By Pat Caldwell
MEDFORD – Vale High School softball coach Kelly Johnson didn’t try to conceal his disappointment in the wake of an 8-7 defeat to Cascade Christian in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs last week.
The normally understated coach, who guided his young team to a winning record in the 2016 campaign, also didn’t mince words regarding the first-round playoff setback.
“It was a tough loss,” he said of the May 25 contest.
Listening to Johnson’s tone, it was easy to recall the words of another coach of a different sport decades ago. Right after the University of Texas football team lost to Notre Dame in the 1971 Cotton Bowl – a defeat that scuttled any chance by Texas to claim a national championship – renowned Longhorn coach Darrell Royal was asked how he felt about the loss.
“I guess a defeat is good for you now and then, but I don’t really recommend it,” Royal said.
Last week, it was clear that the Vale team’s future – one where most of Johnson’s talented squad will return – beckons with possibilities. Yet there was no way to mistake the coach’s disappointment. Defeat, indeed, may be good to build character and resilience, but it is something Johnson probably would not recommend.
“We still should have beat them,” Johnson said.
Johnson said a multitude of factors joined to stymie the Lady Vikings against Cascade Christian.
“It was just a combination of things, nine walks, three errors. We didn’t get the clutch hit when we needed it,” he said.
Still he wasn’t offering up any excuses.
“Just one of those things. We should have overcome. If you are that good, you should be able to overcome and we couldn’t,” he said.
Yet the loss may pay off down the road, Johnson said. For his team, he said, the defeat will linger.
“They are coming out of this (season) with a bad taste in their mouth. They are really upset, mad at themselves,” he said.