Skip to main content

By Dan Brood 

Maybe you could say Lakeridge junior Delaney Hoyle is making her dad, Howard Hoyle, look like a pretty darn good softball coach. 

Or, maybe you could say Howard Hoyle, in his first year as the Pacers’ head coach, is driving his daughter to be at her very best on the softball diamond.

Whatever it is, the youthful but hardworking Lakeridge team sure is benefiting from it, and the Hoyle family is loving every minute of it. 

The Pacers, with Delaney Hoyle dominating both at the plate and in the pitcher’s circle, and with Howard Hoyle calling all the right shots from the dugout, have gotten off to a blazing start to the 2023 season, going 7-0 to start the campaign.

“I’m honestly shocked,” Delaney Hoyle said after the Pacers’ 13-0 five-inning win over previously unbeaten Centennial in a frosty, early-morning game Monday at the Nelson Spring Break Tournament at Nelson High School in Happy Valley. “The seniors that graduated (from last year’s Lakeridge team that went 13-12) were insanely good. I’m really proud of how hard our team has worked. We started training in September, and I think everyone has improved so much. We all work really well together. I’m really proud of our team.”

“I’m surprised with the fast start,” Howard Hoyle said. “I’m really happy that the kids have come together. They’ve come together very quickly to become a tight-knit group and very close. They’re starting to believe in themselves and each other. A lot of growth can still happen.”

You can bet the always-positive coach will do his best to make sure of that.

All of it might not have happened, however, if it weren’t for the insistence of his daughter.

“This is my first year at Lakeridge,” Howard Hoyle said. “The coach last year, Katie (Boos), she was great. When she quit, I was like, ‘Well, I want to make sure the girls have somebody positive.’ And she (Delaney) asked me to coach, so I threw my hat in the ring and got it.”

Howard Hoyle 4 Lakeridge Dan Brood

But before he threw that hat, he wanted to positively make sure it was OK with his daughter.

“He asked me multiple times,” Delaney Hoyle said with a laugh. “He was like, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s fine.’” 

So far, it certainly has been.

“It’s been good,” Delaney Hoyle said. “He’s been coaching me since I was little. He’s always pushed me, and he’s never been one of the ‘crazy dads.’ I’m equal with all of the other players. I feel pretty confident with my dad coaching.”

“I trust her, too,” Howard Hoyle said. “The other day, she said, ‘I want to do a little glove-work drill.’ So, I said, ‘OK, Delaney, good. You run it.’ She knows what she’s doing. She’s a smart player.”

Coaching connection

While Howard Hoyle is new to the Lakeridge High School softball program, he’s certainly not new to coaching softball.

“I’ve been coaching 18, 19 years — so many I can’t even remember,” he said. “I’ve coached from T-ball to the Little League World Series. I’ve coached a lot of club ball the past six years.”

That’s right, Howard Hoyle was a coach for the Tigard/Tualatin City Little League Majors all-star team (his older daughter, Ella, played second base for the squad) that played in the 2015 Little League Softball World Series at Alpenrose Dairy in Southwest Portland.

In 2016, he was the manager of the Tualatin City Little League ages 8-10 all-star team. Delaney played for that team, as did a number of other players who now are on various high school varsity rosters, such as Ariel Chanez, Sadie Guyette and Mabry Martin of Tualatin, and Talia Valdez, Madeline Holly and Grace Wilson of Wilsonville, just to name some.

Delaney Hoyle Little League Dan Brood

“It’s really nice for me,” Delaney Hoyle said of meeting up with her former Little League teammates. “I really appreciate it, getting to see all the people I grew up playing with. It’s just fun. This should be fun. In the game, we’re competitive. But after the game, we hug it out. It’s nice.”

“That 10U (Little League) team, you’ve got kids now at Tigard, Tualatin, Wilsonville, West Linn,” Howard Hoyle said. “It’s just kind of cool now, when we play those teams, we’ve known them since they were 9 or 10 years old.”

But have the father-daughter/coach-player dynamics changed since Delaney was a 10-year-old Little Leaguer? Well, it depends on whom you ask.

“It’s different, because she’s had a few years of playing for other coaches, and I think she’s really grown and matured,” Howard Hoyle said. “She takes ownership of her own play, and I don’t really have to coach her that much.”

And on the diamond, he calls out to Delaney not by her name, but often with, “Let’s go, 14 (Delaney’s jersey number)!”

“It’s just a habit,” Howard Hoyle said. “She’s just another player on the team — even though she’s not.”

Delaney Hoyle doesn’t see that much of a change in the coaching dynamic with her father.

“It’s pretty much the same,” she said. “He trusts me with my own pitches and stuff. It’s kind of a partnership.”

Are there any negatives?

“In all honesty, I think all the negatives are for her,” Howard Hoyle said. “She can’t get away from her coach, so I try really hard not to bring that home.”

“I really don’t see any negatives,” Delaney Hoyle said. “I feel like I can talk to him when I have some input, something I think we can do differently. There are stereotypes for coaches’ daughters, but I think I’ve proved those stereotypes wrong.”

Progressing as a Pacer

Last year, as a Lakeridge sophomore, Delaney Hoyle was a second-team all-Three Rivers League selection as a utility player. 

In the pitcher’s circle, she was behind then-senior Holly Beeman, who was a first-team all-league pick. That actually turned out to be beneficial for Hoyle.

“Holly has taught me a lot,” she said. “She worked with me on my spin, and my older sister, Ella, has worked with me on my hitting. Holly is just a beast. She’s an amazing pitcher, and she’s grown so much. She’s just an inspiration to me. She’s playing DI college (at Fordham). I’m super close with her. When I need advice, I go to her.”

This year, however, it was Hoyle’s turn to take charge — and that’s exactly what she’s done.

Taking over as Lakeridge’s No. 1 pitcher, Hoyle opened the season by throwing 33 consecutive scoreless innings. Through seven games, she’s given up seven earned runs on 13 hits while striking out 84 and walking 14 in 37 innings.

“The last two years, she’s really matured,” Howard Hoyle said of his daughter’s pitching. “She’s just taken off.”

Delaney Hoyle 2 Lakeridge Dan Brood

“I know I’m striking out a lot of people, but I think I’m just someone who gets weak hits and trusts her infield,” Delaney Hoyle said. “It’s really the pitch calls. I really trust my dad. I can tell him what I don’t want to throw. My catcher (junior Elayna Jansen), she knows where the ball’s going. We’ve worked together for a while. I feel really confident. Our shortstop (Madeline Moehl), she’s a freshman, and she’s just making insane plays. I trust our defense.” 

She also seems to stay calm in pressure situations. 

In that chilly Monday-morning game with Centennial, the Eagles drew two walks and added an infield hit to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Not showing any panic, Delaney Hoyle struck out the next batter on three pitches to end the inning unscathed. 

“The more relaxed I am, the harder I throw,” she said with a smile.

“She gets flares and weak hits, but right now, she’s just dominating,” Howard Hoyle said.

As much as she’s dominating in the pitcher’s circle, Delaney Hoyle might be an even more dominant force at the plate.

In the first seven games, she’s gone 17 for 25 (a .680 batting average) with six home runs (she has another home run in jamboree play), one double, two triples, 10 runs, 16 RBIs and an unreal slugging percentage of 1.600. 

“I hit a lot. I hit every day, I train every day,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot more confident hitting. I just go in the box with the mentality that I’m going to hit the ball, no matter what. I’m not necessarily swinging for the fences; I’m just swinging for good contact, and that works out for me.”

Delaney Hoyle 3 Lakeridge Dan Brood

Delaney Hoyle’s fourth home run of the season came in that chilly game against Centennial. It was a screaming line drive that seemed to clear the fence before people could even turn their heads to watch.

“That’s the type that I like,” Howard Hoyle said with a smile. “I don’t like the big loopy ones, because those can come back in.”

“It felt good,” Delaney Hoyle said. “It felt a little weird hitting it off an old teammate (Centennial junior Peyton Davis, who came over to talk with and congratulate the Hoyles after the game). I hadn’t had any good hits this game, so I just wanted to hit something hard, so I went for it, and it happened to go out.”

So, pitching or hitting, which does she prefer?

“Honestly, I like both a lot,” Delaney Hoyle said. “I don’t think I could ever give up either. Even in college, the school I’m committing to (she’s made an oral commitment to Portland State University), I’m hitting. I’m excited.”

Winning games, having fun

While the individual achievements have been nothing short of amazing this season, Delaney Hoyle prefers to talk about the Lakeridge team’s success, and all the fun and positive energy the Pacers are enjoying. 

“We do have a lot of fun,” she said. “We’ve come up with a lot of different things to do to make sure that the energy in our dugout is positive. Our senior (Lucie Lappin, the only senior on the roster), she’s the queen of positive energy.”

One of the things the team has done for fun is pass around a home run chain. After a player hits a home run, she gets to wear the big, gold-plated chain around her neck in the dugout.

“We have a home run chain,” Delaney Hoyle said. “Maybe it’s an incentive to hit more home runs, but it’s just something fun.”

Delaney Hoyle 10 Lakeridge Dan Brood

In the win over Centennial, Hoyle got to wear the chain following her line-drive home run — but not for very long. Just two batters later, Lakeridge junior Lauren Beach hit her second two-run homer of the game.

“Every time I get it, someone seems to hit a home run right after me,” Delaney Hoyle said. “I usually give it up pretty fast.”

Yes, with the Pacers, the old adage seems to hold true — hitting is contagious.

“Everyone goes out there expecting to hit, and that seems to work for us,” Delaney Hoyle said.

It certainly did against Centennial. In addition to Beach’s two home runs and Hoyle’s round-tripper, sophomore Marin Lafrance hit a two-run homer and sophomore Macy Safley had a first-inning blast to right-center field hit the very top of the fence, falling back in for a triple.

“It’s all about believing in yourself,” Howard Hoyle said. “In the first day of practice back in the fall, I said, ‘If you get one thing from me, whether you quit today or you play throughout the whole year, I want you to know that I believe in you, and that you need to believe in yourself.’ That’s the philosophy of this team.” 

The young Lakeridge team, which entered the latest Class 6A coaches poll in the No. 7 spot, will need all of the self-belief it can get, competing in the powerful Three Rivers League, which features defending Class 6A state champion Tigard as well as top-ranked Oregon City.

“I think we’ll be pretty good,” Delaney Hoyle said. “Oregon City will be a big challenge, but I feel pretty good about everyone else. Not to be too cocky, but I think the games will be interesting. It’s a good league.”

“The league will definitely be tough,” Howard Hoyle said. “There’s definitely some really tough teams. Oregon City is really good.” 

Delaney Hoyle knows all about Oregon City, especially the Pioneers’ standout junior pitcher, Lily Riley.

“We’ve played together,” Hoyle said. “I’ve played with pretty much all the girls on that team. It’s going to be a very interesting game when I go see them. We text often.”

While Oregon City definitely looms as a daunting challenge, Howard Hoyle says not to overlook the young, aggressive Pacers.

“I thought this would be kind of a learning year,” he said. “I was expecting to be really good next year. But if they keep scrapping and keep improving, watch out. Lakeridge is here, and we’re pretty good. It’s been fun. Every single kid in the program has been awesome. We set the bar high and we work hard, but they show up and they keep working.” 

The family that coaches together

Delaney Hoyle says West Linn could be another formidable team in the Three Rivers League this spring. She knows at least a bit about the Lions firsthand.

“There are a lot of good freshmen coming into the league this year,” she said. “West Linn has some freshman pitchers that I used to coach.”

That’s right — players that she’s coached. 

“I’ve done some coaching, and I give lessons,” Delaney Hoyle said. “I’ve just watched my dad and how he coaches and works with people. He’s always calm, and he never gets mad; he just gives advice. And I think I’ve got that from him.”

Coaching isn’t exactly something new for Delaney Hoyle. 

“She’s helped me with clinics and stuff like that since she was 8 years old, so she’s got it down,” Howard Hoyle said. “I can’t wait until her older sister (Ella) gets done with school this year (she’s playing at Emory University in Atlanta, where she was batting .443 though March 25), and she’ll come back and help me, too. It’s a family thing.”

While more coaching might be in Delaney Hoyle’s future, for right now, she’s just enjoying her junior season at Lakeridge.

“I’m having fun,” she said. “Underclassman years are rough, but this junior year, I’m just trying to have fun. This should be fun.”

And you can bet that having her dad as her high school coach has added to the fun — and to the success. 

“He’s positive,” Delaney Hoyle said. “We’re tight, and I think he’s helped me to breathe.”

Delaney Hoyle Howard Hoyle Lakeridge Dan Brood