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Schutte to leave GPC, but not softball, at conclusion of 2012 season

COVINGTON -- Ed Schutte, who helped usher Georgia Perimeter College softball into the fastpitch era and built the program to national prominence, has announced the 2012 season will be his last at the school.

But forget the term "retirement." He plans to stay active in the game by continuing to teach at McCann's Windward Baseball and Softball Academy in Alpharetta, doing clinics and perhaps coaching national teams.

"I'd like to pursue my course of coaching NCAA Division I All-Americans at the national level," said Schutte, who has coached teams in several international events while at GPC.

Schutte arrived at GPC as an assistant coach to Dr. Bonnie J. Young as the Jaguars moved from slowpitch to fastpitch. He spent four seasons as an assistant before becoming head coach for the 2002 season.

"It's definitely been a transition period," Schutte said. "We moved from the Dunwoody Campus to the Newton Campus and we went from mediocre facilities to first class."

Along the way, he was able to recruit better athletes. Schutte enters his 11th season as head coach with a record of 308-155 and two appearances in the national tournament, 2007 and 2010. Four other teams won regular season titles in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association.

He was named GCAA Coach of the Year in 2003, 2006 and 2008 and shared the award in 2009.

Schutte said his No. 1 memory at GPC is the 2007 team going to the nationals in Plant City, Fla., with 11 players.

"People were laughing at us because of our numbers. They were wondering where our program came from," he said.

In their opener, the Jaguars upended No. 6-ranked Northeastern Oklahoma 6-4 with five runs in the seventh inning, including a two-run homer by catcher Shelley Jenkins. They beat Louisburg before finishing fifth.

But that team was noteworthy before it arrived in Plant City. After losing to Darton in the opener of the GCAA tournament, the players told Schutte not to worry, that they'd win five straight. They did, beating Middle Georgia twice on Sunday by a combined score of 19-4, befitting a team that hit .486. That still stands as the national record.

"That team was something special," he said.

More special memories: The 2010 team beating Darton in the GCAA final on a slug bunt by pitcher Christina Ezell, and Ezell dominating an event at Wallace State-Hanceville, striking out 50 batters in 30 innings one weekend, including 13 in a shutout of heavy-hitting Chattanooga State.

Respected as one of the best pitching coaches at the collegiate level, Schutte produced a line of outstanding pitchers, starting with Liz Hyman in 2003 and 2004. "Liz kind of put us on the map," he said.

The run continued with Andrea Moss, Kimberly Hobbs, Ezell (662 career strikeouts, two-time GCAA Player of the Year, second team All-American) and now Lauren Bell, a sophomore in 2012.

Hyman, Moss and Hobbs went on to big careers at four-year schools -- at Georgia State, North Georgia and Charleston Southern, respectively. They are among the 50 or so Schutte-coached players to advance to the four-year level.

Among position players, Schutte's best may have been Kelly White, all-region in 2006 and 2007.

"She was a phenomenal shortstop, the best infielder I ever coached, and a huge asset to the program," he said.

But a current Jaguar has a chance to match those achievements. Slick-fielding Kacie Patterson was all-region in 2011 as well as GCAA batting champion.

But this latest group will be the last of the 190 or so players coached by Schutte. All will be invited back to GPC on April 14 for a banquet honoring their coach, who now plans to spend more time with his family.

"I've done my job," he said. "I've done everything but win a national championship. Will I miss it? Sure. When the opener comes next February, I'll miss it because I won't be a part of it."

Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.