‘A Fitting End’ for Luray softball coach Charlie Turner

As far as he can remember, Charlie Turner never explicitly said he wanted to win a state championship.

“Of course you want to win the championship,” Turner said to a group of players and family members Monday evening in Luray High School’s auditorium, at a small end-of-season event for the team. “But to my knowledge, I don’t think we ever said, ‘let’s go win the championship’ these past ten years. Really, we just wanted to get there.”

In 2017, Coach Turner and the Bulldogs finally did. Luray reached its first state tournament in the history of the program earlier this month. And though the Bulldogs lost 5-4 to Holston High School in the semifinals — as Turner puts it, they were “one hit away” from the title game — Turner still guided a team that was once 5-12 to the deepest finish in program history.

“This season, it’s a fitting end for me, it feels like,” Turner said.

But that doesn’t mean it was all easy.

“These past three years, they’ve been hard. Harder than the previous seven,” Turner said.

Turner, who helps run a large farm near Mount Carmel with his father when he isn’t coaching, had to cope with the passing of his mother just days before the start of the 2017 season.

“For a little while there, my heart wasn’t in it,” Turner told the crowd on Monday. “But I don’t think mom would have wanted me to quit.”

He didn’t. Luray was dealing with serious fielding problems on the field and chemistry problems off the field, which led to slews of losses and some players leaving the team.
Late in the season, though, his players finally started to put the pieces together.

“In the beginning of the season, it was a little rough,” said junior third baseman Kristen Weaver, prior to the state semifinal game. “We had some drama and that sort of thing. We’ve been getting along since then, though. We’ve been laughing and enjoying ourselves. And I think our enjoying the process of getting better makes us want to work harder.”

As one of his final acts of coaching, Turner facilitated that process, pulling girls aside in practice and prodding his players to stay positive and keep supporting one another.

Eventually, in May, he broke through. According to Turner, when the energy levels in the dugout increased, so did the win count.

“It humbles you down to know these girls need you off the field as well as on the field,” Turner said.

Aside from a run to the state title game and the impact he’s had on dozens of Luray players, Turner says he’s most proud of the new field Luray built after his third year, in 2010.

“We started building that thing in the fall, and by spring, it was ready,” Turner said. “There’s a lot of teams that would probably come to Luray High School and look at that and be jealous.”

“I like taking care of that field,” he added.

Now, Turner will head home to take care of a different field — his farm, which has over 60,000 chickens and 36,000 turkeys.

“There won’t be much time off, just because I’m sort of retired now,” Turner said.

Well, maybe. Some of his free time is already spoken for, as his grandson is starting up little league soon.

He plans to coach a little.

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