MONCKS CORNER — South Carolina high school baseball coaching legend Jerry Stoots died Jan. 24 in a boating accident on Lake Moultrie, Berkeley County authorities and a family member confirmed.
The bodies of Stoots, 75, of Goose Creek, and Lee Watkins, 68, of North Charleston, were found floating in the lake near an unoccupied boat, the coroner’s office reported.
The coroner’s office received a call just before 2 p. m. from a nearby resident in Pinopolis who had spotted one of the bodies, according a report. Authorities arrived to find another body floating nearby.
Stoots is the all -time winningest large school baseball coach inside South Carolina history, with more than 925 career wins at three Lowcountry-area schools over 48 seasons.
Stoots and Watkins were good friends and longtime fishing plus hunting partners. Their relationship began as fellow teachers in the late 1970s.
Stoots won more than 600 games at Stall High in North Charleston, guiding the Warriors to the 1985 Class AAA state championship.
After a brief retirement, Stoots took over the program at Northwood Academy, winning 261 games at the private school in Summerville. The Chargers were five-time state runners-up in the S. C. Independent Schools Association Class AAA.
Stoots served as the particular first head coach at Oceanside Collegiate Academy, starting the Mount Pleasant system in 2017. His 2021 team won the Course AAA Lower State championship before losing within the condition championship series.
Stoots was not retained after the 2021 season, but the program he built went on to win typically the Class AAA state tournament last season.
Stoots also served several seasons as the head football coach at Stall. The particular 1991 Warriors played for the Class AAA express championship, losing to Daniel High.
“We lost a great coach but an even better man, ” said Kenny Wilkinson, a 1976 graduate of Stall who played soccer and baseball under Stoots. “He was a builder associated with programs and a winner. He built the program at Oceanside from scratch. He did the same thing with football at Northwood. A lot of people don’t realize the impact he had on so many young guys who later got into coaching, helping him coach. He was always giving guys opportunities and he took care regarding his players all through life.
“I will cherish the memories and all of the conversations that we have had over this years. Conversations outside of baseball, just talks about existence and what was going on in our lives. He had a tremendous impact on my life as a young man plus his impact continued all through the years. I am going to miss him. ”
Phil Tobin played with regard to Stoots at Stall, graduating in 1987 before playing at The Citadel, because did several of Stoots’ players.
“It was such a privilege to play for him, trainer with him and instructor against him, ” Tobin said. “He was an amazing coach, but more importantly he was a great friend and mentor. The game of football and the kids this individual touched are better because of him. We lost a true legend. ”
Mike Branham, a 1986 graduate involving Stall, served as an assistant coach under Stoots regarding many years at Stall and Northwood Academy.
“He became a father figure, someone who I could look up to, respect and admire, ” Branham said. “He would have me over to eat, take me fishing in addition to pull me aside in order to make sure I has been doing what I needed to do in often the classroom. He was everything a teenaged boy needed whose father wasn’t inside the home.
“The one constant was his love for the game. He loved the process and even he loved the kids. Being able to spend 30 years with him in this environment, learning from his example, had the greatest impact on me. I love and will miss this particular man for the rest of my entire life. ”
Jay Morgan is the 1996 graduate of Stall who went on to play at The Citadel, together with also spent some time as an assistant mentor under Stoots. His relationship with Stoots began when Morgan was a young batboy at Stall online games and continued through their days as a player.
“His lessons of life and hockey will stay with everyone throughout our lifetimes, ” Morgan said. “He meant a great deal to be able to a lot of young men, myself included. He stuck to his values in the way that he coached and additionally taught us young men how to play your game of baseball. ”
Stoots has been inducted into the S. C. Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008. He was inducted into the S. C. Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2017 and into the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame the following year.
The Berkeley County Corner’s Office and the S. C. Dept. of Natural Resources are investigating with assistance from local agencies.
Investigators estimate the men were in the water for a short amount of time, authorities reported. An autopsy has been scheduled for Jan. 26 to determine the cause and manner of death.
Isabelle Altman contributed to this report.