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ONE FINAL RUN: In front of La Grande softball coach Nicole Christian are seniors Megan Caldwell, Kylie Lanman, Amanda Marcum, front, Danielle Tams and Meghan Henderson. The La Grande softball team play Monday as they begin their quest for a 3A state title. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).
ONE FINAL RUN: In front of La Grande softball coach Nicole Christian are seniors Megan Caldwell, Kylie Lanman, Amanda Marcum, front, Danielle Tams and Meghan Henderson. The La Grande softball team play Monday as they begin their quest for a 3A state title. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande's five softball seniors and their departing coach Nicole Christian hope the team can go far at state now that the Greater Oregon League season is completed.

Christian has guided the Tigers to the playoffs since she started coaching them in 2001. She coached the Tigers to a 13-7 record this year and another berth in the playoffs.

She will be the coach at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton next year.

"It is very hard to leave," Christian said.

She said she would not have wanted to coach anywhere else.

"What stands out is the individuality of each girl I had the opportunity to coach," Christian said.

She said the girls embraced her philosophies and made it easy for her to coach and give advice on and off the field.

"I'm proud to see the girls grow," she said.

Shortstop Amanda Marcum and catcher Meghan Henderson will attend BMCC in the fall.

Marcum plans to pursue medicine, while Henderson will study nursing.

"I like it," Henderson said of connecting with Christian in Pendleton. "I know someone. I know how the coach is."

Marcum said she will transfer to a larger school after her first year.

She said her first year of high school play was memorable.

"I think the first year winning the GOL (Greater Oregon League) was amazing," Marcum said. "No one expected it."

"We can go pretty far (this year)," Henderson added. "Easily we'll be one of the top four teams (at state)."

Marcum said the team would love to battle GOL champion Riverside sometime during the state playoffs.

Riverside has a first-round bye.

The Tigers will play Monday on the road, with their opponent, either Molalla or Cascade decided tonight.

Marcum and Henderson live two blocks from each other.

"She works hard," Henderson said about Marcum.

"She's someone to trust," Marcum said of Henderson. "She will hit up the middle and get it."

Pitcher Megan Caldwell is still deciding between Pacific University (Forest Grove), Western Oregon University (Monmouth) or Pacific Lutheran (Tacoma).

Caldwell said the key to this season is that all the girls got along well.

"We haven't had drama like we did in the past," she said.

Caldwell said it is sad knowing their run will end one of these days. "My team cracks me up," she said.

Caldwell did not pitch during the Ontario doubleheader Saturday. She is always focused on the mound. "I put myself in the zone," she said.

Marcum and Caldwell share the same birthdays on May 1. They shared the same hospital room.

First baseman Kylie Lanman and shortstop Danielle Tams love to have fun. Both will go their separate ways in the fall.

Lanman will attend Oregon State University and is interested in becoming a dietician.

Tams will attend Pacific University and play volleyball. She plans to study pre-medicine.

"This year, I've felt closer to the girls," Lanman said. "I've gotten along with everyone. It's been fun."

"I think we have been pretty successful," Tams said. "I think it has to do with a lot of heart with everyone here and the success is a result of what we like doing."

Tams said she had opportunities to play volleyball at different schools. She likes Pacific's physical therapy graduate program.

Tams, a setter, was key to the La Grande Tigers taking third at the 3A state volleyball tournament. She was on the coaches' 3A All-State first team and was the Greater Oregon League most valuable player in volleyball.

Tams said there will be "happy tears" whenever the season ends for the Tigers.

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