KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Coming off a 39-15 overall mark, and a trip to last year’s NAIA National Softball Championships, Oregon Tech will take a No. 10 ranking into the 2019 campaign when the Owls travel to Forest Grove, Oregon and open the season with a doubleheader versus NCAA III Pacific University this Saturday.
The Owls will play six more games over a 10-day span including a doubleheader at George Fox on Sunday in Newberg and at the Simpson University tournament in Redding, Calif. on February 9 and 10, which will include contests with (RV) Simpson University and former CCC member now NCAA DII Concordia University.
Tech’s 52-game schedule includes 20 home contests beginning with Northwest University March 1 & 2 and No. 3 Southern Oregon University on March 15 and 16. The doubleheader on Saturday, March 16 against SOU will also feature the official Softball Field dedication ceremony for the new John and Lois Stilwell Stadium between games at 1:00 pm.
The Owls finished CCC action last year with a 21-6 mark, earning a tie for 2nd place with Corban. Tech went on to a 39-15 overall mark and would move on to the NAIA National Softball Tournament for the seventh time in eight seasons.
The Owls head into the 2019 season with 12 returners, including Ali Graham who garnered
1st Team All-CCC honors last year batting a team best .391 with 72-hits, 10-doubles, 7-homers and 42-RBI.
“The strength of our team this year will be in the depth and experience we have in our senior class,” said Head Coach Greg Stewart. “All seven of our seniors are battle tested and made positive contributions to our success last year. With the return of All-American Ali Graham, all conference performers Loryn Williams, Sarah Abramson, and Kiahna Brown, and both starting catchers (Jacey Conklin and McKenna Armantrout), we have talent offensively, defensively, and in the circle.”
One of Stewart’s biggest question marks heading into this season is the outfield, which will be the least experienced part of the team, but, even there, Tech has three returners in Baylee Wyscaver, Logan Nunes and Olivia Lethlean.
“We have some tough shoes to fill and had some key losses (with four seniors a year ago),” Stewart added, “It’s near impossible to replace a bat like Tara (Moates, a three-time All-American). Dre Sotelo is back from injury and she will help tremendously as she had a .417 average and .667 slugging percentage when we lost her just 21-games into last season. We have some good returners with experience, and we have some new players who will need to step up.”
Pitching should be a strong point as 1st Team All-CCC honoree Loryn Williams will lead the staff as she was a team best 14-3 last season with a CCC leading 1.71 ERA. Joining Williams in the circle again this year will be 2nd Team All-CCC selection Sarah Abramson who was 11-6 with a 1.98 ERA with a team best 122 strikeouts. Graham and her career 18-9 record will also be returning to the circle for the Owls.
Second Team All-CCC selection and Gold Glove winner Kiahna Brown will return for her senior season at second base. Last year Brown led the Cascade Conference in home runs (13), was the team leader in runs (40), total bases (109) and Fielding percentage (.979). The rest of the infield will include Shayna Ige at shortstop (.936 fielding percentage), Cierra Barkis at third base with Graham and Sotelo trading off between DH (designated player) and first base.