Morse notches 500th win as Ads’ skipper

Paul Morse doesn’t recall his first victory, but he’ll remember this one.

Twenty years after Morse got his first win as Danville’s baseball coach, he added his name to an exclusive list of elite coaches with his 500th career victory.

The Admirals rallied to defeat Paintsville 6-3 in their regular-season finale Wednesday night to give Morse his milestone victory.

According to KHSAA records, Morse is the 32nd Kentucky high school coach to reach 500 wins, and only the second to do in 20 seasons.

“It’s special, and that’s when you really start to think, ‘Man, you did do something there,” Morse said. “When I first started coaching, I thought, ‘There’s no way you’re going to get to those kinds of numbers.’ That’s when you really do look at it and say, ‘Man, that’s pretty cool.’”

Little had been said around the program in the days leading up to Morse’s 500th victory, but the achievement was celebrated after the Admirals closed out Paintsville.

Morse was showered with both water and confetti by the players, and the school presented him with a trophy and passed out commemorative caps to the entire team while his wife Tamme read a statement from the press box that spoke to the significance of the milestone both to the program and to her.

“The things she said up there, that’s special, and that’s what it’s about,” Morse said.

Morse said he had considered the possibility of getting to 500 wins after he got his 400th victory in 2018. His son Brady, who catches and pitches for Danville, said the players knew coming into this season that his father could get to 500 this spring if the Admirals had a very good year.

“Last week was the first time we started to realize it’s a reality now,” Brady Morse said. “I don’t think he even realized it until yesterday when Mom brought it up.”

Morse, a 1992 Danville graduate who still holds state records for career home runs, pitching wins and strikeouts, returned to his alma mater as coach in 2001 after a seven-year career in professional baseball. His first game didn’t go well, as Danville committed six errors in a 9-2 loss at Frankfort on March 26, 2001, but the Admirals gave him his first win the next day by beating Campbellsville 7-4.

His first two Danville teams had losing records, but he has had only one sub-.500 season since. His teams have won two 12th Region championships (2006 and 2009) and 12 45th District titles, and they have won at least 30 games five times.

“I guess I get credit for (the wins), but the assistant coaches, the staff I have, they really should get credit for that, and the good players that we’ve had over the years here,” Morse said. “I’m just making out the lineup and sticking it up on the board, throwing some BP and that’s about it.”

Morse’s coaching staff includes five former Danville players, four of whom played for Morse, and three former high school head coaches.

“I think (the program is) really successful because he surrounds himself with really good coaches and he’s a really good coach himself,” Brady Morse said.

Paul Morse said commitment by the players both in and out of season has helped make the program consistently successful.

“It’s about the kind of program you’re putting out there and getting people to buy into it, understanding what you’re trying to do and your philosophy and buying into the program,” he said. “They put in the time out of season, whether it’s the weight room or summer ball or just coming in to work out.”

Barry Arnold, a former Danville player who joined Morse’s staff in 2003, said countless players have benefited from Morse’s knowledge of both pitching and hitting but have benefitted even more from his encouragement and the work ethic he espouses.

“He encourages the guys and pushes them to always try their best, to work harder than anyone else,” Arnold said. “It also goes back to the players. We’ve had some really, really good players, and some players were good, but because of their work ethic they just get better and better.

“The kids know he cares about them. He works and works and encourages them. He will get on them, but within five minutes he’s patting them on the back.”

Arnold, who coached against Morse when he was the head coach at Harrodsburg and Morse was playing for Danville, said it’s also noteworthy that Morse welcomes any player who wants to be part of the program to learn the lessons that are part of team sports.

“It’s life lessons,” Arnold said. “You might not (play very much), but if you want to be with this and learn and encourage and be a good teammate, he wants you here. I don’t think he’s ever cut anyone since I’ve been with them.”

Morse said there were lessons to be learned from this game, which was added to the schedule only days ago after some other late-season games had been canceled.

Danville (33-3), which is ranked No. 2 in the state, had to come from behind to defeat No. 23 Paintsville (24-9) after falling behind 3-0. The Admirals scored five runs on six hits in the third inning, three of them coming on a home run by Preston Barnes.

Morse said it was a good test in the final game before the postseason for a team that had six straight mercy rule wins and hadn’t played a truly close game in 2 1/2 weeks.

“That’s a really good team,” he said. “We were really excited when we got a chance to add them to the schedule late. We had to compete a little bit and battle and fight, and we haven’t had to do that the last couple games, so it was great for a tuneup.”

Morse’s family members were part of the postgame celebration. His wife Tamme, who was in the dugout as a Danville manager when he first played for the Admirals’ junior varsity team as a seventh-grader, read a statement from the press box that spoke to the significance of the milestone both to the program and to her.

“The things she said up there, that’s special, and that’s what it’s about,” Morse said.

Brady Morse, who said some of his earliest memories include Danville practices and games, was one of the first to congratulate his father following the final out.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I grew up here, as far back as I can remember, on this field,” Brady Morse said. “It’s been an awesome experience to grow up here and have such a good coach and dad.”

Paul Morse is the fifth coach from the 12th Region to win 500 games, joining Jody Hamilton, who coached at West Jessamine after stints at Raceland and Boyd County and who ranks seventh in career wins with 938; Charlie Taylor, who won 702 games at Somerset; G.J. Smith, who won 696 games at Laurel County and South Laurel; and David Camic, who coached Morse at Danville and won 508 games at Danville and Boyle County.

He is still far behind Mac Whitaker of Harrison County, who became the state’s career wins leader earlier this season with 1,159 wins entering his team’s regular-season finale Thursday.

“I’ve got to go another 20 years to get up there,” Morse joked.

12th Region’s Winningest Coaches
Career records for baseball coaching wins leaders who have coached at 12th Region schools, according to KHSAA records:
• Jody Hamilton (Raceland, Boyd County, West Jessamine), 938-371-1, 36 seasons

• Charlie Taylor (Somerset), 702-206-3, 39 seasons

• G.J. Smith (Laurel County, South Laurel), 696-232, 28 seasons

• David Camic (Danville, Boyle County), 508-159-1, 21 seasons

• Paul Morse (Danville), 500-234, 20 seasons

Milestone victories
Milestone victories for Danville baseball coach Paul Morse:
• 1 — March 27, 2001; Danville 7, Campbellsville 4, 5 innings

• 100 — March 28, 2006; Danville 3, Casey County 0, 6 innings

• 200 — May 11, 2009; Danville 4, West Jessamine 0

• 300 — March 23, 2013; Danville 14, Bullitt Central 1, 5 innings

• 400 — May 10, 2017; Danville 9, Campbellsville 0

• 500 — May 26, 2021; Danville 6, Paintsville 3