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Ducks get big catch in North's Coe

Two-time all-state catcher Missy Coe of North Medford High has signeda letter of intent to play softball for the University of Oregon.

We don't have any doubts that Missy can step right in,, sayssecond-year Oregon coach Rick Gamez. Defensively, she is as soundas any catcher in the Pac-10 right now. Offensively, she's good and she'sgoing to get better.

Oregon offered and Coe verbally accepted a 95 percent ride last August.

I had such a great time at the (Amateur Softball Association) nationalsbecause I didn't have to worry about who was watching or where I was goingto go, Coe says. I wanted to get it done before the high schoolseason started and not have to worry about it.

She chose the Ducks over Louisiana Tech, but few other schools enteredthe picture.

I wanted to stay on the West Coast, she says. I didn'twant to go over to Louisiana or to the other side of the U.S. It's a bigdeal that my family be able to watch and travel with me.

Wednesday was the first day that letters of intent could be signed andOregon expects to bring four players into the fold this month. Oregon signedanother player in Christi Shelton from Arizona. Shelton will play both firstand third base.

There are four Southern Oregon Conference players on the 1998 Oregonroster: Eagle Point High products Melisa Lemke, Jackie Ellis and Josey Russelland North Medford graduate Shelley Bruce.

Russell, a 1996 all-state performer, and Kelly Planche of Encino, Calif.,are both freshmen. But neither Gamez nor Coe is concerned about the crowdbehind the plate.

I think we want to be as deep as we can be at catcher, Gamezsays. It's so easy for them to go down with an injury -- a foul tip,bad knees or anything can happen -- and you've got to have someone who canstep in.

Coe's ability to gun down base runners, her penchant to deliver the clutchhit and her ability to keep pitchers calm suggest she'll compete for regularduty.

It wouldn't matter if they were juniors, Coe says. I'dstill have to go out and earn the spot.

Catchers are rarely found behind the plate for both games of NCAA doubleheaders.But if Coe hits anywhere close to her historic levels, Gamez will find aplace for her bat in the lineup.

We teach the kids that if they're one of our best nine hitters,they're going to be in the lineup somewhere, Gamez says. Shemay spend some time in the outfield.

Coe hit .428, scored 35 runs, drove in 37 runs and smacked seven tripleslast spring.

In appearances the last two years in the Class 4A state championshipgame, the Tornado has a tie and a loss. In Coe's mind, there's unfinishedbusiness.

Teamwise, I want that state championship, says Coe. Individually,I want to get stronger and hit the ball farther. As a catcher, I want todo my best to help Taysha (Anderson) be the best pitcher she can.

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