The Walla Walla High School varsity softball team has a new head coach — but she’s a familiar face.
Kate Keyes, a 2005 Wa-Hi graduate, will succeed her high school coach, Jerry Humphreys, who submitted his resignation in August after 12 seasons.
Keyes, a para-educator at Sharpstein Elementary School in Walla Walla, worked within the Blue Devils’ program the past two seasons. She coached the freshmen in 2011 and junior varsity the next year.
She was a varsity assistant during the 2011 and 2012 playoffs, and the Blue Devils reached the Class 4A state title game both years. Wa-Hi won the championship in 2011 and was the runner-up to Woodinville in 2012.
“A lot of what I believe, it comes from my experience playing for Jerry and coaching under Jerry for the last few years, so a lot of pressure, not necessarily,” Keyes said. “The first season, there’ll be some changes inevitably, just because we’re different people.”
As a player and coach, Keyes said she was inspired by Humphreys’ love for the game and a dedication to improve.
“He always emphasized the team, and the team comes first,” Keyes said. “You get that right, you can achieve something from there.”
Keyes was a three-sport athlete at Wa-Hi, playing volleyball, basketball and softball. During her 3 1/2 years of varsity softball, Keyes pitched, played at first base and saw time in the outfield. She also served as a team captain.
“She was a great leader as a student athlete and had the program at heart,” Humphreys said. “She was one of those kids you knew would be a great coach if she wanted to.”
Though she didn’t get to play at state with the Blue Devils, Keyes made it to the regional tournament twice. She shared her late-season expertise when she helped Wa-Hi’s varsity team during the 2011 and 2012 playoffs.
“You work with those kids the whole time, they’re kind of sick of you, but in the postseason, Kate would come in, and she knows what they’re working on,” Humphreys said. “She can give them another perspective, so it was really helpful.”
Last spring, Keyes was part of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association West Region Coaching Staff of the Year. She already is hard at work at her new job, attending a coaches’ clinic this week in Portland.
“We have a lot of returners who have experience in high-stakes competition, so I don’t think their goals are going to change a lot,” Keyes said. “The girls are excited to have the state tournament as their vision, and that’s where the coaching staff is looking as well.”
w Katie Dorsey: 582-1526; firstname.lastname@example.org