of the town’s most seasoned coaches, who has led the golf, tennis and basketball teams.
“There’s no better role model coach or man then my dad, and I have been blessed to play for him and be his daughter. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Coffey said.