Longtime area fast-pitch softball coach Dave Just takes the helm at Gladstone

JOHN DENNY - Gladstone seniors (left to right) Kat Kerr, Amanda Manning and Kennedy Coy met with Dave Just, their new softball coach, one day last month to see what Just has planned for the team in 2016.Gladstone High School has hired longtime successful youth fast-pitch softball coach Dave Just as campus monitor and head coach in softball.

Just, 53, for years was one of the most successful Amateur Softball Association youth fast-pitch coaches in Oregon. From 1984 through 1994 he coached successful high level ASA 15-U and 18-U teams known as the I-5 Bandits. His Bandits made the ASA fast-pitch national finals four straight years from 1989-93.

They won the Northwest Regional Championships in 1990 and in 1992. They were regional runners-up in 1989 and 1991, and they were seventh in the nation in 1992.

Several outstanding local players played for Just’s Bandits, including Mariann and Jean Dukart from Putnam; Michele and Shannon Bertrand, Stacey Eskridge and Jaina Johnston from Milwaukie; and Kari Tate, Jodi Medearis and Jenny Hefflinger from Clackamas.

He was head coach at Willamette University from 1991 through 1995, and he coached at Clackamas High School in 1990. Before that he assisted in high school programs at Churchill and at Elmira.

In his five years at Willamette University, Just took a losing program and made it into a winner.

“I brought some recruits in and we set some team records as far as total wins,” Just said.

More recently, Just was head coach at Clackamas High School from 2012-2014, where his teams went 58-25, winning Three Rivers League titles in 2012 and 2013, and going 24-5 and advancing to the semifinals in 2012.

Last spring Just assisted coaching women’s softball at Willamette University.

“This is a great situation,” Just said of his position as head coach and campus monitor at Gladstone. “It’s local. This is where I live. And it gives me the opportunity to do some coaching in a program that has had some success. I want to keep that success going and see if we can’t make it a little deeper into the postseason.”

Just says he plans open gyms, a youth camp and clinics for youth players and youth coaches, as he attempts to make a successful program even more successful.

Former Gladstone High School head coach Bruce Mortier did not leave the cupboard bare. Only three players graduated off of last year’s team, and six players who received all-league recognition are expected to return: seniors Kat Kerr (infield), Amanda Manning (outfield) and Kennedy Coy (catcher); and juniors Madi Mott (pitcher), Kinzi McLeod (infield) and Carlie Brown (utility/designated hitter).

“I’m excited!” said Kerr.

“Dave’s going to be bringing in a whole bunch of new elements we haven’t had before,” Coy said.

Just is known for his aggressive coaching style, where he keeps the pressure on and takes advantage of opponents’ weaknesses.

The Gladiators had plenty of success in the eight years that Mortier was at the helm. His teams won at least a share of five league titles. And they advanced to the semifinals three times (2008, 2009 and 2013), but never made a state final. Over eight seasons Mortier’s Gladstone teams won 78 percent of their games, going 168-48. They set school records for most wins in 2013 (26-4) and in 2014 (26-2), and they went 15-0 in the Tri-Valley Conference in 2014 and in 2015.