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East Ridge softball: Raptors have a catch in Afton Murray

East Ridge didn’t have to look too far to find a replacement for Tom Nemo.

East Ridge made Raptors’ assistant coach Afton Murray its new head softball coach.

“We are excited to have Afton as our head coach and look forward to her leading the Raptors to new heights,” East Ridge Activities Director Jon Hinzman said. “She is a great addition to our staff of coaches and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

Murray, who is the third head coach of East Ridge in the program’s five years, had been an assistant coach under Nemo for two years.

“I’m really excited to be able to continue what we’ve done,” Murray said. “The girls are great and have been really fun to work with.”

Nemo took over as East Ridge head coach in 2011 for Jeff Glackler, who led East Ridge to a 12-12 inaugural season before resigning as Raptors coach after being let go from his teaching position at Park High School. Nemo, 59, stepped down this offseason in order to spend more time with his family, but said he was lobbying for Murray to take over for him.

“(Nemo) has been great to work for,” Murray said. “He really showed me the ropes. I was a little shocked when he said he was leaving. But, this will be a smooth transition.”

Murray is a Park High School 2003 graduate and a current teacher at Pullman Elementary School in St. Paul Park, as well as a Reading Recovery and Title One teacher.

After graduating Park, Murray attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she majored in elementary education while playing softball. At Augustana, Murray was able to be part of a conference championship team that was a regional third place finisher.

Being a Park graduate, Murray said it’s “not an issue” coaching for cross-town rival East Ridge.

“There are a lot of my former coaches and teachers at East Ridge,” said Murray, who played softball for longtime coach Charlie Whitbred and current East Ridge boys basketball coach and math teacher Paul Virgin while at Park. “It’s nice to have that connection to the community.”

She did say, however, she expects it to feel “a little strange” to coach against Park for the first time as a head coach.

East Ridge is coming off its best season in the school’s four-year history. The Raptors, who finished 13-10 overall, reached their first-ever section championship last spring beating highly ranked North St. Paul twice in the playoffs, before falling to Stillwater in the title game.

Murray said there’s a little pressure right out of the gates.

“It’s my goal to get to state,” Murray said. “We have a lot of players coming back and a big senior class. We want to take that next step.”

Murray’s first order of business will be hiring a few new assistant coaches and hosting a meet and greet for the East Ridge softball players and families.

“I have been very lucky to be a part of such a wonderful community at East Ridge for the last two years and am thrilled at the opportunity to continue to build relationships and a program as the head coach,” she said.

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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