New leader, fresh start for SHS softball

The 2022 Siuslaw Viking softball team with coaches Jason Lipe and Dave Bitner. (Photo by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News)

Jason Lipe takes helm of experienced Viking squad

March 15, 2022 — Early in January, Siuslaw Athletic Director Chris Johnson made a big announcement.

“Siuslaw High School is excited to announce that Jason Lipe has accepted the varsity softball head coaching position,” he said. "Lipe has a master’s degree in teaching, along with 14 years teaching experience in science and biology. Lipe has been at Siuslaw High School for two years. He also played baseball at the college level."

Lipe replaces Sean O’Mara, who had led the Viking softball team since 2010.

The coach comes to Siuslaw from Oakridge High School. He arrives with experience as he coached both varsity baseball and softball there. At Siuslaw, he is also a science teacher when he’s not on the diamond. The assistant coach is Dave Bitner.

As the Vikings’ new coach, Lipe describes his coaching style as “fairly intense but fun.” Based on the scene at practice on March 10, it looked like that approach was working as players warmed up with a skip in their step. Softballs zipped back and forth as the players played catch along the first base line.

Though a man of few words, Lipe did get out a few as he watched from in front of the dugout. He pointed out a few players that he can already see will be standouts.

“Bailey Overton is an outstanding player,” he said.

There is a lot of excitement around Overton’s final year with the Viks as she is already maybe the greatest softball player in the program’s history.  Even with last season shortened because of COVID, Overton still managed to hit 8 homeruns, second most in one season in Siuslaw history. She was named first team all-state for the 4A division.

Even more impressive was Overton’s performance on May 15 in a game against Junction City. She went 4 for 4, hitting homeruns in each of her four at bats setting an Oregon high school record.

To say expectations are high for Overton this year is an understatement.

Next, Lipe mentioned a few of his players he thinks will help in the pitching department.

“I have to mention Maggie [Manning],” said Lipe. “She’s been looking good on the mound. We also have Jolee [Erickson]. She’ll be an important pitcher too.”

When it comes to making something happen in the batter’s box, Lipe likes what he’s seen from freshman Abby Riggs.

“Riggs has been hitting the ball really hard,” said Lipe.

If his team can get down the basics, the coach says they’ll take steps in the right direction.

“We are not going to be the knockdown, throw everybody out, dominating pitching crew,” said Lipe. “If we work on our fundamentals and get those down, we’ll at least be able to play good infield and that’ll be good for us.”

Next, Lipe talked about expectations for the season. While he prepared to say what his goals were for this year, one of his players interrupted with one word.

“Playoffs,” said sophomore Rosa Velasco Mendez.

That is a goal Lipe agrees with.

“It’s shooting for the stars, but we want to send our seniors out in the playoffs,” said Lipe. “I think they’ve earned it after four years of being out here. They deserve our best shot to make the postseason.”

Lipe knows anything he and his team accomplish this year would have never happened without the solid base built by O’Mara. In fact, up until recently, the retired coach was still helping to get the team’s pitching staff going for the season.

“He’s been wonderful for our program, and we wish the best for him and his family,” said Lipe.

The SHS softball team kicked off its season yesterday after press deadlines, with a doubleheader at Sutherlin. They’ll be on the diamond again on Saturday, March 19, when they travel to Myrtle Creek for another doubleheader, this one against the South Umpqua Lancers. First pitch of game one is at noon.