Father and son baseball coaches make finals debut on Saturday

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The apple does not fall from the tree, they say. For Jeff and JJ Stolsig, a father-son pair of high school baseball coaches, the apple falls in exactly the same place, as the two make their state finals debuts at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer this Saturday.

Jeff Stolsig will lead the first-seeded Warriors of Lebanon High School as they take on Mid-Willamette Conference opponent Crescent Valley in the 5A State Finals at 10 a.m.

Later today, his son, JJ Stolsig, will make his championship debut for underdog Canby Cougars as they do battle with fourth-ranked Three Rivers League opponent West Linn in the state. the 6A championship at 5 p.m.

“For JJ to get to the championship – very special,” Jeff told the Running. “For us to go to the championship – very special. For both of us to pass the same year, I just feel appreciation and gratitude beyond explanation.

Lebanon head baseball coach Jeff Stolsig. Photo courtesy of Chandra Taggart.

Jeff Stolsig is a legend in his home community, where he graduated from Lebanon High School in 1977 and returned 13 years later to begin a teaching and coaching career that now spans more of three decades.

In 32 years, he coached his beloved Warriors to just under 400 wins, with a career-best 397-337, for a .541 winning percentage. He has received numerous honors and awards, including being named Section 8 Coach of the Year by the NFHS in 2020.

When asked what led him to become a coach, Jeff said it was “a pretty easy question to answer”.

“I believe I was called by God to do this as my ministry to him,” he told the Running. “I only started coaching in my mid-twenties. It was then that the Lord showed me that I could combine my love for this game with my love for teaching young people.

“Coaches and participation in athletics had shaped my early years and I believed I was called to have that influence in the lives of other young men. Coaching in Lebanon was an honor. helped raise me, my wife Lori, and JJ and Linzi just seemed like the right thing.

Canby baseball head coach JJ Stolsig. Photo by Tyler Franke.

But he had never reached the Finals before, and that didn’t seem to be on the cards this year either, after the Warriors started the season 1-3. They quickly turned things around, and now Lebanon are heavily favored to win the big game, having swept Crescent Valley in the regular season, 11-4 and 11-8.

“We have a friendly and competitive relationship,” Jeff said. “We always shoot for each other. We celebrate each other’s victories and successes together. The only time I’m comfortable with Canby not winning is when they play the Warriors.

“We’re humble when we beat each other and there’s no bragging or anything like that between us. The grandkids, however, always make sure I remember the Canby Cougars beat the Warriors in football last fall.

JJ Stolsig was also a graduate from Lebanon, where his coach – of course – was a very familiar face.

“Growing up, I had a lot of fun playing for him,” JJ told the Running. “We never had father-son battles. I always called him ‘Dad’, you know? I didn’t call him “Coach”.

Jeff and JJ Stolsig kiss at Wayne Oliver Field in Canby earlier this season. Photo courtesy of Canby Sporting Director Ben Winegar.

He then played catcher at Linfield College, where he batted .313 in four seasons with the Wildcats, including a blistering .391 in 2004, and was selected to the all-conference first team his junior and senior seasons.

He will spend seven years working with the baseball and football programs at McKay High School in Salem, including the last two years as the varsity baseball head coach.

His father had a major influence on him and his career choices, he said.

“He’s still my best friend,” he said. “We have always had a special relationship. I learned a lot from him, and it certainly played a huge role in my decision to get into teaching and coaching.

But he longed to land a job in another one-high school city like Lebanon, and that dream came true in 2012 when he took over as head of the Canby Cougar baseball program, which had only had one. state finals appearance to his name, a loss in the Class A-2 championship in 1960.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Stolsig.

After a rocky regular season, the 14th-seeded Cougs caught lightning in a bottle this playoff, with a magical Cinderella run that included three straight road wins over higher-seeded opponents. in No. 3 South Medford, No. 6 Mountainside and No. 7 Clackamas.

Prior to this year, JJ had only coached in a handful of playoff games in his 10 years at Canby – and had never won a single one. Now he has four under his belt and is one step away from helping Canby win his first-ever baseball state title.

“I’m extremely proud of JJ and his team for having a great season,” said Jeff. “Great run in the playoffs, and I’m sure they’ll represent Canby very well in the final game. Coming this far is the icing on the cake for me.

“I’m proud of JJ and his team for fighting and competing, not only on the court, but for fighting and competing against the adversity and the trials that life has thrown at them this season.”

Regardless of records or standings, none of the coaches ever took it for granted that they would be playing for a state title this year. When it became clear on Tuesday that they would both be, they called and shared a moment.

“It never came up once in a conversation where we were like, ‘Hey, wouldn’t that be something? ‘” JJ said. “Our goal is always to have the best season possible and to help the guys improve. But when we spoke on Tuesday night, it was like, ‘Shoot, that’s kinda cute.’ It’s quite special, something we will remember forever.

JJ said he was happy and proud of his father and his hometown.

“I’m super excited for him and for the whole Lebanese community,” he said. “It’s a close-knit community like ours. They are in Canby near Albany and Corvallis. And my dad, he works his cock. He loves working for children.

“He’s not doing this for himself. He knows he’s in the business of building men and that’s what he’s trying to do: try to develop these kids to be successful all their lives.

When the Lebanon Warriors take to the field at 10 a.m. on Saturday, coach Jeff Stolsig will have at least one lifelong fan in the stands.

“I’m going to go out there and support him, and I’m sure my stomach will be in knots for him and his team,” JJ said. “We both root like hell for each other.”

And when the Cougs face off later that day, coach JJ Stolsig will have a few.

“I will have to go back to Lebanon to drop off the kids who are going home with the mini-bus and then I will definitely come back to watch the game with Lori and the rest of my family and coaching staff,” Jeff said.

“I’m so happy for JJ and his program and the success they’ve had this season. They’re doing things the right way. It’s not by chance or mere circumstance that they find themselves in this position. They see the results of hard work and do things the right way.

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