PALATINE HILL -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers ended the 2017 season with a good amount of momentum after winning seven of their final 10 games. Heading into the upcoming season, which begins on Friday at Claremont M-S, the Pioneers will have one returning All-Northwest Conference selection and four of their seven student-athletes who played in 30 or more games last season. One of the biggest challenges for head coach Shawna Cyrus, who begins her ninth season leading the program, will be replacing graduated senior Kalin Rooney, who pitched 95 innings over 14 starts and 22 appearances last season.
"We're excited to see how our hard work and effort at practice plays out live in game mode," said Cyrus, who had her most wins as head coach just two seasons ago. "This year, our motto is 'Beat the Odds,' and we are embracing that in every way. No matter what situation we face, I believe our team is ready to fight together and compete hard for one another."
Lewis & Clark was picked sixth in the NWC Preseason Coaches Poll. Cyrus returns her same coaching staff that includes assistants Paige Hall and Kayla Rice.
There are three seniors back for the Pioneers this season. Of the trio, Stephanie Garcia played the most games in 2017. Over 29 contests, Garcia was one of the most consistent Pioneers getting on base, as she hit .359 and had five RBI. She is a big leader for the team, both on and off the field. Ateisha Norton is in her fourth season with the Pios and has been an NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete every year so far. After bringing in 16 runs both of her underclassmen years, Norton will seek to have more power and consistency this season. She's expected to be a key RBI getter in the middle of the order. Paige Salavea wasn't able to follow-up her All-Region sophomore effort because of an early-season injury that kept her out all year. In her second season, Salavea hit .400 with 12 extra-base hits, both top six in the conference, and 15 RBI as she earned All-NWC First-Team honors.
Zoe Juarez, Emily Drevdahl and Holly Hale all return for their junior seasons. Juarez played in 31 games last year and hit .288 with four stolen bases and seven RBI. A vocal leader, she'll be the team's most experienced, returning infielder. Drevdahl made the All-NWC team as a freshman when she hit .350 with a .567 slugging percentage. With over 40 career RBI, she'll be a middle lineup hitter who will play in the infield and at pitcher. Hale has a knack for getting on base with her slapping and placement abilities and has a lifetime .357 on-base percentage. Along with Drevdahl, Hale returns from overseas study during the fall semester.
Lisa Kumasaka was an All-NWC choice as a freshman when she won Lewis & Clark's Female Rookie of the Year award, something Drevdahl won in her first season. Kumasaka is capable of playing many spots and provides a true understanding of the game. Fast on the base paths, she led the NWC in stolen bases at different times throughout 2017. Ariel Trinidad was a key addition to the Pioneers in her first year as she played 31 games at catcher. Naturally gifted behind the plate, Trinidad threw out nine attempted base stealers last season. Frankie Warden was second on the team in batting average a year ago in 22 games. Over her first collegiate offseason, Warden has improved her already impressive batting power. She led the team in slugging percentage as a freshman. Savannah Dickson is Lewis & Clark's most experienced returning pitcher, throwing over 48 innings as a freshman with a 4.92 earned-run average. Hayley Brinker is expected to miss her sophomore season because of injury after playing in six games last year.
The freshman class features four newcomers. Sydney Cross is a versatile and strong-armed infielder from Mount Shasta, Calif., where she earned All-America First-Team honors. Hannah Urbach of Lafayette, Colo. also supplies versatility and a good arm. She was a three-year varsity starter prior to joining the Pios. Ana Zimmerman brings power to the Pioneers lineup. From Reno, Nev., Zimmerman earned all-league honors twice. Megan Anderson will throw a lot of innings for the Pioneers. An aggressive, hard-throwing pitcher, the Roseville, Calif. product was part of a league championship team and earned both all-league and all-metro selections.
Lewis & Clark begins the season this weekend with four games in southern California starting Friday at Claremont M-S. The following weekend, the Pioneers are home to the Huston Sports Complex for the first time on Feb. 17-18 against Northwest and Northwest Christian, respectively.
The Northwest Conference schedule commences with back-to-back road series: at Pacific Lutheran on Feb. 24-25 and at Willamette on Mar. 10-11.
The next two weeks are consecutive home NWC sets. The home debut is Mar. 17-18 against Puget Sound before doubleheaders with George Fox on Mar. 26-27. March ends with four games at Pacific on Mar. 30-31.
The final month of the season begins Apr. 7-8 at Whitworth followed by a home-and-home with Linfield on Apr. 14-15. The top-four teams in the NWC standings at the end of the season make the NWC tournament Apr. 20-22.