New Hampton softball coach Kate Hedderman ready to get started

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Saturday, January 6, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Hampton didn’t have to look too far to find its new softball coach.

There was someone in the Talbots’ own backyard.

Kate Hedderman, a private softball instructor who runs a training facility in Hampton, was hired in late November to replace longtime coach Ron Fedell.

“I know a lot of the girls and I know the community well because I work in that community,” Hedderman said. “They know me. They trust me. They know my intentions.”

Fedell, who went 202-194-1 in 23 seasons, stepped down after last season to spend more time caring for his 4-year-old autistic granddaughter.

Hedderman, a former standout catcher at Slippery Rock and assistant coach at Deer Lakes, inherits a team that went 13-6 last season and posted the program’s first playoff victory since 2019. The Talbots return eight starters.

“I’m thrilled. I haven’t been able to sleep,” said Hedderman, who turns 33 on Jan. 16. “I just want it to (start) tomorrow. That’s how I feel about the season. I’ve been waiting. I’ve been ready to get started since the interview process started.”

Hedderman, a Warren, Ohio native, graduated from Slippery Rock as one of the top offensive players in program history. Known as Katie Saluga back then, she was named PSAC West Player of the Year and Division II honorable mention All-American as a senior in ‘13 and still ranks in the top five in multiple hitting categories at SRU.

Shortly after graduating, she opened HomePL8 softball training in Etna at a building that had concrete floors, one cage, one batting tee and a bucket of balls.

Hedderman moved HomePL8 to Hampton in 2022 — about two miles from the high school — and has trained about half of the current Talbots over the years, she said.

“She’s a very good instructor, and I think that really translates into her coaching,” said Hampton all-section senior shortstop Charlotte Lomb, who works as a junior instructor at HomePL8. “She can watch players develop and know what it takes to have players grow all around.”

Hedderman, whose full-time job is as a fundraiser for the Pittsburgh Zoo, admits coaching and instructing had never provided the same thrill as playing. She picked up a bat for the first time at age 3 and started playing softball at age 6. She was named all-state at Warren (Ohio) Champion H.S. before her days at West Liberty and Slippery Rock.

“I never thought the feeling off the field would ever compare to on the field,” she said. “When it ended, I really didn’t know who I was for a little bit of time. I can say now that coaching — and especially being excited about Hampton and the program — it feels better than being on the field, for the first time.”

There are many reasons to feel optimistic. As the new year arrived, the administration was in the process of hiring her two-person assistant staff and work continues on a new softball field, expected to be ready next year.

Hedderman is also in close contact with Hampton middle school softball coach Liz Trent — the two attended Slippery Rock together — to coordinate the feeder system.

“It is incredibly important to build at the youth,” Hedderman said. “We plan to build our program, not from (grades) 9-12, but from (grades) 7-12. When they come in as freshmen, our goal is that they know how we run things and they know how warm-ups work because we are going to do it the same.”

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