CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Steve Pritchard, who guided Nitro to Class AAA state baseball championships in 2008 and 2010, has stepped down as coach in order to become an assistant principal at Chapmanville Regional.
Pritchard coached the Wildcats for 12 seasons, leading them to a 297-103-1 record (a 74.2 percent winning percentage) and qualified for the state tournament six straight seasons (2007-12), earning a pair of titles and two runner-up finishes.
He'll also resign his position as athletic director at Nitro. Pritchard said the opportunity to work at Chapmanville, his alma mater, was too good to pass up.
"It took a place like Chapmanville to have me even consider leaving Nitro,'' Pritchard said Thursday. "That's where I'm from. I grew up there. It's a special place to me, and so's Nitro. But an opportunity likes this comes along, you've got to take it.''
Pritchard coached four players at Nitro who were taken in the major league draft - J.R. Bradley, Korey Dunbar, Matt Frazer and Chase Pickering. Three of those were also selected as the state player of the year - Dunbar (2012), Bradley (2010) and Pickering (2008).
None of his teams at Nitro had a losing record (the 2004 team was 15-15), and his squads posted eight straight 20-win seasons from 2005-12, including three 30-victory campaigns. The Wildcats were 19-12 this past season.
"I've got no regrets,'' said Pritchard, 43, about leaving Nitro. "I think it's just like everywhere else. I came in here and left the program better than I got it.
"Everybody thinks of the state championship games that we played in or won, or that we got four kids drafted. And I'm proud of those things - they're great accomplishments. But I'm also proud of things behind the scenes people wouldn't know. When I got there, Fred King, Rodney Gordon and Bruce Adkins were there [on the support staff] and I did a good enough job to keep them there for 12 years. I'm as proud of that as I am any state championship we won.''
Prior to coaching at Nitro, Pritchard headed the program as Sissonville for eight seasons, winning a Class AA title in 1996 and earning a runner-up finish in 1995. He went 167-98 with the Indians, giving him an overall record of 464-201-1 in 20 seasons.
"When I got into coaching 20 years ago,'' Pritchard said, "I asked [Chapmanville coach Ted] Ellis, 'How will I know if I'm doing a good job?' He said if your players still came around after they were done playing, you've done a good job. Our players come work out with us, scout games with us and sit in the dugout for games. Based on that, I must have done a pretty good job.''
Pritchard doesn't deny that he might get the bug to coach again. Eric Ellis, the current coach at Chapmanville, who took his team to the 2011 AA crown, also serves as an assistant principal at the school.
"Any way I can help him or his baseball program,'' Pritchard said, "whether it's today, tomorrow or in the future, I'd consider it heavily. Right now, Kathy Moore is still the principal and Eric is still the baseball coach and vice principal.''
Pritchard said current Nitro assistant coaches Steve Crosier (a former coach at South Charleston) and Dave Sneed indicated to him they would like to remain on the staff in supporting roles. Other present assistants on the Wildcats staff are Drew McClanahan and John Eich.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.