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Scappoose softball: New varsity coach plans to 'stick around'

Cijay Koler takes over, Bailey set up to shine from the mound


JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Scappoose's Ashley MacInnis corrals a grounder during warm up drills in the first week of practice on March 6.One thing is for sure: first-year head softball coach Cijay Koler won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Koler, who was hired to take over for Steve Hoglund, had coached the JV program for the last three years in Scappoose, has a host of experience as a player through four years of college ball and has kept her mind open about the head coaching position ever since she joined the program.

When it opened up after last season, Koler knew it might be a while before the opportunity opened up again, and jumped at the chance. But for all her experience as a player climbing up through the college ranks, Koler doesn't see the move as a stepping stone to reach the collegiate world as a coach.

In fact, Koler wouldn't mind staying exactly where she's at.

“I plan on sticking around here. I've never really had a desire to coach college ball, to tell you the truth. This is probably the highest level that I want to go,” Koler said.

“I have two boys and another boy on the way, [and with] college ball, you're gone a lot. You travel a lot, and I don't want to miss out with my boys.”

The transition to head coach, while “hectic” for the first few days of tryouts and practices hasn't been a rough one for Koler, as her three years with the program have allowed her to get to know most of the girls on the varsity roster.

JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Junior Kendal Bailey reaches for a ball during practice. Bailey will lead the way from the mound for the Indians.And while the Indians lost only a handful of seniors from last year's team, the losses were big ones: Lacey Updike, the team's ace and Lexi Courtney, the starting catcher and power-hitter, have both moved on.

Moving into Updike's place is junior pitcher Kendal Bailey, who did see heavy minutes throughout last season. Bailey is far taller by comparison, and gained a reputation during basketball season as an enforcer on the defensive end.

“[Bailey is] ready to step up to the plate as our number one, and then we have Julia [Ferguson] and Elizabeth right behind her, so we're extremely confident with the pitching staff that we have,” Koler said. “And we have five catchers to rely on, and they're all solid. We're not concerned at all, in that aspect.”

A student of the game, Bailey has been working on learning which situations warrant which pitches, especially now that she's seen many of the batters from around the Cowapa League — including a young, but experienced Banks team looking to claim their third state title in four seasons.

Koler said she counts on a handful of players to do damage on the offensive side of the ball, several of which made names for themselves last season as the year ramped up to the finish. The Indians' final record of 17-9 made for the best season since the Tribe finished with 18 wins and nine losses, eventually falling in the first round of the 2011 4A OSAA playoffs.

Sage Harrison, Jessie Dykes and Nicole Lukinbeal should carry the load.

“Jessie can bunt, Sage — she's a power hitter, and Nichole is pretty much your all-around stud,” Koler said with a laugh.

While the eventual goal is contending in the state playoffs, Koler said the focus — at least for the moment — was getting comfortable with the change-ups to the roster and coaching staff and preparing for their first two games against North Marion and Yamhill-Carlton.

“Right now, we just want to get better. We have a couple of new girls, we have a new coaching staff, so we want everyone to work together and get better every day,” she said. “We just want to take it one day at a time. If we look too far ahead we might pass up on what's right in front of us and not perform well.”

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