Hall of fame coach identified as 1 of 2 bodies recovered from Lake Moultrie

The Berkeley County Coroner’s Office released the names of two men found floating near an unoccupied boat on Lake Moultrie.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 11:58 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 1:23 PM EST
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Berkeley County Coroner’s Office released the names of two men, one of which was a prominent Lowcountry baseball coach, found floating near an unoccupied boat on Lake Moultrie.

The bodies of Jerry Stoots, 75, from Goose Creek, and Lee Watkins, 68, from North Charleston, were found on the lake Tuesday afternoon, according to Coroner Darnell Hartwell.

It is estimated that the fishermen were in the water for a short time, Hartwell said.

The coroner’s office did not provide further details on the incident.

An autopsy has been scheduled for Thursday to determine the cause and manner of death.

Stoots, who coached high school baseball over a 45-year career, is the all-time winningest coach in the history of South Carolina with more than 925 wins. He won nearly 600 games as head coach of Stall High School over 31 years and led the Warriors to the 3-A state championship in 1985. He would go on to coach at Northwood Academy for 11 years where he was a 5-time runner up for the state title in SCISA 3-A. His last stop was at Oceanside Collegiate where his team won the 3-A lower state title in 2021.

He has been named Region Coach of the Year multiple times and the SCHSL AAA State Coach of the Year.

Stoots also was a head football coach leading Stall to the 3-A state title game in 1991 and leading Northwood to the 3-A SCISA championship in 2008.

“He was not the most talkative” said Northwood Assistant Principal and Stoots’ former assistant coach Ryan Leaver “but the relationships he built with many people was so valuable. He was like a founding father for our program. I wish there was a lot more coaches like him.”

“We feel for the families and friends of both victims of this tragic accident. Coach Stoots’ loss will be felt by many generations of students he impacted throughout his career.” said Mark Meyer the Athletic Director at Oceanside Collegiate.

“The R.B. Stall High School community was saddened to learn of the passing of two former Warrior Coaching Legends Jerry Stoots and Lee “Barry” Watkins.” AD Bobby Smith said in a statement. “Coach Stoots served Stall High School for over three decades and was an ambassador for the school in many ways. Coach Stoots impacted the lives of literally thousands of athletes during his time at Stall and following stops along the way. We were proud when CCSD approved the renaming of our on-campus baseball field to Jerry Stoots Field in September 2016.”

“Coach Barry Watkins was loved by his students and colleagues and made his impact as a Biology teacher, Head Golf Coach and was also a long time football and baseball assistant for Coach Jerry Stoops. He also served close to three decades in CCSD. He is fondly remembered for doing anything and everything that was needed within the athletic department during his tenure. We offer our deepest condolences to the families, athletic families, and friends of both coaches as they deal with these tragic losses.”

Coach Stoots was elected into the SCACA Hall of Fame in 2008. He was inducted into the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.

The Berkeley County Coroner’s Office and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources are investigating.