Kendra Murphy has resigned her position as the head softball coach at Hannibal after leading a resurgence over five seasons at the helm of the program.

Kendra Murphy says she wasn't wanting to find a way out the door as the head softball coach at Hannibal High School.

But an opportunity at Centralia proved too good to pass up.

Murphy resigned at Hannibal on Thursday after leading a resurgence over five seasons. She will take over a Centralia team that won four state championships in 19 years under longtime coach Jill Angell, who stepped down after last season.

Murphy called the move “a family decision” that will be best for her husband, Blayne, and their 3-year-old daughter.

Taking the job in Centralia, located 20 miles north of Columbia, will give her family more time together.

“My husband has been working in Columbia since the beginning of this school year,” Murphy said Friday. “He spends three hours on the road every day. It's just not what we want.”

Murphy, who led the Lady Pirates to back-to-back district title games the past two years, met with Hannibal players Friday morning to discuss her decision.

“The biggest thing that I wanted to express to them was that I wasn't actively looking for something because I wanted to leave,” she said. “It was just the best move for our family.”

Hannibal went 15-11 in 2017, finishing second in the North Central Missouri Conference for the second straight season. The success offers a stark contrast to before Murphy took over. Hannibal won 14 games combined in the last three seasons before she took the job.

Hannibal struggled to three wins in Murphy's first season before finishing just below .500 the next two, setting the stage for a total of 29 wins over the past two campaigns. 

“Every year, the girls who came in continued to change the stigma of Hannibal softball and the attitude that it was OK to lose,” Murphy said. “Every year, they've believed more and more that we can be a successful program and we can compete with anybody we step on the field with.”

Murphy, a math teacher, admits she originally didn't think she would be considered for the Centralia position. She thought the successful program would instead hire a coach from within.

The Lady Panthers reached six straight state quarterfinals from 2011-2016. They last won the Class 2 title in 2016.

She applied for the job around Thanksgiving and interviewed four days before Christmas.

“I'm a believer in Jesus, and I definitely think this was His plan because He threw the doors wide open,” Murphy said. “Everything from the first conversation that I had with the principal and the AD, it just went really smooth. When I went to the interview, I felt like this was the place I'm supposed to be.”

Murphy thanked Hannibal Public Schools for the chance to make her mark on the Hannibal softball program.

“I wanted to make the decision early to give Hannibal enough time to make a decision on a new coach and start that process now because I don't want this to impact the direction that Hannibal softball is going,” she added. “I want somebody to be able to pick up where we left off.”

Clint Graham, Hannibal activities director, confirmed Murphy told him Thursday afternoon of her decision.

“She's done an incredible job,” Graham said of Murphy. “She's turned the program completely around, and we've competed for district championships the last couple years. Whoever gets the position has big shoes to fill."

Graham mentioned he wishes Murphy and her family all the best.

He added the search for a new coach will soon be underway.

“We'll do the best we can finding a replacement and continue improving the softball program and staying on the same track,” he said.