GENOA — In the two seasons prior to Renae Van Driel taking over the Twin River softball program, the Titans went a combined 8-40.
In 2005, her first season as head coach, Van Driel guided Twin River to a 15-16 season and never looked back.
Since then, the Norfolk native has 12 straight 20-win seasons with the Titans, including six trips to the state tournament.
On Oct. 5, a 12-2 win over Blue Hill marked Van Driel’s 300th career victory, all coming at Twin River.
Like any successful coach, she credits her players for getting her to this point.
“In my point of view, I couldn’t get the wins without the girls,” Van Driel said. “They’re the ones who have the ball in their hands. Their dedication, devotion, work ethic have made me successful.”
Also on her resume are two conference titles, five district titles and a career winning percentage of .703 (301-127).
While she’s been around softball her entire life, including going to the state tournament at Norfolk in 1996 and helping coach a state title team at Wayne while attending Wayne State College, it’s all been a bit of a surprise.
“I didn’t see myself being this successful,” she said. "It takes a lot of dedication from myself and my girls.”
Her experiences at Wayne drove her to be a better coach.
“That helped fuel my fire to remain competitive and get down to state,” Van Driel said. “Not just anybody can go down to state. It takes a lot to get there.”
Six times her teams have made it to Hastings, including in 2016 on the backs of senior pitchers Calista Pilakowski and Telegram Super Senior Tera Paczosa, but her biggest goal has still eluded her — winning a state title as head coach.
Her teams are just 3-10 at the state tournament.
“It seems like we always have one inning that gets us down,” Van Driel said. “We still have a lot of work to accomplish as a program.”
Twenty wins is the benchmark the coach sets each year, but while the expectations are high, fun is still an important part of the equation.
“I want the girls to have fun,” she said. “If you aren’t, you can’t accomplish anything.”
This season might have been viewed as a rebuilding year for most teams. The Titans relied on two freshmen and a junior to carry the team on the mound.
But the Titans still won 20 games, finishing 22-14, and were a couple wins from a third consecutive trip to state.
It was rough at first, which Van Driel expected, but all three players had bright spots this season.
Freshman Emilee Spitz threw a no-hitter Sept. 28 against David City/East Butler and finished the season with a 2.82 ERA. Her classmate Katie Paczosa, Tera’s little sister, tossed a two-hit shutout Aug. 29 against North Bend, while the oldest of the group, junior Erin Cook, was 10-2 this season and threw two shutouts.
“I have been so successful because of my pitchers,” Van Driel said. “I’m willing to learn new things and am working to get a new breed of pitchers going at the school.”
With all three of her pitchers returning next year after a full offseason of training from their coach, Van Driel expects her program to maintain its yearly position as one of the top-10 teams in Class C.
“We’re still going strong,” she said.