The junior third baseman becomes the second VC player honored as POY
by: MILES VANCE, 3A’S BEST – This is a sight that struck fear in the hearts of Class 3A pitchers all season long – Valley Catholic third baseman Emily Keagbine with a bat in her hands.

BEAVERTON - There wasn't, frankly, much more Emily Keagbine could have done in 2006.

Keagbine, a third baseman on the Valley Catholic softball team, just completed her junior season with a set of statistical numbers to make any hitter drool.

She racked up a .579 batting average. She rocked 10 homers. She collected 27 RBIs, walked 21 times and won honors as the Tri-Valley League Player of the Year.

On June 27, Keagbine added another even greater line to her resume when she named Class 3A Player of the Year for 2006.

Valley Catholic coach Roni Illias 'called me really early that morning to let me know. I was really surprised,' Keagbine, 17, said. 'It was pretty nice. I was really excited.'

Nice? You bet. Exciting? Absolutely. But surprising? Well maybe to Keagbine herself, but not to any of the opposing pitchers who had the misfortune of facing Keagbine at the plate during the 2006 season and not to the state's Class 3A coaches who voted her onto the all-state first team for the second straight season.

'She's a special girl,' Illias said. 'I feel very lucky having been her coach the last three years.'

Keagbine, a starter at the varsity level since her freshman year at Valley Catholic, has been solid throughout her high school career, but simply outdid herself in 2006, though.

In addition to those other previously mentioned numbers, Keagbine collected 33 hits in 57 at-bats, scored 33 runs, hit six doubles and two triples, amassed a .679 on-base percentage, a gargantuan 1.281 slugging percentage and even stole five bases in seven attempts.

And that's not all. She's tough on defense, too, piling up 59 assists and making 18 putouts while committing just two errors en route to a .979 fielding percentage.

Oh yeah - she's nice, too.

'This kid has the greatest sense. She doesn't have an arrogant bone in her body,' Illias said. 'She's humble. She has a lot of class. She's just a nice kid to be around.'

The fact that Keagbine will be back around the state's Class 3A leagues again in 2007 ought to cause plenty of nightmares for the opposing coaches and pitchers around the state, especially now that Valley Catholic is moving to a new league with the recent OSAA redistricting plan. The Valiants will leave the tough Tri-Valley League - which featured state giants Sherwood and Wilsonville, schools with almost four times the enrollment of Valley Catholic - and join instead the new Class 3A PacWest Conference, moving at the same time from one of the state's smallest 3A schools to one of its largest.

'I'm excited to get to play new teams, but it will be different not having the rivalries we've had,' Keagbine said. 'It will be weird being the big school. I kind of liked being the small school, but I think it will be fun.'

Fun indeed, and the move should offer Keagbine and the Valiants a solid chance at winning a state softball title, something the team thought it might accomplish in 2006 at the previous Class 3A level. Despite falling short in the '06 playoffs, though - Valley Catholic lost in the state quarterfinals to eventual runner-up McLoughlin Union 2-1 - Keagbine was happy with her team's efforts in 2006.

'It was a really good year for us,' Keagbine said. 'We played really good defense (against McLoughlin) but our bats just didn't come together that day.

'But I was still really happy with the year and how much fun we had.'

In the end, Keagbine measured her success, and that of her team, more by how much fun they had than by the number of wins that ended up in the 'W' column. And Keagbine is convinced that the two are more closely related for the Valiants than people might understand.

'I like having fun. Winning is nice and getting awards is nice, but having fun with the team is what I like best,' Keagbine said. 'That's what I'll remember is all the girls and the friendships.'

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