I can’t help but be impressed with the Glencoe softball program.

Finishing second — as the Crimson Tide did on Saturday in the Class 6A softball championships in Corvallis — can be a difficult accomplishment fraught with mixed emotions. No one can argue that such a result is impressive and one in which to take pride, but really, no one wants to take second place when first is available.

And that is why I am impressed. There were some Tide tears shed, understandably, at the OSU Softball Complex that afternoon. Though Glencoe could not manage a hit off of North Medford starter Maryssa Becker all game, the team took a one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning. But the Black Tornado rallied to force extra innings and then won the game in the bottom of the eighth with a walk-off single to left field for a 2-1 victory.

That is a tough way to lose a game. But Glencoe conducted itself with grace, poise and class throughout the experience.

“They were really proud to get here, and that’s what they have to remember,” Tide coach Jacy Jukkala said afterward, before the team left the complex for some postgame pizza plans.

“This is a great team, and they are great together, and I’ve never really had a team that really got along as well as they do. So I was really proud of them that way.”

The team’s conduct and postgame reaction likely do not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Tide on their way to a 28-2 season. All spring, their focus has been on process rather than outcome, on team unity rather than results at any cost, on success rather than failure.

“More than the win, we wanted the process to be successful,” Katie Sutherland-Finch, standing in Glencoe’s dugout after her final high school game, told me about leadership philosophy. “We wanted to successfully change tradition. We didn’t want (the girls) to feel like they had to perform, we want them to want to perform.”

And so while next year’s squad will have some sizeable holes to fill — specifically Sutherland-Finch’s in the pitcher’s circle and co-captain Morgan Brown’s in center field — it would not surprise me in the least if the Tide were to make another deep playoff run in 2014.

After all, they have taken up a blueprint that encourages success not just in sports but in life: embracing those around you, quickly moving on from mistakes, and teamwork.

“We all connected really well with each other. It was great to get back here, and even though we lost, I’m still really proud of my team,” said Brown, who played on Glencoe’s 2010 title team, along with Sutherland-Finch.

“It was a blessing to be here again, so I can’t complain about being here.”

Next year, Sutherland-Finch will be pitching for Cal and Brown will be playing for Clackamas Community College. But the rest of the team is eligible to return, including Macy Besuyen and Kamryn Apling, who played considerable roles in this year’s success at second base and catcher as precocious freshmen; Pacific Conference Player of the Year Courtney Clayton, who is dynamic on both sides of the ball; and players such as Kylie Surratt, Emilee Eastman, Maria Dendinger and Lauren Messmer, who all earned all-league honors this season.

“I think our team next year will be just as capable,” Sutherland-Finch said. “It will just be about having the juniors that will be seniors stepping up and taking charge and being senior leaders, and taking it serious. Because senior leadership is very important. It allows girls to be who they are on the field.”

In that OSU dugout, Sutherland-Finch, who aspires to become a coach, also reflected on this season.

And what a season it was.

“This game, I’ll remember that we lost, but I think more than that, I’ll remember our girls,” Sutherland-Finch said. “I just feel like this year was successful. It was, it was very successful. I’ll remember the girls and the things we did together more than the winning. Everyone loves each other when you’re winning, but it’s loving each other when you’re losing that’s hard.

“Even though we only lost once until this game, our team successfully loved each other when it was hard, and when we weren’t playing great, and successfully in practice when it wasn’t going well, came together and fixed it. You can’t ask for any more cohesiveness than that. There’s just nothing you can ask for chemistry-wise that our team did not give.”

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