Chokers hire new softball coach

Andrew Ysias

Andrew Ysias

Grays Harbor College announced on Thursday it has hired Concordia University assistant Andrew Ysais as the new head coach of the Grays Harbor College softball program.

Ysais accepted the position on Sept. 14 and visited the campus the following week. He said he also got a chance to speak with many of his players via a Zoom call shortly after taking the job.

“We’ve done a couple of Zoom calls to introduce myself to them and kind of layout the time frame (for the upcoming season),” he said before turning his attention to the upcoming season. “The level of competitiveness all depends on how much we can get done in a short period of time. But I think my main thing right now is trying to build culture and thinking long term. I’d love to have a strong season and a strong showing for the players, myself and the school. At the same point, I want to make sure we are doing things for the future. I want these girls to realize this is a new opportunity to create a new foundation and I want them to buy-in.”

After pitching for the United States in the fastpitch Junior Olympic World Championships in Sydney, Australia, in 2001, Ysais coached club teams for 10 years, reaching a seventh-place finish at the national championships that saw each of his athletes advance to play at the collegiate level.

Ysais was a volunteer coach for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Prescott, Arizona) in its inaugural season of 2014 before helping Antelope Valley University navigate its softball program from a club team to a member of the NAIA. Ysais joined the AVU program after a one-win season in its first year of probation for NAIA membership. But the Los Angeles native whose parents were both softball coaches helped to turn the program around, helping AVU to 11 wins in his first year on the coaching staff and 14 wins the following season. The NAIA approved full-fledged membership for the AVU softball program after that 14-win season.

Ysais then took the job as pitching coach for Pacific University (Forest Grove, Oregon) where he helped the Boxers double its wins and reach its conference tournament in 2018.

In 2019, Ysais took an assistant coach position with Concordia (Portland) and helped guide the team to a program-best 31 wins and the school’s first ever GNAC championship, garnering the institution’s first appearance in an NCAA Regional Tournament for any sport.

The Cavaliers were ranked third in conference in 2019-20 before COVID-19 cut their season short.

Ysais credits former Concordia head coach Shelly Whitaker as to being a vital part to why he accepted the position in Aberdeen. He stated that he had planned on continuing to coach under Whitaker and had planned on joining her at a D-II school in California, but when the position fell through for Whitaker, she was supportive of Ysais seizing upon the opportunity at GHC.

“Ultimately, she took a hard stance in order to protect me and provide me a greater opportunity there than (the D-II school) was willing to offer,” he said. “I said to her, ‘Hey something has come up that might be a good opportunity for me to throw my hat in the ring and see what it looks like to develop my own program.’ And she was 100% supportive throughout the entire process. She was rooting for me and I called her and said, ‘They offered it to me,’ and she asked if I had taken it yet. I told her, ‘I’m thinking about it,’ and she asked, ‘Why haven’t you taken it yet?’ So I said, ‘OK, I’m taking it.’ It’s just nice to have her support.”

In a press release announcing the hire, GHC Athletic Director Will rider stated Ysais’ lifetime experience as a fastpitch player and coach has the school “very excited to bring a man with Coach Ysais’s experience to Grays Harbor College.”

“He comes from a tremendous playing and coaching background and I am excited to see where he will take the program into the future,” Rider said.

Ysais expanded on his vision for building a championship culture at Grays Harbor College.

“At the forefront of every successful program is a specific mindset or culture that every player and coach within the program acknowledges and works daily to embody,” he said. “My initial task at GHC is to establish a positive, spirited and competitive culture that embodies accountability and a steadfast work ethic. The opportunity I’m presented with is met with excitement and gratitude. I understand the scope of the anxiety many of us are facing in this wild year that is 2020. The chance for myself and every player to be on the dirt as we navigate through all this is something I am grateful for and will work to ensure my players do as well.”