SOARING HIGHER: Nicole Lukinbeal signs with Concordia Irvine softball
Nicole Lukinbeal will join NCAA Division II Concordia University Irvine (Calif.)'s quest to be the best, 1,030 miles from where she helped the Indians to three years of Class 4A state championship contention.
The senior all-leaguer and likely all-state pick at second base announced her intent to study physical therapy at and play softball for the Eagles, who won the NAIA championship in 2013, on Friday, June 2, at Scappoose High School.
"I'm so excited," said Lukinbeal, as she and Concordia Irvine decided they wanted to commit to each other in the fall of 2016. "It's a new journey, a new challenge, chapter and adventure. Southern California is a dream."
The Eagles, who won the NAIA championship in 2013, played to 36-15-2 overall and 22-10 conference records in their second introductory Pacific West spring, and they're eligible for the postseason in 2018.
"I'm excited to see how far we can get into it," Lukinbeal said. "I'm recruited as an infielder, and I'll play wherever they want me."
Lukinbeal, with a .486 average, 24 singles, six doubles, three triples, three home runs, 29 runs driven in and 38 trips home, was the Tribe's third-best batter to juniors Hannah Galey and Gabie Krueger as she helped the Indians (23-5, 13-2 Cowapa League) score 353 runs, the fourth-most in all of the Oregon School Activities Association to Class 3A semifinalist Scio (415), unbeaten Class 4A champion Henley (400) and Class 5A champion Marist Catholic (374).
Only Henley and Banks, who bounced the Indians from the semifinals and won it all last year, could stop Scappoose.
"Coaching [Lukinbeal] for three years was like a breath of fresh air," Scappoose skipper Cijay Koler said. "You didn't actually have to do much coaching with her, to be honest: Just reminders and minor tweaks here and there. You could always count on Nicole to be there and give 110 percent every day and lift her team up with the infamous, 'I'm feelin' it.'"
Lukinbeal was sharp on defense for 27 assists, 20 putouts and two double plays as the Tribe held rivals to an average of four runs and reached at least the quarterfinals for the third year in a row after getting to the first round after a three-year absence in her freshman year.
"She's had several visits to Concordia over the last year, and it's a good fit for her," Lukinbeal's father, Geoff, said. "Playing for a strong D-II SoCal softball program is a dream come true for her."