Indians open league with 13-6 win under new head coach, celebrate new facilities

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Scappoose senior pitcher Nicole Dougherty (shown here against North Marion on Saturday) and the Indians are off to a 9-2 start this season, including a 1-0 mark in the Cowapa League.A lot was going on when Scappoose played host to Astoria in softball on Tuesday.

It was the 2018 home opener for the Indians.

It was the 2018 Cowapa League opener for the Indians.

It was the first game for the Indians with their new concession stand and very-welcome bathrooms — both of which were recognized in a pregame ribbon-cutting ceremony.

And it was the first game in more than three years without Cijay Koler as Indians coach.

Before the game, the Scappoose players "had a talk in the dugout and said we're not only playing for our teammates but we're also playing today for Cijay," said senior catcher Gabie Krueger.

Play they did, and well, for the most part — the Indians were good enough to overcome some early jitters, get 14 hits and roll to a 13-6 victory.

Winning pitcher Nicole Dougherty, a senior left-hander, said she expects things will get even better for the Indians, who appear primed for another good year, after finishing second in the Cowapa and reaching the Class 4A quarterfinals in 2017.

"I think the amount of runs (opponents) will score will go down and the number of runs we have will go up," she said. "First-game jitters are out of the way, and now we can light it up."

The jitters came from a variety of sources, including the big day at the ballpark.

A year ago, the Scappoose school board approved building a permanent concession stand, restrooms and a sidewalk leading to the bleachers, after an audit into Title IX compliance and to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The bathrooms got probably the biggest cheer of the day during the ceremony in which district superintendent Ron Alley and school board chairman Phil Lager cut the ribbon to officially open the stand for fans to buy hot dogs, popcorn and more.

Gone are the portable potties adjacent to the field.

"It's really cool. We've been waiting for this," Krueger said.

There was still the matter of playing Astoria, which came out swinging and took a 4-1 lead with two runs in the first and second innings.

Dougherty admitted that spotting the Fishermen a lead was "frustrating, and we have some little kinks to work out," but the Indians — who scored 65 runs in winning their five previous games — weren't fazed.

"It's a very rare game that we don't score a lot of runs, so we weren't really worried," Dougherty said.

Sure enough, the Scappoose attack came alive. The Indians posted four runs in the third inning.

Still, it was a 5-4 game heading into the bottom of the fifth. But that's when Scappoose scored another four runs — three on Dougherty's bases-loaded hit to center field that got under the fielder's glove and rolled to the fence, allowing three runs to score on the play.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - To celebrate the opening of a concession stand at the Scappoose High softball field, school board chairman Phil Lager (left) and district superintendent Ron Alley do ribbon-cutting chores before Tuesdays game against Astoria.

"I was in a slump, so for me to come out and support my team that way felt really great," Dougherty said.

The Indians took further command by scoring four runs in the sixth for a 13-4 lead.

Eight of the nine spots in the order had at least one hit for Scappoose. Krueger, Payton Fisher and Dougherty all had a double.

Dougherty, who threw 101 pitches, allowed seven hits but struck out seven Astoria batters, mostly with her wicked changeup for strike three.

"That's my go-to pitch," she said. "We love that pitch. We love to play with it. We love to watch girls whiff at it and see the frustration on their face. It's kind of an amazing pitch."

Astoria (1-7 overall) played well, but made six errors, most late in the game.

The Indians, who improved to 9-2 overall, were happy to get through the day.

"Preseason counts, but league is where you've got to bring everything," Krueger said.

New coach Nicole Feakin, who was Koler's assistant coach, also was relieved, in a way.

"It was such a big game for us," she said, "with the new concessions and the most important thing for everybody, apparently, the bathrooms. And considering this was the girls' first game without their coach (Koler)."

The players got the news last week, at the end of their four-game spring-break trip to Bend. Shortly after their getaway win over North Marion, Koler made the announcement that she was handing off the coaching reins because a new job in Portland and family duties that would have made it all but impossible to continue running Indians softball.

"It was a shock," Krueger said. "We were really up because we'd just played so well, and we were all just talking about the game when Cijay started crying. So we were like, what's going on? When she told us, it was emotional, for sure."

"It was very shocking, and out of the blue," Dougherty said. "Emotions were high, but we completely understood our coach's choice, and honestly we couldn't expect her to do anything other than what she did."

The team had one practice without Koler before the Astoria game, which, as Krueger said, "felt really weird without Cijay."

Krueger said she'll miss how Cijay would high-five her on the way to the plate and tell her, 'Just get it done, Gabie.'"

The Indians are doing their best to keep things humming, though.

"Nicole is an amazing replacement," Dougherty said. "We all have extreme confidence in her. We've known her just as long as we've known Cijay. She'll be great.

"She's pretty mellow, which is awesome. Last year, we had some games where things were a little crazy. Nicole is great at mellowing us down and getting us back in our groove."

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