PALATINE HILL -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers enter the 2017 season off their best performance under head coach Shawna Cyrus. A year ago, the Pioneers had a five-game winning streak and won eight over a nine-game stretch, putting them in Northwest Conference postseason contention entering the last weekend of the season.
The tournament eluded the Pios after a six-game losing streak ended the year. Lewis & Clark finished 17-23 overall and 11-17 in the NWC.
Cyrus, who enters her eighth season leading the program, returns both assistant coaches from last year, Paige Hall and Kayla Rice, and the majority of her roster. Pitcher Jill Pinder, infielder Hannah Dal Pra and Haley Robinson, who didn't play last year, were the only seniors on the 2016 team.
The senior class of five will field key positions. Tiana Rosario, a mainstay at shortstop, is expected to see more time at third base this year. Along with classmate Jenai Rojo, Rosario provides the most experience of anyone on the roster. Rojo will anchor the opposite corner at first base and serves as the Pios vocal leader. She had the team's third-best batting average last season (.333) while bringing in a career-high 21 RBI. Ashley Bolick and Lindsay Yearman are key outfielders for the Pios. Bolick has continually grown over her 88 games and provides a solid defensive presence in left field, while Yearman, who has played in 115 games, has the team's best arm on the right side. Kalin Rooney is expected to anchor the pitching staff after appearing in a career-high 29 games last season. With a variety of pitches, Rooney posted a 3.18 earned-run average in 2106, the best of any of her three seasons. A National Fastpitch Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete, she had a stretch of 20 1/3 innings last season in which she posted a 0.44 ERA.
All three returners in the junior class played in at least 28 games last season. Paige Salavea earned All-West Region honors from the NFCA after finishing in the NWC's top six in batting average (.400) and doubles (10). The All-NWC First-Team choice also led the Pios in stolen bases. Ateisha Norton matched her freshman total of 16 RBI last year and led the team in home runs (4). Over the last two seasons, Norton has been selected an NFCA Scholar-Athlete. After fielding the catcher position last year, she'll see more time in the outfield this season. Stephanie Garcia will work in tandem with Bolick in left field. The speedy slap hitter hit .271 and scored 12 runs in 2016.
Zoe Juarez and Emily Drevdahl had breakout years as freshmen last season as both played in over 35 games. Juarez will spend a lot of time in the infield, where she features a very quick release. Offensively last season, she stole seven bases and hit .269. Drevdahl was named the Female Rookie of the Year for all Lewis & Clark student-athletes after hitting .350. She earned an All-NWC Second-Team selection, posting a .374 average in conference games while finishing top 10 in RBI. Kaili Akimseu is expected to pitch a lot in 2017. A hard thrower, Akimseu spent just under 30 innings in the circle as a freshman. Brooke Koran had over 100 at-bats in 36 games last season. The Psychology major can hit the ball har, bringing in 15 runs last season. Like Rooney and Norton, Holly Hale is an NFCA Scholar-Athlete who was very effective when called upon in her freshman season. The Montana native was fourth on the team in on-base percentage (.429) and is a dangerous hitter to start innings.
The freshman class will be important to the Pioneers' success this season. Lisa Kumasaka, from Seattle, will be used all over the field defensively and brings tremendous speed to the team. Similarly, Katelyn Duilio, who comes from nearby Wilson HS, is left-handed and speedy and should be on base consistently. Frankie Warden is out of Cherry Hills, Colo., where she was a three-time all-conference selection. Warden adds a strong, left-handed bat to the team. Ariel Trinidad and Paige Amador are Lewis & Clark's catchers this season. Trinidad, from Whittier, Calif., is very experienced at the position and has a strong arm. Amador was a three-year letter winner at West Salem HS (Oregon). Out of the International School of Beaverton, Savannah Dickson will be in the pitching circle with Rooney and Akimseu. She has shown an aggressive style and good demeanor during fall and spring workouts. Hayley Brinker will work at third base in her first season from Ramona, Calif. She was a two-time Coaches Award winner at San Diego HS.
The Northwest Conference Preseason Coaches Poll nearly mirrors the final standings from the 2016 season. Lewis & Clark's non-conference schedule will be completed over a three-day trip to southern California on Feb. 10-12 with doubleheaders against Biola, Cal Lutheran and Whittier.
The NWC schedule starts in Spokane, Wash. on Feb. 25-26 against Whitworth before the team's home debut against Pacific Lutheran on Mar. 4-5. The Lutes have a new head coach this season. Following a trip to Puget Sound the next weekend, the Pios host George Fox for two on Mar. 25 before a split doubleheader pair against Linfield on Mar. 26 and 30. In between the Linfield games, the Pios will host Lower Columbia College in a non-conference game.
April starts with a home set against Willamette, which will include Senior Day festivities. The Pios close at Pacific and George Fox the following two weekends.