SOFTBALL: Former Bulldog leads Linfield to national title
By GERRY STEELE
Jackson Vaughan is doing a lot of sitting with his feet propped up these days. Part of the reason is that he is taking it easy after leading the Linfield College women's softball team to the NCAA Division III National Championship. The other reason is recent knee surgery following the season.
"I've had bad knees since my playing days," Vaughan said during a telephone visit this week.
"I've had surgery on my right knee twice, and this time had surgery on my left knee. It should have been done sooner, but I kept putting it off until after the season."
Vaughan, a 1993 Baker High School graduate, said the surgery was arthroscopic, but he will probably be on crutches for a month because of severe ligament damage.
Not that Vaughan wanted to start his summer on the mend, but he's been busy the past six months.
College softball practice starts around the first of the year and games started the first weekend of March.
"We had pretty high goals," Vaughan said. "We finished fourth in the nation last year. We were pretty beat up with some people injured, and we were in kind of a just happy to be there' mode.
"But with all the kids we had coming back we had high goals this year," the native of Hereford said. "We tried not to get caught up in the idea of a national title early in the season though. We really preached the one pitch, one game mentality."
Along the way, the Wildcats set a new school record for wins with a 45-7 overall record.
"We've broken the school record for wins the past three years," Vaughan said. "And, this year we broke about every other school record for softball."
Linfield ended the season ranked first in the nation in batting average, and second in fielding average. And, the Wildcats accomplished their success with a young team.
"The girls did a lot of things well," Vaughan said. "We had just two seniors, and a really good junior class. And, our top two pitchers were sophomores. So we're going to be strong again next year."
The Wildcats won the Northwest Conference championship with a 26-2 record. Linfield then went 5-1 in the NCAA West Regionals, defeating Redlands twice on the final day to win the title.
"The West Regionals are typically very tough," Vaughan said. "This year there were four Top-10 teams in the regional. Then, once we got to the national tournament we were the only team of the eight that had been there before."
At the NCAA Finals, the Wildcats won their first two games before losing 6-3 to Washington-St. Louis. Linfield then bounced back to win its next three games, including defeating Washington-St. Louis twice. Linfield won the championship game 10-2.
First national title in
six years at the helm
Vaughan earned his first national championship in his sixth year as Linfield softball coach. During that time he has amassed a 198-64-1 record.
During the past four seasons he has led the Wildcats to successive Northwest Conference championships, and was named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year.
In 2004, he was honored as NCAA Division III West Region Coach of the Year.
Prior to becoming head softball coach, Vaughan served four years as a Wildcat assistant coach.
He will enter his 11th season as an assistant coach on the Linfield football team next fall. He will have a new title of defensive coordinator added to his duties as defensive line coach.
"I'll get to call the defensive plays," Vaughan said. "That should be fun."
Vaughan said the Linfield football team uses hard work and good people and does the right things to build its successful program.
"I've tried to implement those same philosophies in my softball program," he said.
Vaughan got the softball job almost by default.
"When the previous coach left they were looking for a way where I could coach full time," he said.
Vaughan ended up coaching part time football and JV softball before getting the varsity softball position.
"Growing up in Burnt River most of the time I hadn't even played that much baseball," Vaughan said.
He said he lived in Baker City through the fourth grade, then moved to Hereford in the fifth grade. He returned to Baker City his senior year and lived with his aunt and uncle. He was named the Greater Oregon League defensive player of the year as a senior.
"While I was coaching JV ball I tried to learn as much as I could," Vaughan said.
"From coaching football I had learned a lot of the coaching things. I had to learn the little things that make you successful.
"Dealing with players is kind of universal even though there's some difference between dealing with boys and girls. But, if you can motivate kids you can be successful."
Vaughan graduated with honors from Linfield in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in accounting.
His current duties are "coaching/administrative," he said. Besides coaching, Vaughan oversees Linfield team equipment operations and coordinates spring on-campus recruiting visits.
All in the family
Athletics runs in the Vaughan family. Jackson's brother Tim will be a senior at Linfield this fall, and little sister Julia played three sports for BHS this past school year.
"Julia and I are pretty tight," Vaughan said. "I try to call her as often as I can after games, although because of our schedules and the distance involved it's sometimes a few days later before we connect.
"I try to give her as much brotherly advice as I can," Vaughan said, chuckling. "But, just like I was, she sometimes would rather be left alone, particularly after a loss."
Vaughan said Tim, who has been a member of the Wildcat football team for three seasons, has decided not to play football this fall.
"He's doing very well in school and decided to concentrate on his classes," Vaughan said. "Then I think he plans to transfer to Oregon State to get his engineering degree."