Numerous statistical categories exist for evaluating players and their performance, but when it comes to coaches there are basically just two - wins and losses. But a more telling way to measure the success of a coach is their ability to get the most out of their players in the big games.
Both Pendleton's Tim Cary and Irrigon's Jake McElligott helped elevate their teams to new heights this season, making them the selections for 2009 All-East Oregonian big school and small school Coach of the Year, respectively.
McElligott's Knights made the leap from a one-and-done team in the playoffs the past two seasons to state champions, defeating three conference MVP pitchers along the way.
It was just the fourth season the Knights had a softball team, coached by McElligott each year.
Cary's Bucks breached two barriers they had struggled to overcome in recent seasons. First, the Bucks pulled off a road sweep of The Dalles-Wahtonka to claim the Intermountain Conference title after being on the wrong end of the rivalry for several seasons.
Then the Bucks, who had quietly been talking state title for three seasons, made their deepest run in the state playoffs in team history.
Even though their title bid fell short in the semifinals, it was a big step for a program that still returns several key players for another go next season.
While Cary had the task of keeping his team playing at a top level going into the playoffs, McElligott was challenged with getting his team to step it up a notch.
One way McElligott accomplished that was simply by talking to them.
"I told them before the playoffs, 'Great moments are born from great opportunity and that's what they have and you need to take the opportunity and not let it pass by because you never know when it's going to come by again,' " he said.
Irrigon senior first baseman Kim Campos said McElligott's speeches played a big part in helping the team focus on the task at hand while keeping their situation in perspective.
McElligott, a 1998 Ione graduate, had coached at the ASA level prior to signing on at Irrigon, but Cary's first experience coaching softball was with the Bucks.
He said the transition from coaching baseball to softball had its learning curves but said it still functions on the same basic principle.
"I wasn't sure what I?was getting into and after that first season of softball it became very clear that you can't really look at them as girls, they're athletes and they need to be treated as such," said Cary who also was named Intermountain Conference Coach of Year in his fifth season at Pendleton. "Sometimes they need to be yelled at, sometimes they don't need to be yelled at but bottom line is they're athletes and if you make them work hard and make them do the things they are supposed to be doing they're going to become better players."
Both Cary and McElligott will have the task of living up to expectations next season.
"We've talked about printing shirts for next season with a big bull's eye on it because we're not going to be flying under the radar anymore," McElligott said. "We're going to be a marked team."
"The expectations have always been to get to that state title game," Cary said. "I think as long as you always have that great attitude where the girls really truly want to go get that state title, you've always got a shot. It seems like whoever wants it the most has the best shot."