DII softball: 1,219 and counting, Wayne State's Gary Bryce is DII's all-time wins leader
Wayne State's Gary Bryce now stands alone. No head coach in the history of DII softball has more wins than The Warriors skipper.
The milestone win came Friday evening at the Shaw Invitational in Cary, North Carolina. The Warriors left no doubt that Bryce would get his record-setting victory, defeating Lincoln University 16-0.
Bryce was tied with Bloomsburg coach Jan Hutchinson — who led the Huskies from 1978 to 2010 — heading into the weekend’s action. He now sits in ninth place all-time across all three divisions.
"It's always good to set records," Bryce said. "It's not something I necessarily go after. I think longevity has given me the opportunity to do that. I have had great assistant coaches over my career that certainly helped that.
"When you get close, you always get anxious. It's great to get it under our belt and have the victory. I'm very proud of what we've done over the years."
Bryce arrived on the Detroit, Michigan campus in 1982 and went 22-13. Those Warriors were led by First-Team Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference second baseman Pat Kent. The following season, The Warriors finished undefeated in the GLIAC as Kent became an All-American.
34 years later, Kent has remained a fixture at Wayne State as Bryce’s trusted assistant.
"I think to have success in any program you have to have continuity in the coaching staff," Bryce said. "She does a lot of the leg work and we do all of the recruiting together. She's a workhorse. The good thing is that she teaches middle school, a phys. ed. teacher, and she comes up with wonderful ideas and makes practice fun. She has been a very instrumental part of our success."
Last year, Bryce’s Warriors won their second consecutive GLIAC title sweep of the regular season and tournament titles. They reeled off 50 wins, the second most of Bryce’s tenure, two shy of the school’s record set in 2010.
This year has the same feel. The 2017 team has a mere three home runs on the offensive side. They have been led by some solid starting pitching.
"We've never been a great home run hitting team," Bryce said. "We're a good doubles hitting team. We're traditionally a rotational style hitting. We try to hit line drives and hit ground balls and we do play a bunting game. I think that adds to our chances of being successful. We do have the reigning DII National Player of the Year as one of our pitchers. And she hit two more home runs today."
That player — the Warriors leader for the past two seasons — is Lyndsay Butler. Butler is a unique player as she has dominated in both the circle and at the plate, especially these past two seasons. Last year she went 29-6 behind a 0.77 ERA and striking out 227 batters, more than one per inning. She also hit .483 with a team best 12 home runs and 19 doubles while chipping in 42 RBI.
She hasn’t missed a beat this season, picking up right where she left off. Butler already has one GLIAC Pitcher of the Week award under her belt. Heading into Sunday's finale, Butler is 6-3 with a 0.24 ERA and 77 strikeouts picking up her first save of the season on Saturday. She’s also batting .469 with all three of the team's home runs and a team-high 16 RBI.
"She's a big-time player," Bryce said. "She's a great athlete, a pure hitter and she runs really well. Just a very gifted athlete. She's obviusly made our program better than it would be if we didn't have her."
Entering the 2017 season, Bryce had an honor bestowed upon him in which many coaches would be envious. Bryce will get to coach the remainder of his tenure as Wayne State’s head coach at Gary L. Bryce field.
"When the Atheltic Director Rob Foumier came in, he asked me about 17 years ago if I wanted a new scoreboard," Bryce said. "There was a lot of things we needed at that time and a new scoreboard wasn't one of them. And it passed by. I was always kidding him that when I retire they'll finally put that new scoreboard out. Then all of a sudden he came out and said, 'We're getting you that new scoreboard and you're name is going to be on it,' and I just about fell through the ground. it's a great honor, it is humbling. Certainly never expected that, what a wonderful thing. A truly wonderful thing to have your name on something that should be everlasting."
It doesn’t matter how many more wins Bryce adds to his record. There is only one win that he really cares about.
After 17 GLIAC titles and 11 GLIAC Coach of the Year honors, Bryce wants to win that national championship.
"Our goal is always to comepte at the national level and be successful there," Bryce said. "We've been there at least 21 or 22 times. We've always fallen short here or there, or sometimes teams are just better than we are. Sometimes you make your own bed in lay in it. But that's our goal every year. Compete at the national level. Try to win the GLIAC, try to win the tournament and see what we're made out of. Usually we try to play really tough competition because I think that is a measurement if you can comepte at the highest level. Fortunately, we've been relatively successful over the years."
Maybe then he’ll consider retiring.
"I'm somebody that would like to win as many as I can," Bryce said. "I think you try to teach the right things. I think sports is one of the last bastions where you can teach kids to do the right things. You have failures and you have successes, and it's how you handle those. If I can help one kid be successful in something, well, then I have had a successful career."