Lee steps down as coach

David Lee, shown at a summer camp last year, stepped down as Watauga’s baseball coach.

BOONE — Watauga baseball coach David Lee tendered his resignation last week.

Lee said he will also not teach at Watauga and make a clean break from the school. Lee also taught physical education at the high school. His last day is June 6, the final teacher workday.

Lee coached baseball at Watauga in the 2016-17 seasons after taking over for longtime coach Pete Hardee in the summer of 2015. Lee compiled a record an overall of 14-33, 9-19 in the Northwestern Conference. The Pioneers failed to make the state 4-A playoffs in either year.

“I just think it’s the right thing to do,’” Lee said. “I just feel like the progress we’ve made the last two years — I’m proud of it. I’m proud of the improvements that I’ve made to the program at Watauga. I’m proud of the improvements from last season to this season and I feel like it’s best for those kids overall if some fresh ideas intervene.”

Lee said he would take about a month off before searching for a new position. He would like to keep his options open, and not being a head baseball coach isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker.

“I told (Watauga principal) Dr. Wayne Eberle and (athletic director) Dustin Kerley that I don’t leave angrily,” Lee said. “The administration was supportive and I don’t have anything bad to say. It might be time for me to take a little time off and recharge a little bit and with the new batting facility about to be open in the fall real soon, there’s going to be a lot of excitement around Watauga baseball and I’m excited for those kids.”

Lee, who arrived from Richmond County after being an assistant baseball and football coach with the Raiders, took over a program that was successful under Hardee. After Watauga lost its final three regular season games and the first round of the NWC tournament despite not giving up more than four runs in any of those games, the Pioneers reached the third round of the state playoffs after beating Mooresville 3-0 in round one and Lake Norman 5-3 in round two.

Watauga fell 1-0 to East Forsyth in the third round.

But the Pioneers were hit hard by graduation, losing eight starters and their entire 2015 pitching staff.

The 2016 Pioneers lost their first eight games, but won four straight during one stretch late in the season before falling to league champ South Caldwell on the final game of the season. South also beat Watauga 5-2 in the first round of the NWC tournament.

Watauga was hampered by a lack of offense in 2017. The Pioneers lost five games by 2-1 scores — twice to NWC champ Fred T. Foard. Watauga also lost 1-0 to East Forsyth and dropped a 3-2 decision to Hibriten.

Lee said the players took the news well.

“You’ve got three categories,” Lee said. “Some are going to be indifferent, some are going to be sad and some are going to be glad. The kids were very respectful. I got a lot of kind sentiments and I told them I know it’s ironic that I’m leaving because I think it’s the best thing for you, but I do.”

Lee also coached two summer teams in a developmental league that had one division for rising varsity players and another league for rising junior varsity players.

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