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story.lead_photo.caption Bentonville's Kent Early - Photo by Jason Ivester

Kent Early knew he wanted to be a coach ever since he was in the seventh grade.

He was around every sport -- football , women's basketball, men's basketball. The son of famed coach Alvy Early, Kent and his brothers -- Preston and Brian -- made long bus rides for basketball games and were ball boys for the football team.

Early at a glance

POSITION Bentonville softball coach

AGE 42

NOTEWORTHY Led Bentonville to its third consecutive Class 7A state softball championship. … The Tigers went 31-3 and outscored opponents 351-50. … Has coached at Bentonville since the 2005-2006 school year. … Son of the late Alvy Early, a longtime collegiate coach and administrator in Arkansas. …

"Growing up around athletics, we were at every game," Kent Early said. "Just being around it, I knew what I wanted to do."

As the head of Bentonville High's softball program, Early is doing the coaching thing really well.

The Lady Tigers captured their third consecutive Class 7A state title in May, earning a 31-3 record while outscoring their opponents 351-50. Bentonville finished ranked No. 7 nationally by MaxPreps.com and No. 19 by the Xcellent Top 25 Writers' Poll.

Kent Early is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps Coach of the Year for the 2017-2018 athletic year.

"I can't say enough about the girls," Early said. "The amount of time they've spent, not only in softball, but with all of the behind the scenes stuff is tremendous. ... We have a motto: do the common things uncommonly well."

There were seven players on Bentonville's roster who averaged .429 or better and the Lady Tigers batted. 440 as a team. The pitching staff was just as impressive, compiling a 1.31 team earned run average.

"It was a fun group to coach and there's no doubt they were a bunch of talented kids," Early said. "Having talented players is what it all boils down to."

Early, 42, was a star athlete coming out of high school but he had his baseball career halted by a rupured disc. Shortly afterwards, Kent was helping his dad as an assistant at the University of Arkansas-Monticello.

Alvy Early, who died last week after a bout with cancer, took over the women's basketball program at UAM in 1979. He coached basketball for 21 years and was the school's athletic director from 1997 to 2009. After watching the school's softball program struggle in its first attempt at playing the sport, Alvy Early agreed to take over that program in 1997.

Kent got his first taste of coaching softball helping his father as a graduate assistant.

"That first year we took a team to Louisiana-Monroe for a fall classic," Kent Early said. "I got hooked on the sport after the first game."

Kent Early took the job at Bentonville at the start of the 2005-2006 season. Coaching the Lady Tigers, he said, has changed since his first couple of years.

Bentonville has posted a 91-5 combined record the last three years. Overall, Early's Lady Tigers are a combined 333-82.*

"There's more teaching the game instead of technique," Early said. "We're able to teach more strategy. ... It really is no credit to me. The girls have taken to softball and they have evolved into something special."

Sports on 06/17/2018

CORRECTION: Bentonville softball Coach Kent Early has a career record of 333-82. An incorrect record was listed in a previous version of this tory.

Print Headline: Coach leads Tigers to third state title

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