PALATINE HILL -- Entering the second season with head coach Matt Kosderka leading the program, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers will look to make a second consecutive improvement in their win total.
Kosderka returns most of his coaching staff from his inaugural year including pitching coach Brandon Rupp, infielders coach Nate Wilson-Traisman and assistant Bill Allen. At the beginning of the academic year, the Pioneers added former All-Northwest Conference selection Eric Del Prado to the staff to tutor hitters.
Lewis & Clark's senior class includes a depth of experience at certain positions and key spots in the batting order. Matt Donovan set a school record for doubles as a junior (17) and brings back his team-leading batting average. He'll look to repeat as an All-NWC selection. Cooper Larson brings leadership and a strong bat to the middle of the order. A year ago, he hit career highs for batting average and nearly matched his peak for hits. Ryan Ericksen will be in the mix behind the plate where he's continuously improved defensively. As a hitter, he hit high-water marks in 2018 in average, RBI and hits in addition to sending out his first career home run. With tremendous speed, Cameron Paton is one of the Pios' best threats to steal bases who will have more opportunities as an outfielder this year. Paton tallied the best numbers of his career in walks and stolen bases last season. Competing for baseball after a four-year football tenure, Mike Machado is available for time in the infield and out of the bullpen.
The three-person junior class includes two middle infielders. Cole Petters is also emerging as a two-way option and could see some time on the mound this year. He also brings a needed left-handed bat. Joey Oda is competing for time at second base and has made some impressive adjustments offensively. He finished second in average last season and played in the most games of his career as well. Justin Katona had a great start to his sophomore season and returns as an improved defender. He was the only person to hit a triple for the Pioneers last season.
The Pios benefited from a solid first-year class during Kosderka's rookie season as head coach, something that should continue as the group heads into their sophomore year. For the second straight year, David Schmidt will have his season affected by injury. After he was limited to nine games last year, Schmidt will miss his sophomore season because of a recently broken elbow. Jacob Serafini provided consistency at shortstop and remains the heart of the Pios defense. Offensively, he's made some adjustments and will hope to boost his numbers as the plate. Sammy Benbow played in 15 games as a freshman and will compete for time at first base. Like Serafini, he's made adjustments to provide more at the plate and get on base, where he stole double-digit bases as a freshman. Also speedy, Michael Contreras added a boost in the outfield over 20-plus games last season. A lefty, he'll look to get on base and be tough to throw out. Benefiting from a lot of offseason improvement, Tyler Gannon returns as an all-around stronger student-athlete. Primarily a third baseman last year, Gannon should be an improved contributor this season. Similarly, Sam Helms returns stronger. He'll be improved all around and should be ready for his time behind the plate. Primarily a pitcher last season, Stephen Baker is expected to be a two-way contributor this season. One of the hardest workers on the team, Baker will seek opportunities in the outfield throughout the year.
Dylan Moore is one of five newcomers this season, three of whom will field positions. From Aliso Viejo, Calif., Moore has shown a big arm and a solid bat through the fall and early spring. He's physically capable and can run as well. Jack Thomson hit .400 in the fall and should find time in the middle of the order. Out of Millbrae, Calif., Thomson has a canon for an arm and picked Lewis & Clark because of the campus atmosphere and the opportunities with a location near downtown Portland. Zack Kon joins the team from Honolulu, Hawaii and should compete for time at first base. A strong defender, Kon will continue to develop his offensive tools through his strong work ethic.
The Pios are pretty deep on the mound among the senior class. Nat Richman has made big strides and will likely be relied upon out of the bullpen. He had his first career win last season. Jeramy Albert is another experienced hurler for the Pioneers and is off a solid season a year ago. He had a career-low earned-run average last year. Austin Conniff was among the Northwest Conference's top five for saves during his junior season. Off career bests in ERA and strikeouts, he'll likely anchor the backside of the bullpen. Nathan Klein is looking to return after injury difficulties the last two seasons. As a freshman, he picked up three wins. After striking out 66 batters as a sophomore, Robert Reaser had nearly 50 strikeouts as a junior. He pitched the most innings for the team in 2018. Max Haddad transitioned to a full-time pitcher last season and enters his senior season with increased confidence in his pitches. The Pios will use him in big spots this season.
Andrew Yarak is the lone junior pitcher for the Pios. He led the team in strikeouts last season and is stronger entering the upcoming season.
From the sophomore class, Jordan Gonzalez is in his first season on the Pios staff. He's improved by 5-6 miles per hour and has been very consistent throughout the fall. Brian Tatman will solely pitch this year after a two-way, freshman season. He struck out 13 batters in his first year. Dominic Monozon was limited because of injuries in his initial season and should bounce back this year. He has top-of-the-rotation potential. Like Gonzalez, Brett Sterrer will compete for the first time this season. He was a student manager last year who threw well throughout the fall.
Travis Benham, who also competes for Pioneers football, is an impressive athlete with a good arm. He could possibly be a two-way contributor in the future. Isaac Blake went through the entire fall without giving up an earned run. He'll be a valuable addition from the bullpen.
Lewis & Clark opens the year in southern California on Feb. 8-10 with three games at Claremont M-S and one with Pomona-Pitzer. The following weekend, the Pioneers compete at the Northwest Conference preseason tournament at Linfield and Pacific. In addition to competing with the hosts, the Pios will play Whitman twice.
The Pioneers start NWC-counting games at home on Feb. 23-24 against Pacific and then host Oregon Tech for a single game on Mar. 1. Lewis & Clark plays its first road NWC games at Willamette on Mar. 2-3.
March continues with home series against George Fox (Mar. 9-10) and Puget Sound (Mar. 23-24) with a road series at Pacific Lutheran in between. Lewis & Clark plays six more non-conference games over spring break including a trip to La Verne, Calif. for games against La Verne, New Rochelle and Whittier.
The Pioneers final home series is against Whitworth Apr. 13-14. They'll play at Linfield the weekend before and at Whitman the following weekend.