Lake Oswego baseball coach Jake Anders reaches a milestone with the Lakers.
It was never about the “Ws” for Jake Anders.
Don’t get me wrong. Anders, the head baseball coach at Lake Oswego High School for the past 25 years, is as competitive as anyone you’ll ever meet.
And his efforts — with the support of his mentors, longtime assistant coaches, LOHS administrators and the Lake Oswego community — have indeed resulted in a lot of “Ws.”
The big 4-0-0
Anders hit a big milestone in his long coaching career when the Lakers beat West Salem 6-0 at Lake Oswego High School on Tuesday, March 21. That victory gave Anders his 400th career varsity win and lifted him into the rarefied air of big-school Oregon coaches with at least 400 victories.
“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about it. The kids didn’t know and my assistant coaches didn’t know because it’s not their responsibility to worry about stuff like that,” said Anders, 52. “And if you ask any of my kids, we never even use the word ‘win’ in stuff we talk about. If you play the way that we’re supposed to play, the wins will take care of themselves. But I was feeling great about it because we’ve been playing well.”
The 2023 Lakers put Anders over the top against West Salem, did it at LOHS where Anders has spent his entire head coaching career, did it with a shutout and kept LO unbeaten in the young spring season. Anders’ Lake Oswego record — after the victory over the Titans and a 6-0 win over Sherwood on Thursday, March 23 — stands at 401-230-1 and includes the Lakers’ 2004 state championship.
Anders is now one of just 30 Oregon high school baseball coaches with 400 or more wins, and one of just 13 at the big-school level with 400 or more victories.
The select level of that company is not lost on Anders.
“The 400 number turned out to be kind of a magic number in our state,” Anders said, acknowledging two of his coaching mentors — former Lakeridge coach Dave Gasser (the state’s leader in wins with 750) and former Tigard and Southridge coach Tom Campbell (second in wins at 729) — and their impact on his career. “No one’s ever gonna catch (them), and then the 400 mark is kind of an exclusive club, too. … You’ve got 13 guys at the big-school level … so when you start looking at that, you start seeing some of the names that are … coaching legends.”
In addition to Gasser and Campbell, Anders said that longtime Laker football coach Steve Coury has also served as a mentor and role model during his career at LOHS.
Anders’ success comes as no surprise to Jack Anderson. Anderson is a 2013 Lake Oswego graduate who went on to play a key role on Oregon State’s 2018 national championship baseball team and now serves as one of Anders’ coaches at LO.
“As a player, coach Anders’ passion for his players, the program and the game was obvious from the minute I joined the program as a freshman,” Anderson said. “Successful players in his program care about playing the game the right way and bringing energy to the yard every day.”
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Interestingly, Anders started his Oregon high school coaching career across town at Lakeridge and thought that he would succeed Gasser as the Pacers head coach.
After pursuing his own playing career as long as he could — he finished his playing days at Lewis & Clark College under head coach Jerry Gatto — Anders spent a couple years in the corporate world before joining Gasser at Lakeridge for the 1997 and ‘98 seasons.
“Dave already told me that he was probably going to leave Lakeridge (he stayed through the 2002 season) and he was really pushing for me to be the next Lakeridge coach,” Anders said. “They had a couple of teaching positions open at Lakeridge, but then … I found out that I wasn’t going to get hired.
“Then, literally, within 24 hours, they had me at the (Lake Oswego School District) central office, basically saying ‘We’re hiring you at LO and we want you to be the baseball coach.”
What he’s built
While Lake Oswego baseball was not a powerhouse when Anders was hired in the summer of 1998, he quickly made it just that. Over the course of the past quarter century, the Lakers have won 10 Three Rivers League titles, reached the big-school state quarterfinals seven times, the state semifinals twice and the state championship game once (2004).
Indeed, since 1951 when LOHS opened, no other Laker baseball coach has won a state playoff game. Anders was named Three Rivers League Coach of the Year in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016, and was selected as Oregon Coach of the Year in 2004.
He is also an executive board member with the Oregon High School Baseball Coaches Association, Oregon Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, NW Prep Baseball Association, Oregon Athletics Coaches Association and head coordinator of the 5A/6A Oregon All-Star Series.
“We’ve been able to build a pretty solid community-based program that people are, for the most part, supportive of,” Anders said. “I think the biggest part is the alumni connection. They’ve stayed involved and they’ve been proud of it. I have a lot of former players that are coaching for me now and have coached in the past and continue to stay connected. … They’re just as proud of what’s been accomplished as I am.”
Over the years, Anders has fielded a bundle of talented Lake Oswego teams and players, but when asked to name his best, he didn’t hesitate — his 2004 state champions.
That team rolled to a TRL title, then knocked off four straight foes in the Class 4A playoffs, beating Wilson 9-0, Churchill 3-2, Gresham 10-2 in the quarterfinals, South Salem 5-3 in the semis and West Albany 9-1 in the championship game at Volcanoes Stadium on June 5, 2004.
That team — which finished 26-4 overall — included pitcher (and future Philadelphia Philly) Mike Stutes, Bryce Mooney (who played at University of Washington and Oregon State University), Match Lange (University of the Pacific, Mt. Hood Community College and University of Portland), Zach Mandelblatt (Pomona College), Jordan Wlodarzyk (Chapman University and Lewis & Clark College), Kevin Davey (Santa Clara University), Dan Meehan (Trinity College and Lewis & Clark College) and Mitch Moses (College of San Mateo).
“It would have to be (the 2004 team),” Anders said. “Mike Stutes, obviously, was the marquee name, but there were (eight) college players on that team. … It was just a really, really good team.”
But close behind his ’04 team was Anders’ squad from 2013. That team was another of his TRL champions (they finished 22-8 overall) and a team Anders believed could have — maybe even should have — won it all.
That Laker crew included Nick Rulli, Brian Zinsmeister and Tom Zarosinski, but got derailed by Southridge 5-3 in the state quarterfinals. It’s a loss that still sticks in Anders’ craw.
“That group, we lost in the (quarterfinals on) one of the worst high school calls I’ve ever seen. We were three outs away from going to the (semifinals),” Anders said. “That group was super deserving, and we had a lot of crossover football/baseball guys on that team. … I always tell our kids I never blame the umpires for losses, but that’s the one game out of my entire career that I will always say we got completely cheated out of that game.”
While those high points remain sharp in Anders’ memory, it’s the Lakers’ consistent success that he prizes even more. With the Lakers owners of 10 Three Rivers League championships in the last 25 years, it means that the other 5+ teams in the TRL — the league has changed in makeup and number over the years — have had to split the other 15 league crowns in that span between them, an average of three or fewer titles per team.
“I would say there was probably about an eight-year stretch where, if there was a two out of three series playoff format, I just don’t think we could have been beaten,” Anders said.
Indeed, between 2008-2013, the Lakers won five TRL titles, won more than 20 games each year (highlighted by the 2010 team’s 25-3 record) and saw LO go 133-40 overall during that six-year span.
Through all of it, Anders has benefited from — and gladly shares credit with — a huge cadre of supporters.
That group features several former players who have come back to coach with him at LO, currently including Jared Van Hoon, Mike Wesner, Joe Clark and Anderson, and until this season, Grant Taylor.
“There are several coaches that played for me that are part of our staff now,” Anders said. “We’re super excited about the (400th win) because they’re part of it. It’s not about me. It’s about players. Players win games, good players.”
And it’s more than just coaches and players who have helped Anders build the LO program. He credits years of solid parental support, strong administrative teams at LOHS and the overall assistance of the greater Lake Oswego community.
“(When) I look back at the … parents and supporters that have helped me with field projects and travel and fundraising and all those things, it takes a huge community effort,” Anders said. “The list is very long. … It hasn’t been just me.”
All the long-term assistance he’s gotten from fellow coaches, former players, program parents and supporters, and the LOHS administration have helped Anders thrive for 25 years at Lake Oswego.
That longevity, Anders knows, puts him into a very small group of Oregon high school coaches.
“I used to think of myself as the young guy,” Anders said. “And now, I’m starting to realize that I’m one of the few guys that have 20-plus years.
“Now you have a lot of turnover, a lot of turnover and coaches don’t last for a long period of time. So it’s something that I’m proud of. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve done it all in one school.”
Lake Oswego is, obviously, special to Anders, and not just because of the high school. He’s lived there for most of his adult life, saw his three daughters grow up there and graduate from LOHS, and got to coach daughters Taylor and Kate on the Lakers varsity basketball team.
“There’s no doubt about it. It’s a good community to … raise your kids in academically,” he said.
Regarding his many, many wins at Lake Oswego, Anders said that the “Ws” are just the byproduct of his real goal — helping his players grow up and mature during their high school careers.
“We want to help our players become better men before they leave the program,” Anders said. “For the guys that are are fortunate enough to go and play beyond the high school level, the biggest thing we want to teach them is how to think for themselves so that they’re not robotic when they move to the next level.”
The Lakers have sent a ton of players to the “next level” during his tenure, including three who’ve played professionally (Stutes, Mandelblatt and 2009 grad Jeff Kremer) and more than 50 who have played (or are currently playing) in college. That group features players who have won college national championships at every level.
“The 400 thing is … a reflection of what we can be proud of in our program,” Anders said. “There’s a lot of things to be proud of and the winning is just a byproduct of that.”
Anderson echoes Anders’ goals for the program.
“There are currently five former Laker baseball players on the coaching staff … which I believe says a lot about our experience as players in this program,” he said. “We are all hoping to give these kids the same energy and passion we were given from our coaches when we were playing.”
While he’s been around Lake Oswego for a long time, and while he knows he’s not as young as he used to be — he was 28 when he started at LO — Anders said he’s not thinking about retirement.
“To be honest, every year is a new year for me right now. The number one thing I said when I first started coaching … here at LO was (that I wanted) to leave it better than I found it. And I feel like I’ve done that,” he said. “I won a state championship. We built a solid program. So I don’t really have anything to prove to myself. I think I’ve done what I wanted to accomplish.”
That said, Anders knows that he’s closer to the end of his coaching career than he is to the start of it.
“Every year is year-to-year now. My kids are out of college or in college, and they’re kind of spread all over the country so I’ve got to think a little bit more about family and how to navigate that. So I don’t have any plans as of yet, but … every year when the season ends, I do an evaluation.”
At this point, Anders is just paying attention to his physical ability to do the job — he also teaches social studies and business at LOHS — his ability to connect with Laker athletes and his passion for the game.
“The number one thing is I’ve always said is if I physically can’t do it, if it’s not fun for me or I don’t relate to the kids, that’s when I’ll hang it up,” he said. “Right now, all those things are good.”