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Corey Rooper is the Þfth baseball coach in as many years

If Beaverton High Athletic Director Jim Meuwissen is smart, he'll commit ASAP to Corey Rooper as head baseball coach again for the 2007 season, assuming Rooper acquits himself well in his new position this spring.

The Beaver players deserve as much.

Rooper is Beaverton's fifth head coach in five years, an amazing fact considering the program is always competitive.

Three years ago, Beaverton's Oregon Mortgage club finished fifth in the state American League tournament. Two years ago, the Beavers made it to the Class 4A state semifinals. They have been a state playoff team in each of the last four seasons.

Yet, due to an unusual set of circumstances, the Beaverton head coaching job has been passed from Mike Bubalo to Mike Wantland to Derek Nekoba to Craig Webster to Rooper since Bubalo stepped down in 2002.

'I've been sorry to see the kids have to go through a different coach every year, with no continuity between the coach and the youth programs and between the coach and the players,' says Bubalo, in his second year as a volunteer assistant after a very successful 18 seasons as head coach (1978-1991 and 1999-2002). 'That's why I promised (Meuwissen) I would help.'

After Bubalo's resignation in '02, Wantland was forced out early in his second season due to a personal matter, with Nekoba finishing out the 2004 season as an interim coach who took the Beavers to the state semis. Webster coached the Beavers to a 19-9 season and fourth place in the Metro League last spring, but when a teaching position wasn't created for him at Beaverton, he left to take over the program at Hood River Valley High.

'It's been kind of crazy,' says catcher-designated hitter Jake Fetzer, a senior who has played for all five coaches, counting Bubalo as an assistant, during his time at Beaverton. 'It's been confusing for the players. One coach teaches one way, then a new coach comes in and expects us to know what he knows. It's kind of screwed up the whole program.'

Enter Rooper, 29, an assistant under Webster for two years at Jesuit and again last year at Beaverton. Rooper's roots link to the Beavers Ñ his older brother, Trevor, played for Bubalo in the '80s. Corey was a shortstop at Beaverton who went on to first-team all-conference honors at the University of La Verne (Calif.)., a Division III program, in 1999.

Bubalo sees Rooper providing the beginning of some stability.

'I feel good Corey has the job,' Bubalo says. 'He's a solid baseball guy who has passion for the game and is very receptive to some of the constructive criticism I've offered.

'Corey definitely has a future in this business. You don't see a lot of young coaches committed year-round like he is. I think he's here to stay.'

Fetzer says Rooper's connection to Webster has helped.

'It's been good to have Coach Rooper,' says Fetzer, an all-state safety who will play football at Portland State next fall. 'We got to know him last year as an assistant coach, and I like how he runs it. It's a lot like Webster did, but with his own little twists. And I think they're for the better.'

Pitcher-first baseman Paul Noonan is another senior who has played for all five coaches since 2002.

'I've enjoyed all the coaches we've had, but it's not been a positive to have a new coach every year,' says Noonan, an all-state basketball player headed for Boise State. 'But Coach Rooper is going to be great for us. He's young but, as a baseball mind, he knows a lot. He has a lot of intensity and expects us to win every game, which is great.'

Part of Webster's departure was tied to the opportunity to both teach and coach at Hood River Valley. Rooper doesn't have a teaching job at Beaverton, either. He is coaching while finishing up his undergraduate degree at Portland State and will spend the following year working toward completion of his teaching certificate.

'Craig has a family,' Rooper says. 'I'm a single guy. I can afford to eat peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for a while.'

The Beavers, 4-5-1 overall but 2-0 in Metro play after opening with wins over Century and Southridge this week, should be in the thick of the league race again. The pitching rotation of Noonan, junior Austin Potter and sophomore Ryan Larson could be one of the area's best. Senior second baseman Nick Marineau is one of the top combination sticks/gloves in the Metro, and Fetzer provides jets at the top of the order.

'We have a chance to be really good,' Rooper says. 'We are very athletic with good speed. It comes down to how well we hit the ball in the clutch and how our pitching comes along.'

Most experts figure Beaverton, Jesuit, Aloha, Westview, Sunset and Hillsboro as the teams that will battle for the league's four state playoff spots.

'We'll have a pretty good chance to finish either first or second this year,' Fetzer predicts.

When it's over, chances are good the Beavers will have the same coach two seasons in a row for the first time in half a decade.

'I think things are under control now, with me and Bubes and (assistant coach) Matt Smith, an in-house guy who teaches at Beaverton,' Rooper says. 'We're in the process of laying down some foundation. Hopefully, I'll be here for a while.'

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