Kaplan softball coach Shay Herpin laughs about it now, almost in mock disbelief.
After 16 seasons that’s included nine trips to the Class 3A state tournament, two state championships and a pair of runners-up finishes, Herpin remains modest in his accomplishments.
A losing season in his first year at Kaplan, followed by four consecutive season without a trip to the state tournament, were quite an introduction to the coaching profession for Herpin, who never wavered in his beliefs of fundamentals and discipline. He continued learning the finer points of the game, while pushing his players toward excellence.
“We had growing pains the first year,” Herpin said. “I had to dismiss two players. I was coming in and setting my rules. We struggled.”
Five years into Herpin’s tenure, Kaplan started to see an upward trend. The Pirates went to the state tournament in 2005, and during a memorable three-year stretch, won the school’s first state championship a year later, were state runner-up in 2007 and state semifinalist the following season.
Keeping the program there proved challenging, and while there were three state tournament appearances mixed in, Kaplan ascended back to its former self the past two seasons with a runner-up finish in 2015 followed by this year’s 25-6 record and state championship over Lutcher.
“Once you get to that level, you’ve got to have a little luck,” Herpin said. “You have to have some talent, and things have to go right. Sometimes you wonder if you get back to that level again.”
For the second time, Herpin was voted by his peers to serve as a head coach in the LHSAA/LHSCA all-star softball doubleheader. He will guide the West against the East at 6 p.m. Friday at Louisiana College and again at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Herpin’s never lost touch with his grass-roots approach. While he played baseball for two years at Kaplan, he played football at Northwestern State before transferring to McNeese State after knee injuries effectively ended his playing career.
There was little doubt Herpin wanted to coach one day, but admittedly softball would have qualified as a long shot at best.
“If you would have told me coaching early on, it would have been football,” he said.
Herpin has been involved with coaching Kaplan’s football program in a variety of roles, currently serving as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Herpin’s interest in softball was first piqued after watching McNeese, which practiced near his apartment in college, and becoming fascinated by the game’s fast pace.
When he was hired to coach at Kaplan, the school’s junior high was in need of a softball coach to which Herpin obliged for two years. He then served for a year as Kaplan’s assistant before taking over the program in 2000.
“It suckered me in. I wouldn’t give it up,” he said.
The self-made approach to coaching took Herpin to several clinics, camps and practices in the Acadiana area, studying other successful coaches such as Kim Hebert at Teurlings Catholic and Lloyd Burchfield at Berwick.
Herpin also credited former Kaplan baseball coach Jason Morvant, whom he worked under along with assistant Tim Gabor, for picking up parts of the game that were transferred to softball. He’s molded a philosophy that’s served him well, earning a pair of state Coach of the Year honors and two trips to coach in the high school all-star game.
“I’m not sure what we (all-star coaches) do on the weekend makes a difference,” Herpin said. “You want to have fun and get out there and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”