Monte Ault loves the game of softball.
The 1969 Brownstown Central High School graduate is in his 22nd season as the school’s varsity head coach.
In high school, he ran cross-country and played basketball and baseball for the Braves.
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Ault began his softball coaching career by coaching his daughter, Amanda, in Little League softball.
“She got hurt, and she didn’t get to play high school sports,” Ault said. “Then I went into travel ball, and I worked my way up.”
He began coaching the Braves in 1997 and had the opportunity to coach his other daughter, Kirsten, who played catcher and graduated in 2000. He also coached middle school basketball for eight years.
“We started softball in 1995,” Ault said. “We had two coaches, and they just played junior varsity ball. Then I got the call from Harry Rochner and Donal Neal. They called and wanted to know if I would be interested in the high school job in 1997. They said they wanted somebody in there that would stay and build the program up, and I told them I would be interested in doing that.”
He has compiled a record of 282-250. His 2015 team set the school record for wins with 22.
Ault coached the Braves to Mid-Southern Conference titles in 2004 and 2005 and to sectional titles in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2010 — all when Brownstown played in Class 2A. The Braves are now in Class 3A.
“I had some pretty good teams during a 10-year stretch here,” Ault said. “I’ve had real good pitching. I’ve always had a good catcher. We’ve had real good softball teams.”
He recalled one year losing to Clarksville in the sectional and the Generals went on to play in the state finals.
“We got beat by Providence on a no-hitter, and they went on to win the regional,” Ault said. “Clarksville has gone to state two times. Those (sectional) teams were a little bit tougher than what the regional was.”
He recalled Jessica Smith, Cheyenne Riley, Jessica Peters and Kourtney Branaman as some of his outstanding pitchers and said several girls have gone on and played in college.
The Braves played regionals at Forest Park, New Palestine and Beech Grove and at home.
They have not yet won a regional under Ault’s coaching.
“We’ve come close a few times,” he said. “We played North Posey on our diamond and got beat 2-1. We just had a couple errors that made a difference in that game.”
The Braves have always played their home games on the field at Brownstown Elementary School.
“We’ve really improved our field,” Ault said. “We have the concession stand, two nice dugouts and a new fence.”
He said the Braves play on a lot of nice fields around the MSC and for their nonconference games.
“Columbus North has a new diamond out at the fairgrounds,” Ault said. “Seymour has a nice field, Madison, Bedford and Jeffersonville have nice fields and Corydon improved theirs. That’s where the sectional is at. The diamonds around are a whole lot better than when I started.”
He said he has upgraded his schedule and plays more Class 4A schools now than he did when he first started coaching.
Ault said he has coached his teams to their strength over the years.
“On the slapping, I’ve had girls that could put the ball down and get down the line in about 2.8 seconds from the left side,” he said. “In our conference, there’s not too many girls that can slap and get down there that fast. Zoe Fountain (sophomore this year) can get down there in about 2.7 seconds from the right side. She’s our leadoff batter. I think she’s been thrown out one time all year by a catcher.
“Your No. 3 batter is usually your best hitter, and that’s what we have in Kaylee Branaman. The last four or five games, she has been batting about .600. We’ve got two or three girls that are fast.”
He said to be successful, you have to have a pitcher that can locate pitches and change speeds to get batters out.
Hannah Fisher started the season as the Braves’ No. 1 pitcher. She had a shoulder injury and missed some games, and Kyra Huffman filled in until Fisher returned.
Ault said pitching has changed in fast-pitch softball.
“When I first started, the pitching rubber was back 40 feet,” he said. “Now, they’ve moved it to the college distance, 43 feet. That has given the hitters a little advantage. We’ve got a couple girls in our conference that probably hit 60 mph.
“We hit the ball better on fast pitchers than we actually do on slower pitchers. There are so many pitching coaches, and girls go to pitching coaches. They start out when they’re 10 or under, so pitching has changed since when I first started.”
Ault said he has made adjustments in his practices during the years.
“I’ve changed drills a lot,” he said. “I’m going to more college-type drills that keep the girls moving, running and we’re not standing around. We’ve got drills where we’ve got girls in right field and left field. One person hits to the right fielder. At the same time, I hit to the left fielder.
“They’ve got to practice running from cheek to pocket with their mitt on, running from one (right) outfield to (left) outfield sprinting. We hit balls, and we do the same thing on the infield. We have a lot of drills where they have to charge the ball and field it on the run. We do a lot of throwing drills.”
He said he continually works on hitting.
“We go up there with the mindset we’re going to hit,” Ault said. “We tell the girls to watch the pitchers, watch what she’s throwing before the game. You want to stay back on a change-up. If the girl is throwing a curveball, we tell them to move up in the box. If a girl is slower, you want to move up in the box. If a girl is faster, you move back.
“You have to make adjustments to what the pitcher is throwing and what count she throws it on. Most of the time, if you get two strikes and no balls, they’re not going to throw one where you can hit it. It will either be way outside or if the pitcher has a good rise ball, she is going to throw a rise ball.”
Darren Bryant has been Ault’s assistant coach for the past 10 seasons.
“Darren has meant a lot to me,” Ault said. “He loves the game just like I do. With his job, he can come and help. He knows a lot about the game. I’d be lost without him. He hits to the outfield because I just had back surgery before the season started. He comes and helps get the diamond ready and does all the bending over for me now so I can just stand up straight. I couldn’t ask for a better assistant coach.”
Ault said his daughter, Kirsten, helps coach the middle school team and was president of the summer league one year.
“I used to coach travel ball and stuff, but since I farm, I’ve gotten out of travel ball,” Ault said. “I’ve got real good coaches. Darren has coached travel ball for 10 years and worked with a lot of our girls and coached them. Kirsten has coached travel ball for five or six years.
“We’ve got girls coming up that are really going to help our softball team. We start our summer league in kindergarten, and we go to sixth grade. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are playing middle school ball, and a lot of them are playing travel ball.”