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PSC's softball coach Craig Rotruck resigns, citing budget cuts

Jun. 9—KEYSER, W.Va. — WVU Potomac State softball head coach Craig Rotruck has resigned, citing budget cuts to the program.

Rotruck guided the Catamounts during their greatest stretch in school history, advancing to their first NJCAA World Series in 2022. They've made two straight since.

This year, Potomac State won a game at nationals for the first time, defeating Macomb, 6-4, in its World Series opener.

Rotruck had coached Potomac State to a 144-31 record in four years with four Region 20 championships and a 121-22 mark over the last three seasons. His best mark came in 2023 when the Catamounts finished 43-5.

But Rotruck said cuts to the program's travel budget would make that unsustainable.

Potomac State played a full fall ball schedule to four-year schools like Marshall, Shepherd, West Virginia Wesleyan and Frostburg State.

In the spring, it was able to begin its season in late February by playing in a tournament in Martinsville, Virginia, then in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in March, where it would play 8-10 games against national contenders.

Potomac State had previously paid for the program's travel expenses, but going forward, Rotruck and his coaches would have to fundraise all out-of-region games. That includes the entire fall slate.

He estimated that could cost $25,000 to $30,000 a year.

His decision to step away now ultimately boils down to one factor: He didn't want to lie to recruits.

"When we bring in a student-athlete, we have certain things we promise to them," Rotruck said. "The school came up with the idea that I'm going to have to fundraise for all my activities in the fall. Any trips in the spring — not only lodging and food but travel. That cost is astronomical.

"They wanted me to keep promising the girls when I recruited them that they'd get those things. I was not going to mislead the student-athletes about extra things we could do."

In an interview with the Mineral News and Tribune, interim president Paul Kreider asserted that no program will receive funding for non-regional travel.

Those cuts are reflective of the greater financial strain being placed on the university system of West Virginia, of which Potomac State is a part of.

Just last year, West Virginia University in Morgantown addressed a $45 million budget shortfall by cutting 32 undergraduate and graduate programs — roughly half of them in the arts and humanities — and 169 full-time faculty members

To make ends meet, Potomac State elected to not fund anything it didn't have to.

Rotruck said he didn't want to continue promising recruits a full fall schedule and the opportunity to play in front of college coaches — which would improve their chances of earning collegiate scholarships beyond Potomac State — if it wasn't a guarantee.

He envisioned a scenario where the program wasn't able to fundraise enough to fulfill those promises, and players' families would have to "pay-to-play," as he put it.

"I'm not going to look at a parent that's made plans to go on vacation to Myrtle Beach and say, 'We can't go now,'" Rotruck said. "The president and athletic director aren't the ones that will see that phone call from a parent. I do."

If Potomac State played a standard 25 to 30-game Region 20 schedule, then the program would take a noticeable step back in talent.

Region 20 is not a softball hotbed, and geographical location, more specifically weather for a sport that begins in February, is likely the largest factor.

Teams in the South are able to play as many as 70 games while playing close to home.

One of Potomac State's World Series opponents, No. 1 Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, provides an extreme example of what it takes to compete for championships at a northern school.

Parkland played its first 28 games in Florida and Mississippi. By the time of Potomac State's opener in Martinsville on Feb. 24, Parkland had already played 16 games.

Potomac State was able to close the gap by playing a fraction of the games out of the region.

It fell to Louisburg College, 2-1, in extra innings during the regular season — a team that finished in the Top 4 nationally this year. The Catamounts lost to the No. 1 team in the country, Jones College, in extra innings in their World Series opener last year.

Potomac State has been so successful that it already has three rising high school seniors committed to the program, Rotruck said, and a talented class of five to six incoming players.

Add that to its seven returning starters, including All-American pitcher Chloe Greise, a Bishop Walsh alum, and the Catamounts were primed for another World Series campaign.

"We took over a very good program to begin with, and just added a few more things to it," Rotruck said. "We had 15 to 18 girls every year. Big-time support from our strength and conditioning coaches. Assistant coaches who volunteered significant time. Good academics and facilities. The school also gave us some scholarship money for players, which was a perk."

Other Region 20 programs have some or all of those things, but the Catamounts' schedule was the driving force in setting them apart.

"We had players that could've played at four-year schools pass them up to play for us," Rotruck said.

It's not hard to see why. Potomac State has produced five All-Americans in four years and sent several girls to college.

Rotruck broke the news to his returning players that he and assistant coach Richard Thompson were not returning before he informed the Potomac State administration, which prompted further strife.

"I thought it was the right thing to do, but the school disagreed," he said.

The two sides also disagree on the topic of foundation funds, made up of private donations, which Kreider claimed Rotruck could've tried to tap into in his interview with the Mineral News and Tribune.

Rotruck doesn't believe those funds are meant for that.

The returning players — of which three are local in Greise, Charity Wolfe (Keyser) and Braylee Corbin (Petersburg) — are left in a position of uncertainty.

"A lot of them were like, 'Where do we go from here? What do we do,'" Rotruck said. "I didn't have an answer on the next coach, fall program or Myrtle Beach. ... They were pretty upset at first."

Rotruck won't coach again for some time, he said. If he never does, he'll finish with one of the more unique legacies at the junior college level.

He's the only coach nationally to ever guide both a baseball and softball program to the World Series.

Rotruck was the head coach of the 1995 Potomac State NJCAA Division 2 national championship team. The Catamounts finished 40-6 overall and won 31 straight to end the year, including a 4-2 victory over Kirkwood Community (Iowa) in the national title game.

That was just his third year coaching after being an assistant under Doug Little for three years prior before Little took a position at West Virginia University.

Prior to that, Rotruck was an all-conference player at Frostburg State where he finished with a career .333 batting average. He is a 2009 inductee into the Frostburg State Hall of Fame.

He resigned from PSC baseball in 1998 and got back into coaching at Keyser High School as the softball coach when his daughter was a junior in the mid-2010s.

Potomac State offered him the opportunity to lead the softball program in 2020.

Rotruck built a consistent Region 20 champion, but he can't help but feel the program was stopped short of achieving its ultimate goal.

"Every year we got a little better quality of player," he said. "We were making strides to eventually compete for and win a national championship."