MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

June 21, 2014

Tahlequah names one of its own as baseball coach

TAHLEQUAH – Rusty Dillard was quite selective. He wanted to be very particular about which jobs he applied for.

He submitted an application for the coaching vacancy within the Tahlequah baseball program. Sure enough, he got the job.

“This was probably the only job that I would have applied for,” said Dillard, who leaves his post as an assistant coach on Stilwell’s baseball staff. “I’m a Tahlequah Tiger through and through.”

Yep, he sure is.

The 1983 Tahlequah graduate is set to take over for Nick Zodrow, who came to a mutual agreement with the school to step down as the coach at the end of the 2014 season. Zodrow was 63-94 in five seasons leading the Tigers, and three times he had Tahlequah in the regional championship contest.

Now it’s Dillard’s turn.

“I’m ready to get started,” said Dillard, who takes over a team that went 16-18 in 2014 and lost to Claremore in a Class 5A regional title game in May.

Lisa Presley, superintendent of Tahlequah Public Schools, said Dillard is a steal for the Tigers.

“He comes well recommended,” she said. “He’s somebody who has been around for quite a while. I talked to their superintendent and they hated to see him go.”

Now Dillard’s first order of duty will be to bolster the roster with depth.

“I’m hoping to get more kids,” he said. “When we played them, it seemed like the numbers were down. I met with the young kids and they seem pretty excited. They should be pretty good when they get to the high school level.”

Under head coach Tim Barton, Dillard spent 10 seasons at Stilwell. He said he’s learned so much about the game during that time.

“Under Barton, I learned a lot from him over there, like how the game should be played and the approach to it,” said Dillard, whose Stilwell club went 14-14 in 2014. “Before that, I was a volunteer under Kevin Riggs at Northeastern State. He taught me a lot.”

Eager to see Dillard in the coaching box, Presley said she’s glad to have Dillard onboard.

“I really look forward to having someone with good baseball knowledge to lead the program,” Presley said.

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