By Andy Reed

Had there been a Wilson Central in the early 1990s, Kacey Cardiff would have been a Lady Wildcat. As it was, the Gladeville native became a Mt. Juliet Lady Bear softball player and later its coach.

Kacey Pedigo is going home as Wilson Central’s softball coach, she and principal Travis Mayfield confirmed last Wednesday.

“I grew up in The Glade. I grew up on Stewarts Ferry (Pike),” Pedigo, 43, said last week. “I can’t tell you how many last names, when I was talking to Mr. Mayfield and Mr. (athletic director Chip) Bevis, I know those names. I know not only them, but also their mamas.”

Pedigo, who last coached in 2011, is replacing Melissa Weiland, who was transferred to Mt. Juliet Middle School during Christmas break for reasons not limited to the Lady Wildcats’ 15-16 record (their first losing season in their 17-year history) in her only season on Wildcat Way.

“All I can say is the way the program is at the present time, I felt it was better to go in a different direction with a new head coach,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “It wasn’t going the way I felt it should be, so I decided to make a change.

“Coach Pedigo had applied when we had an opening previously. I contacted her to see if she would be interested in returning to coaching. She said she is. We talked… I recommended her to human resources and it was approved just before we came back from break.”

The record Mayfield looked over showed a 223-94 record in seven seasons at Mt. Juliet, including three trips to the state tournament. Two of those ended in the championship round with runner-up finishes to Soddy-Daisy (in 2006 and ’07). She’s a three-time District 9-AAA Coach of the Year, including her final season, 2011, which marked her third trip to state as a coach.

She also went to state as a Mt. Juliet senior catcher in 1993 under coach Mike Gwaltney, whose daughter, Casey, was also on that team and is a longtime Wilson Central faculty member who previously served on the Lady Wildcat coaching staff.

“I love ball,” said Pedigo, who played third base at Cumberland for coach Junior Hawkins and coached at John Overton in Nashville before returning to her alma mater in the summer of 2004. “That’s something that never left.”

She was head of the MJHS health education and physical education department when she left coaching. She now teaches a CDC special ed class at Mt. Juliet and is reluctant to leave it without a teacher, even though Mayfield said he likes his coaches to teach in his building. A short-term solution is still being worked on between Mayfield and MJHS principal Leigh Ann Rainey.

“(Mayfield) has been very kind whenever we’ve talked,” Pedigo said. “Ms. Rainey’s been very kind. They’ve both been awesome. I didn’t know if it would happen… It did and it’s a blessing.

“I love these kids. They make me better. They’re phenomenal. They can teach us all about life. I’m with them during the day and I’m blessed to be able to go over (to Central) and (work on) ball again.”

One of her Lady Bear players from the ’06 runners-up, Caroline (Mason) Simpson, will be on her Central staff, as will Taylor (Bond) Dalton, who played for the Lady Wildcats against Pedigo’s Lady Bears, and Leigh McCutchen, who had served on Weiland’s staff.

“We went back to school on Monday and we’ve been together every night this week making it happen,” Pedigo said.