Coach reaches the century mark
The St. Paul softball team notched its most successful stretch of the season last week, winning its first three games to improve its season-best win streak to four games.
Along the way, the Buckaroos notched a 26-19 victory over the Perrydale Pirates on April 15 that would go down in the team's record books as a relatively unsubstantial win, if not for one significant footnote. That game marked the 100th high school career victory for coach Carl Kordenat, a staple of the local softball community who has been coaching for nearly two decades in northern Marion County.
"One-hundred wins is a great feeling, but it's all on the girls that I've coached in every area and every school I've coached at," Kordenat said following the team's split double header against Nestucca on Friday, where assistant coach Neil Forste revealed to the team that Kordenat had reached the benchmark at the beginning of the week.
Kordenat has been the coach at St. Paul High School since the team formed in 2016, guiding the team from a five-win season in its inaugural year to now where the Bucks sit in second place in the standings and are fighting for a coveted state playoff berth.
"Without Coach K our program wouldn't even exist," senior catcher Megan Tuck said. "When we were trying to get a team four years ago, no one believed we would have the numbers to keep it going. We're well into our fourth year now and we have 16 varsity players and strong youth programs to follow."
Tuck is one of a handful of players who have been with the team all four seasons and Kordenat's ability to be both a serious mentor while keeping a festive mentality in the dugout and between games has been instrumental in the team's steady expansion over the years.
"Coach Carl has been one of the main reasons we have been able to have continued interest and growth in our team over the last four years," senior pitcher Rachel Vela said. "He knows how to balance serious coaching and having fun, which sets the tone for our team."
Such has been the case for Kordenat since he took up the mantle of softball coach in 2001. A 1986 graduate of Canby High School, Kordenat was a standout catcher for the Cougar baseball team and threw his hat into the ring as a softball coach when his daughter Nicole Hendricks came along.
He teamed with current St. Paul assistant Fred Fischer and began coaching their daughters through the ASA Woodburn Scorpions 12-U softball program.
They coached together for seven summers and when Nicole transferred to North Marion High School her junior year, Kordenat followed, taking the coaching post a year later in 2007.
"Getting to spend my senior year with him at North Marion during his first full year of coaching at the high school level is something special that I'll never forget," Hendricks said.
Kordenat did not take long to set the course with a young talented group of girls that saw him end his first season at the helm with an 18-8 overall record, finishing third in the Capital Conference and falling one game short of the state playoffs.
"I remember he had a passion for the game and his coaching style was calm and positive," former North Marion player Amy Lepire said. "He made sure each of us was successful on the field and always emphasized teamwork, commitment and leadership."
Kordenat's team improved the next year, finishing 19-6 overall and 15-3 in the Capital Conference to win the league title as Lepire was named conference player of the year.
Making their first state playoff appearance in 13 years, the Huskies took a win in the first round before losing to the eventual runner-up Henley Hornets 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
The Huskies returned to the quarterfinals the next season, going 17-9 overall and finishing third in the league race. Kordenat wrapped his North Marion career in 2010 with a 12-win season, falling one game short of the state playoffs.
"One of my favorite things about playing softball there was the fact that I got to play for Carl," North Marion 2010 graduate Charli Morales said. "Carl was always there for us on and off the field if we ever needed him and still is to this day."
Kordenat stepped back into the game in 2012, taking the head job at Woodburn High School, but left after two seasons to tend to an ill parent.
In 2015, Kordenat saw an ad for a head coaching position at St. Paul, where the district was seeking to rebuild its softball program that had not been in play since the 1980s.
There had been a few St Paul kids playing softball in a co-op with North Marion up to that time, but it was St. Paul senior Emily Vela and junior Elizabeth Brentano who longed to field their own team.
Enter coach Kordenat.
Kordenat was granted the position later that winter and brought his trademark positivity to the program, helping to bring prospective athletes to the team and keeping them there once they got a taste of his coaching style.
"I can personally attest for (anyone who) has played under Coach Carl that we want to play when he's coaching," Brentano said. "He was just the right mixture of encouragement and tough love in the exact situations where we needed it."
Now in the midst of his fourth year of the build at St. Paul, Kordenat and his coaching staff of Fischer, Neil Forste and Hendricks continue to build the program year after year, starting from scratch and bringing in strong numbers from the youth program, up into the high school.
Hendricks has been at his side for nearly her entire softball career, transitioning from a player/coach relationship to that of an assistant.
"It was an exciting and new adventure to our father-daughter bond," she said. "One thing I learned after moving over to coach with him was how much he truly cares for his players, new and old, during and after the softball season."
With many of his girls involved in multiple athletics season, Hendricks said her dad makes every effort to attend as many games as possible during the off season to support his players.
"He taught me more than just about sports, he taught me many life lessons as well," St. Paul graduate Logan Robinson said. "I'm so grateful I've had the opportunity to play for him and experience his coaching firsthand as a member of his team.
And for Kordenat, he simply wants to continue to take the St. Paul program to loftier heights, guiding each class of athletes through the game and high school as best he can.
"When I came out here and applied for this job, bringing the program back for the first time in 20 years, that's something special to come in here, start something going with the coaches that I have," he said. "My wins don't mean anything if I don't have a team behind me that is backing me up and doing what I ask of them."
— SPHS assistant coach Neil Forste contributed to this story