Times Softball Coach of the Year | Lisa Hayes, Portage

Portage's Hayes is The Times Softball Coach of the Year

2013-06-20T18:00:00Z 2013-06-21T17:12:08Z Portage's Hayes is The Times Softball Coach of the YearJim Hunsley jim.hunsley@nwi.com, (219) 548-4356 nwitimes.com

Early-morning feedings for her youngest child and nail-biting finishes to softball games have been the recent norm for Portage softball coach Lisa Hayes.

The second-year coach gave birth to her second child, Colt, on Easter, was back in the dugout on April 15 and had a front-row seat for the Indians' ride to the program's second state title less than two months later.

"Getting to experience two of these great moments in the same two-month span is simply amazing," said Hayes, the Times Softball Coach of the Year. "It's definitely not an experience I would recommend for people to do."

Hayes fully understands the arduous nature this spring's span entailed not only for her, but her family, team and school.

"It's fantastic how it all came together," she said. "I couldn't have done it by myself."

Hayes, now 43-14 in two seasons at Portage, is extremely grateful to her husband Jason. The two will celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary in August.

Hayes is also very thankful for both extended family's help in baby-sitting Colt and older son Koyie, who will be 2 on June 30.

"They've made the transition so much easier," Hayes said. "They've always been there to help."

The same goes for those surrounding the Portage softball program. Assistant coach Jay Hodges and first-year assistant John Hall help bridge the gap during Hayes' maternity leave. Hall, who coached South Central last season, was the Indians' interim coach.

"It was never tricky," Hall said. "Having a great rapport with her helped.

"She's a firm, hard-nosed coach. To be honest, it's amazing what she was able to do. She's always had that passion for the girls and the program."

Hodges' daughter Haley has been the four-year starter at catcher for the Indians.

"They've been invested in the team," Hayes said.

Sophomore pitcher Kiley Jones took a reasoned approach to her coach's situation.

"She had to keep being a mom," Jones said. "We knew that life happens.

"We wanted to try to provide a stress-free environment. The team didn't have an issue with drama. We knew we had to stay calm when the coach came back."

Hayes also wanted to make a quick return to show her allegiance to the program.

"I think they knew I cared when I showed up five days after I delivered my child," Hayes said. "I might not pat them on the back, but I do care."

Hayes found a sign of the word "Believe" which was brought to games, and she also gave the players bracelets with the word on it.

The team appeared to buy into the concept.

"Throughout the entire season we thought of ourselves as the underdog," Jones said. "The regular season didn't mean as much. We had to keep proving ourselves."

Portage, ranked No. 19 in the final state poll, defeated No. 7 Crown Point in the sectional semifinals and then bested both No. 2 Northridge (2-0) and No. 5 Huntington North (2-1, nine innings) in the semistate. Their last win was against Franklin Central.

Now, Hayes is able to slow down her schedule -- just a bit.

"It's kind of bittersweet," she said. "I want to see my husband and family more, but I don't know if I wanted it to end."

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