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Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- St. Amant head coach Scott Nielson watches as his players get ready to bat in the fourth inning of St. Amant's 12-4, 5-5A softball win over East Ascension Monday at St. Amant.

Several years ago, St. Amant softball coach Scott Nielson asked a colleague how a coach knows it’s time to leave a job. He was told, “You just know.”

Long before the Gators lost to Zachary in the Class 5A quarterfinals at last week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state softball tournament, Nielson said he knew.

And on Tuesday, Nielson, one of the LHSAA’s most successful nonfaculty coaches, submitted his resignation after 14 seasons.

“I think you do just reach a point where it’s time,” Nielson said. “This has nothing to do with St. Amant High, the parents, the players or any of that. I’ve received wonderful support from everyone. In fact, I told the girls I think this will give them more opportunities to excel.

“The last couple of years we’d hit a plateau. Our goal is always to play in the last game of the season It’s time for me to do some other things, and I think it’s time for somebody with some new ideas to come in and hopefully take things to the next level.”

The Gators (26-6) won 22 straight games before losing to Zachary 5-4 in eight innings in the quarterfinals Friday.

Nielson compiled a 415-60-13 record, including a 140-11 record in district play and four Class 5A state titles. He succeeded his friend, the late Jimmy Iturralde, after the Gators won their first state title in 2002. Four more titles followed.

Since starting softball in 1992, St. Amant has never had a season with double-digit losses and is typically one of the top 5A playoff seeds. Nielson credited the previous SAHS coaches, Iturralde, Robin Rackley and Jay Benoit for building the program before he got there.

“We’ve only had four softball coaches at St. Amant, and they’ve all been very good ones,” St. Amant Athletic Director David Oliver said. “This is a huge loss for the softball program and the St. Amant community.

“Scott has been such a big part of what we do here. And his team are always one of the best in the state. When you look at the number of players he’s had go on to play in college it’s so impressive. There’s no doubt this is one of the top softball jobs in the state. I’m interested to see who applies.”

The chance to see one of those players, his daughter Kasey, play during her final season at Southeastern Louisiana University, now comes into play.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have so great players and the families to work with,” Nielson said. “I got the chance to coach my own daughter, which is not something everybody gets to do. And I’ve had understanding employers who allowed me to coach and do the things I’ve done. I’ve been blessed.”