Laser-focused as ever, Justin Chaney didn’t have time to celebrate win No. 400 too much when Newton County defeated Northwest Rankin 3-1 on Saturday, March 20.

The win was a big milestone, as it was his 400th victory as the school’s fast-pitch head coach, but it was also one of four games the Lady Cougars played that day. All of them were wins, but Newton County then had a game coming up against Richland Monday, March 22. 

“I’m happy, but I’m in season mode, so to me when I get there I just worry about the next win,” Chaney said. “When everything is said and done (after the season) I’ll appreciate it a lot more, but right now I don’t think of it as a big milestone. That’s nothing negative, I’m just worried about trying to make it to the playoffs.”

Justin Chaney file photo

Newton County softball coach Justin Chaney is pictured with his Premier Preps softball Coach of the Year plaque during the Premier Preps banquet in May 2019. The Lady Cougars won the MHSAA Class 4A state title that season.

There is a level of sentimentality he can appreciate during the season, however: All 400 wins came at Newton County, Chaney’s alma mater.

“That is special,” Chaney said. “Newton County is my home. It’s where my family is, and to win them all where I graduated from, that means a lot. My daughter (Hannah Chaney) is on the team now, and having her with me, things like that are sentimental to me.”

The key ingredients to winning 400 games are talented players, good assistant coaches and consistent standards, Chaney said.

“I tell them all the time, I won’t coach effort,” Chaney explained. “As long as they give me great effort, everything else will take care of itself. We’ve had a lot of great players come through here, and I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches work for me. I demand a lot from our players and coaches to be great every day, and each and every one of them is just as much a part of this as I am.”

The Lady Cougars are 17-4 on the year after a Thursday-night win against Quitman, and Chaney said he’s seeing his squad consistently improve and hopes that carries over into the postseason.

“I hate the word ‘young,’ but we’re inexperienced — but we’re getting better each and every day,” Chaney said. “It’s fun to coach that. I like watching them grow. We’re not there yet, but we’ve at least secured a playoff spot. I want them peaking at the right time, and if they play hard, good things will happen.”

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