Jason Stoltzfus knows it takes sacrifices to field a successful team.
The Charter Oak-Ute softball coach is proof.
Instead of making the 57-mile trip home to his wife and five young children in Storm Lake after games, he drives seven miles to his brother-in-law's acreage, where his Challenger RV is parked. He's lived in the vehicle for all three summers he's coached the Lady Bobcats.
"My 9-year-old son, we talk a lot," Stoltzfus said. "He said, 'You know, Dad, I know you're gone a lot. But if those girls win, I can live with it.' I couldn't ask for better kids and a better wife."
The 41-year-old Stoltzfus has led Charter Oak-Ute to the Iowa Class 1-A state tournament. Tenth-rated Charter Oak-Ute (27-12) plays No. 4 Newell-Fonda (34-7) on Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge.
After stints at Eldora-New Providence and Iowa Falls, Stoltzfus spent 11 years as the coach at Storm Lake. He resigned as coach in 2009, but kept his teaching job. He then accepted the softball job at Charter Oak.
Until school's out, he drives back and forth. Then he parks his RV on the acreage between Ricketts and Schleswig owned by brother-in-law Brandon Jacobson and his wife, Rachel. It's well-equipped, with air conditioning, satellite TV, a queen-size bed and a refrigerator.
Stoltzfus said he gets home "every couple days" to see his wife, Mindy, and their five children, all younger than 10.
"I have the absolute best wife in the world," he said.
On the field, Stoltzfus might have the best hitter in the state in senior Nicole Dobernecker.
Dobernecker leads the state with 19 home runs and is batting .613 with 61 RBIs and a 1.297 slugging percentage.
"In all my years as a coach, she's definitely the best hitter I've ever had," Stoltzfus said. "I've had probably 10 hitters that have gone on to play Division I, Division II college ball. Some of them have been first-team all-staters. But I've never had anybody with her kind of power."
Charter Oak lost to Newell-Fonda 10-1 June 2, but Stoltzfus said that's a bit deceiving. His team was missing four starters, and it was a 3-1 game going to the bottom of the sixth inning.
Charter Oak's other top offensive weapons are senior Kendall Corbitt (.426, 22 RBIs) and sophomore Ashley Goslar (.393, 38 SB). Newell-Fonda is making its sixth state appearance, all in the last eight years. Senior Jenna Falline (24-4, 1.24 ERA) likely will get the start in the circle.
The Lady Bobcats had fallen on lean times in several sports since completing a three-year state softball run in 2006, led by sisters Kala and Kami Kuhlmann.
Now the communities are abuzz over the latest success story.
"It's a dream come true, but it's something we've been working toward all year," Stoltzfus said. "I went to the state tournament with a big school and people got excited. But not like this. It's not like these small towns. .... It's going to be crazy up there on Monday."
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