Mt. Juliet High School hires new softball coach

Staff Reports • Jun 8, 2017 at 1:32 PM

Haley Knepp was named the new head softball coach at Mt. Juliet High School on Thursday after six-year coach Brad Rowlett was not retained.

Rowlett, 56, said he will remain on the MJHS faculty as a Level 5 special ed math teacher. But he is out as Lady Bears coach after posting a 136-87 record, including a state tournament trip in his first season, 2012.

The 2017 season wasn’t Mt. Juliet’s best and appeared headed to an early end when the Lady Bears were upset by Portland in the opening round of the District 9-AAA tournament. But Mt. Juliet, with just one senior (a non-starter) on the roster, won five straight through the loser’s bracket to win the championship and eventually reached the sectional before losing at Brentwood to finish a 25-16 season.

Rowlett said he was offered the opportunity to resign by principal Mel Brown, but declined.

“I wasn’t given any explanation,” Roulette said Thursday. “I left with my dignity. I have no regrets.

“It’s a decision Mr. Brown made and I respect it. It is what it is.”

The school and the central office issued a press release announcing Knepp’s hiring, but a call to Brown’s phone seeking comment on Rowlett was not returned.

Rowlett, a Hermitage native, coached youth softball in Mt. Juliet and assisted another MJ sandlot coach, Junior Hawkins, at Cumberland University in the 1990s.

Leaving a plumbing career to pursue one in education, he enrolled as a 35-year-old freshman at Cumberland where he joined Hawkins’ staff. He also worked as a sports writer for the Mt. Juliet News.

Hired at Lebanon High, he spent 12 seasons coaching the Lady Devils to a 223-189 record and four Region 4-AAA appearances at a school which had no fastpitch feeder league to draw from until the Lebanon Girls Softball Association switched from slowpitch early in his LHS tenure. He was named District 7-AAA coach of the year in 2005 and earned the same honor in 9-AAA at Mt. Juliet in ’14.

Rowlett also coached wrestling at Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Friendship Christian, where he also assisted childhood friend John McNeal on the Commander football staff. He’s also assisted with Mt. Juliet Middle School football the last six years and said he plans to continue with that role.

But Rowlett said he is finished with softball after posting a career 359-276 record.

New Lady Bear coach comes from Mississippi

Knepp attended Kossuth High School in Mississippi, where she was a three-time all-county player and all-division athlete.

Upon graduation, she went on to Northeast Mississippi Community College, where she received third-team MACJC honors as a freshman and first-team conference honors her sophomore year. During the 2011-2012 season, Knepp helped lead the team to a runner-up finish.

In 2013, Knepp went on to pursue her degree at the University of North Alabama, where she helped lead the team to a 40-20 record and an appearance in the NCAA South Regional.

Knepp transferred to Blue Mountain College for her senior season while pursuing her degree in math education. She was named an “All-American Scholar” athlete all four years of college.

Upon graduation, Knepp served as the assistant coach for Booneville High School. She and her staff lead the Lady Blue Devils to a 25-6 record, advancing into the third round of the playoffs.

Knepp said she’s excited to begin her new journey in Mt. Juliet.

“Being a former collegiate softball player and assistant coach, I’ve had the opportunity to play and work for some very successful programs,” she said. “I look forward to growing and developing this team, not only into successful softball players, but young women as well.”

Team tryouts will be held June 21 and June 22 from 4-6 p.m. at the Mt. Juliet High School softball field. Participants must have a current physical.

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