How ‘hating to lose’ gave baseball coach Geoff Loomis his 500th win

Geoff Loomis can’t boil it all down to just wanting to win. For him, baseball is about strength, family — and yes, a bit of the inability to stomach the idea of losing, too.

By Camille Kuroiwa-Lewis | April 2, 2024 3:30pm
Loomis watches his team at bat during a home game series against Maryland.
Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

Geoff Loomis knew from the moment he set foot on the University of Portland’s baseball diamond two decades ago that Portland pride would forever course through his veins. As a student-athlete, Loomis repeatedly tasted success, earning several notable accolades that later paved the way for him to compete in the professional arena.

But, in 2015, Loomis stepped back from the limelight and through the gates to the very diamond where his journey had begun. Yet this time, he entered not as a player — but as the head coach of UP baseball. 

“The number one thing that appealed to me about the University of Portland was this was where I spent some of the best years of my life,” Loomis said. “The idea of being able to come back here to this community was really appealing to me.”

Since assuming his position as head coach, Loomis has accomplished several impressive feats, from advocating for the upgraded stadium that Pilots enjoy today to consistently guiding the team to improved records season after season

Loomis watches his team at bat during a home game series against Maryland.

by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

Loomis' most recent accomplishment on Feb. 16 — his 500th career win as a head coach — is another testament to all he has accomplished during his time at UP. And although some may attribute Loomis’ number of wins to his 22 years of coaching experience, reducing 500 wins to mere years overlooks the depth of Loomis’ enduring coaching philosophy

Simply put: Loomis hates to lose.  

“It's not so much talking about how much I love to win, but just having people around you that just can’t stomach the idea of losing at anything,” Loomis said.

Evidently, Loomis surrounds himself with baseball players who mirror a similar mentality. This season, four Pilots, Jake Holcroft, Evan Scavotto, Zach Toglia and Nick Brink, were selected in the 2024 All-WCC Preaseason Team for baseball and finished second in the conference in a coaches poll. Players Nick Brink and Sam Stuhr have also been named WWC Pitcher of the Week for this season. Together, UP baseball makes a winning family. 

Captain Jake Holcroft, a graduate business administration student and the recent all-time hit leader for UP baseball, attributes Loomis’ 500th win to his unwavering "hate to lose" mentality, which he has witnessed firsthand in practices and games.

“After the game, one of our assistant coaches [told us] it's Coach Loomis’ 500th win,” Holcroft said. “And [Loomis] joked, ‘Man, I’m getting old,’ but it symbolizes his hard work, how much his players want to play for him. We love playing for him and we were very happy for him to get a 500th win.”

Jake Holcroft at bat during a home series game against Maryland.
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

Beyond his motivating mentality, Holcroft also believes that Loomis has excelled at creating a team environment where everyone is made to feel included — where everyone is an integral member of their chosen family.

“Family is definitely one of our values as a team,” Holcroft said. “It starts with the culture [Loomis] creates. He does hand over a lot of responsibilities to some of the older guys on the team. It just kind of fosters this relationship of trust with him. He trusts us and we trust him.”

Family has been an important value to Loomis long before he began coaching players on Joe Etzel Field. As a child, Loomis could be found outside playing baseball with other kids in his neighborhood during summer breaks in Oregon City where he was raised.

“I spent a lot of time outside during the summers when I was a little kid, and with friends in the neighborhood,” Loomis said. “That’s how you get started, right?” 

Throughout his journey, Loomis’ family has been a stable source of support, with Loomis’ father taking him to his first professional baseball game to see the San Francisco Giants.

Since then, Loomis has continued the tradition by taking his children to Giants games to share his passion with his family and instill that same love in the next generation.

“We’ve made trips down to San Francisco as a family to watch the Giants play and a lot of great, fond memories from doing that,” Loomis said.

Loomis’ family also played a significant role in why he chose to attend UP to pursue both athletic and academic excellency.

“The main draw [of UP] for me was just that I knew my parents had sacrificed a lot for me growing up to play baseball, and they really loved watching me play,” Loomis said. “So I thought it was a good fit for me to try to stay as close to home as possible.”

Loomis tagging a runner while playing for the UP baseball team, 1990-92. Photo courtesy of UP Athletics.

While at UP, Loomis proved himself as a force to be reckoned with. Loomis quickly surpassed school records with his high batting average and single-game runs batted in. And, in 1992, Loomis was named First Team All-Pac-10 Conference and the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

Loomis also prided himself on performing academically while at UP, emphasizing the importance of being a student as well as an athlete. 

“That was kind of my motto when I was here, to try to be as good a student and as good a player that I could possibly be,” Loomis said.

In the midst of his collegiate career, Loomis was offered the opportunity few college athletes get to pursue: the chance to go pro. 

As a UP junior, Loomis was recruited by Oakland’s Major League baseball team to play in the minor league system. When he was selected, Loomis felt pride knowing that all of his hard work had finally paid off.

Loomis batting for the UP baseball team in 1990-92. Photo courtesy of UP Athletics.

“That’s how it feels when you get an opportunity to go play professionally,” Loomis said. “[Like] boy all that work and time spent out on the field has opened the door for you that not very many people get to walk through.” 

After a year of playing for Oakland Athletics, Loomis utilized his college degree to pursue a job as an accountant. But the profession lacked the dynamic and free nature that Loomis thrived off of when playing baseball. He quickly learned that as an accountant, he couldn’t be outside when he was spending his days at a desk. 

“I was an accountant for a year and, just man, I just couldn't,” Loomis said. “I wanted to be outside. That kind of triggered me to start looking into potentially coaching and teaching.”

Luckily, Loomis’ old pitching coach from his UP days, Pat Bailey, was the head coach at George Fox University (GFU). Bailey invited Loomis to become an assistant coach there — once again opening the baseball world for Loomis to re-enter.

Up until that point, Loomis hadn’t considered making his coaching into a career. It wasn’t until his time at GFU that he came across a fork in the road. Loomis had to make the challenging decision to either continue as an assistant coach or walk towards the unfamiliar territory of full-time head coaching.

Ultimately, Loomis decided to take the leap and pursue head coaching. So, during the day he taught business classes at David Douglas High School, and at night, he scoped out head coaching opportunities nearby. 

“I started [coaching] really wanting to have a passion to teach [baseball] to younger guys,” Loomis said. “I was still pretty young myself. But my wife and I started a family when I was around 30 years old. I had to make a decision on [whether] I am gonna do this baseball thing full time or am I gonna be a teacher full time.”

Finally, at 31, Loomis was offered his first opportunity to be the full-time head coach at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), a Division III school.  

His time at PLU is colored by an impressive 327-197-2 (.624) record and a 2004 National Baseball Congress World Series title. Loomis is also credited with leading his team to the Northwest Conference Championship, something no other coach at PLU had accomplished before. He also managed to average 25 wins within his first 12 seasons at PLU — an impressive feat, considering only one other PLU team had ever averaged that number for a season in program history. 

However, Loomis struggled with an onslaught of responsibilities that came from the small budget of his D3 team. Coaching a division three team with limited resources wasn’t easy, but ultimately shaped him into a versatile coach.

“Division III is a great proving ground for coaches,” Loomis said. “It's not so much the wins and losing part as a proving ground, but the idea is as head coach at that level, you are the hitting coach, the pitching coach, you’re the travel organizer. I think what it does is it ends up getting you really prepared for a bigger job if that opportunity comes up.”

In 2015, a bigger job did come across Loomis’ way: head coaching UP’s Division I baseball.

Upon assuming his new role, Loomis vividly remembered the field he had played on as a student. 

“When I first [became head coach], the stadium that was here was the same stadium I played in as a student-athlete,” Loomis said. “Its shelf life was over 30 years. It was time to get a new stadium.”

Loomis fielding for the UP baseball team in 1990-92. Photo courtesy of UP Athletics.

Within a year of his arrival, new lights replaced the old, marking the evolution of baseball’s field from the 90’s into today. 

But it wasn’t just the baseball field’s lights that changed under Loomis’ direction — he is also credited with turning the program around. UP baseball has been improving their numbers since 2017, when the team made a leap from 10 wins to 23 the following year.

The team’s success also extends past the field and into the classroom. Last semester, UP baseball’s student-athletes attained the highest average GPA in program history, sitting at 3.55.

“I want our guys to hate to lose at academics,” Loomis said. “[Even] if they're playing ping pong against each other, I want them to hate to lose at playing ping pong.”

Although Loomis “hates to lose,” his mindset is not limited by tough love. Above all, players on the UP baseball team credit their achievements to Loomis’ ability to coach with integrity and compassion. 

Assistant coach Trey Watt, who previously played under Loomis at PLU, echoes this sentiment. 

“He will not sacrifice any integrity of doing things the right way and helping people see that they can grow to be an excellent person in all areas of their life,” Watt said. “It's hard to do, it takes a lot of effort, a lot of energy. He does it with all 37 guys on our roster.”

Loomis talks to his team during a home game.

by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

Next year, UP baseball is undergoing some big changes. The team is made up of eight graduating students, meaning the Bluff will soon welcome a new class of student-athletes for the upcoming season. 

“[Next year’s season] is 13 guys strong and it’s a really good class,” Loomis said. “I’m gonna be looking forward to welcoming that new group in.”

Despite the number of graduating athletes, Loomis remains grateful for the memories he has shared with his current team. 

“This group that I got the 500 win with this year is probably my favorite group I’ve had,” Loomis said. “Just 37 great kids. It truly is a pleasure for me to be around these guys. It's even more meaningful to me that that happened with this group this year.”

Camille Kuroiwa-Lewis is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at