Of the five seniors graduated from last year's team, Madison Hollenbeck was Lewis & Clark's only All-Northwest Conference selection, pitching a team-best 96 innings. With a new crop of freshmen, the 2016 iteration of Pioneers softball will rely on young talent with a couple of returners to produce in the circle.
Offensively, Hollenbeck accounted for the second-most runs batted in for the Pios, but overall, four of the top six RBI producers return for head coach Shawna Cyrus, who is entering her seventh season leading Lewis & Clark. She's teamed with assistant coach Paige Hall for a third season, while it is the first on the staff for Kayla Rice.
"With so many options in the circle for us this upcoming year, we have high expectations that this year's team will do some great things," said Cyrus. "We're adding not only great pitchers, but speed and power to our lineup as well."
Lewis & Clark ranked third in the NWC last season in home runs per game, and returns the program's single-season home run and RBI record holder, senior Hannah Dal Pra. She posted ten homers and brought in 43 runs during her sophomore season, finishing with six and 23, respectively, last season. The Pios' only other active senior is pitcher Jill Pinder, who battling through injuries, played in 12 games last season. A third senior, Haley Robinson, is injured this season and will serve as a student assistant to the team.
The Pioneers were also in the top half of the conference in double plays per game last season. Along with Dal Pra, juniors Tiana Rosario and Jenai Rojo return to the infield this year. Rosario has been the team's shortstop virtually her entire career, but will move around to third and catcher at times this season. Rojo produced 15 RBI and five home runs last season. The first baseman will hit in the middle of the order and provide vocal leadership.
Lindsay Yearman has one of the conference's strongest arms, making her tough to run on out of right field. Along with Dal Pra and Rosario, she was one of four Pios to play in all 39 games last season. Fellow outfielder Ashley Bolick returns to provide upperclassman leadership. She brought in nine runs and drew six walks last season.
Kalin Rooney is Lewis & Clark's other returning upperclassmen pitcher. She pitched only ten fewer innings than Hollenbeck, uses a wide arsenal of pitches and ranked third in the conference in strikeouts per seven innings last season.
The returning sophomore class provided a solid impact a year ago. Stephanie Garcia and Ateisha Norton bring back two of the team's best batting averages from 2015, with Garcia expected to get more playing time in centerfield after the injury to Robinson. Norton is a huge hitter for the Pios, bringing in 16 RBI and 13 extra-base hits during her freshman season. She's expected to play different positions throughout the year. Paige Salavea adds depth to the Pioneers' infield after playing in 25 games last season.
Of Lewis & Clark's seven freshmen, many are capable of pitching. Kaili-Ann Akimseu is a power hitter and able to contribute at different positions defensively as well. Kady Bruce is one of the hardest throwers on the team and was her high school conference's player of the year. Brooke Koran swings a big bat in the middle of the order, and with a strong arm, will play a lot at third base.
Emily Drevdahl and Sarah Reyes are listed as utility players on the roster. A four-time all-state and all-conference selection, Drevdahl provides a spark at any position on the field, is a left-handed power bat for the Pios and should see some ample time in the circle as well. Reyes, who was twice a conference player of the year, is an athletic, powerful hitter who is able to be used anywhere on the field.
Zoe Juarez was her high school's female athlete of the year, and is a phenomenal talent defensively, giving the Pios added depth inside the dirt. Off a two-time state championship high school team, Holly Hale is another left-handed bat for the Pios. She's a good option for the team in the outfield and as a pinch runner.
Lewis & Clark starts the season with a three doubleheader, southern California trip against La Sierra, Pomona-Pitzer and Occidental over Feb. 12-14. The following weekend, the Pioneers will play at Walla Walla before opening the NWC season at home against Whitworth on Feb. 27-28.
Of the next 20 games, only four, a weekend series with Puget Sound on Mar. 12-13, are at home. Lewis & Clark plays its first road NWC series at Pacific Lutheran the weekend prior before closing the month of March with spring break non-conference games at Eastern Oregon and College of Idaho and a NWC set at Linfield. The massive road swing closes at Willamette on Apr. 2-3.
April is home-friendly to the Pioneers, with six of their final eight games in Portland. On Apr. 9-10, the Pios host Pacific before splitting a home-and-home with George Fox on Apr. 16-17.
The Northwest Conference tournament is scheduled on Apr. 23-24.