YOTE NOTES - EDITION 1 (SEASON PREVIEW)
COMING UP: at Simpson Tournament, 2/10-11, Redding, Calif.
2012 SYNOPSIS: The Lady Yotes return six starters, including a pair of All-Cascade Conference selections off a team that narrowly missed the postseason in 2011. With 13 returning players and a small, but quality recruiting class, the squad is poised to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
LAST SEASON / PLAYERS LOST: Coming off a tough 2010 season, the Coyotes rebounded last year – jumping quickly out of the gate in the CCC, winning six of their first eight contests. Recording a six-game win streak in March, and winning 7-of-8 in early April put the team in contention for a postseason berth with two weeks to go – but a six-game stretch doomed the club, as the Yotes scored three-or-fewer runs in each contest, missing out on the playoffs for a second-straight year. The C of I will have to replace four seniors - All-CCC catcher Kalie Kurdy, who set a new school-record for batting average (.418 3 HR 22 RBI), No. 2 pitcher/first-baseman Britney Croner (5-7 3.79 ERA), back-up catcher Sammy Dodge (.375 2 HR 5 RBI), and designated player Caylin LePire (.280 3 HR 19 RBI).
ABOUT THE COACH: Al Mendiola is in his seventh year as head coach of The C of I softball program and holds an all-time record of 153-112 - the most wins by a softball coach in school history. The native of San Diego, Calif. has helped the Lady Yotes become a force in Northwest softball, leading The C of I to playoff appearances each year from 2006-09, including the 2007 and 2009 CCC regular-season titles, the 2008 NAIA Region I championship, and berths in the 2008 and 2009 NAIA Softball National Championships. Following the 2007 season, Mendiola was honored as CCC and NAIA Region I Coach of the Year after the Coyotes set a school record with 37 wins. Under his direction, the Yotes have been ranked as high as No. 14 in the NAIA Top-25 Coaches Poll. Outside of softball, Mendiola was the head coach of the Caldwell Silver Streaks American Legion baseball team from 1997-07 and has also assisted with the Boise Clippers men's fastpitch team. He was also an assistant coach for The C of I baseball team for seven years. A 1994 graduate of The C of I, Mendiola played two seasons of baseball for head coach Tim Mooney, earning honorable mention NAIA All-America honors as a senior. His wife, Liz, has been the head volleyball coach at The C of I for the past 11 years. The Mendiola's have two children, Aleah and Micah, and reside in Caldwell.
NAIA WEST / NATIONAL POLL: The CCC and the NAIA released their preseason rankings in mid-November, with the Lady Yotes picked to finish fourth in the seven team conference. Oregon Tech, which stunned the softball world by winning the 2011 NAIA National Championship, was the league favorite, followed by Corban, Concordia, the Lady Yotes, Southern Oregon, Northwest Christian, and Eastern Oregon. In the NAIA Top-25 – OIT claimed the preseason No. 1 spot, followed by Cal State-San Marcos, Oklahoma City, Central Baptist (Ark.), and Brenau (Ga.). C of I opponents’ Concordia-Irvine (No. 8) and Corban (No. 24) were in the Top-25, while five other oppoents’ – Dickinson State (N.D.), Concordia (Ore.), Biola (Calif.), Simpson (Calif.), and William Jessup (Calif.) all received votes. The Lady Yotes received six voter points in the preseason national poll – good enough for a tie for No. 42 in the nation heading into 2012.
POSITION BY POSITION – PITCHERS: The Lady Yotes will turn to CCC Newcomer of the Year Nickayla Skinner (Mountain Home, Idaho / Mountain Home HS) for the majority of the innings in 2012 – coming off a fabulous rookie season. The sophomore hurled 145 innings last season, recording a 15-7 record with a 2.90 ERA, logging 166 strikeouts and just 25 walks. Skinner’s wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts all ranked fourth all-time on the Coyote single-season record list. She will have some help in the circle – as Alexis Macias (Stockton, Calif. / San Joaquin Delta CC) will serve a key role as a freshman. Macias, a third-team All-State selection in California during the 2010 season, returns to the circle after a year off. She will be complimented by returning sophomore Janelle Wiebold (Nampa, Idaho / Melba HS), who had a 1-0 record and a 2.47 ERA in limited action last season, and senior Kayla Park (Ontario, Ore. / Treasure Valley CC), who posted a 1-1 record and a 5.86 ERA in six games in 2011.
POSITION BY POSITION – CATCHERS: The Yotes will have a new backstop this season with the graduation of two four-year players in Kalie Kurdy and Sammy Dodge. Two players will share the duties this season – junior transfer Rachael Strong (Clackamas, Ore. / Clackamas CC) and freshman Kaitlin Howell (Boise, Idaho / Capital HS). Strong had a great two seasons in junior college – earning All-NWAACC Southern Division honors last year after hitting .407 with 7 home runs and 35 RBI, while Howell was a 5A All-Southern Idaho Conference selection as a senior, while helping her team to the state tournament as a junior. Both players are quality receivers and have strong throwing arms.
POSITION BY POSITION – INFIELDERS: The Coyotes will have a very experienced infield in 2012, with a returning starter at each of the four positions. A pair of quality gloves and bats will battle for time at third-base, as senior Kristen Haugen (Salem, Ore. / South Salem HS) and sophomore Julia Henrie (Eagle, Idaho / Eagle HS) return. Haugen has been the starter at third each of the last three seasons, hitting .257 with 14 RBI as a junior, while Henrie had a quality freshman season with the bat, hitting .310 with a home run and 12 RBI in just 26 games – while recording a stellar .960 fielding percentage. The shortstop position looks to be a battle as well, with two-year starter Hannah Johnson (Homedale, Idaho / Homedale HS) and sophomore Kaci Baldwin (Lewiston, Idaho / Lewiston HS) getting the majority of the playing time. Johnson hit just .205 last season, but had six extra-base hits and 16 RBI, while Baldwin hit .333 in limited action. Also in the mix at short is freshman Mikell Nye (American Falls, Idaho / American Falls HS). Johnson will also get some time at second-base, splitting time with returners Kendall Pavey (Spokane, Wash. / Lewis & Clark HS) and Molly Mills (Burley, Idaho / Burley HS). Pavey started 14 games as a freshman, hitting .250, while Mills played five different positions last season between the infield and outfield, hitting .304 with 10 RBI. First-base will be by committee, with Nickayla Skinner seeing the bulk of the playing time when she is not in the circle. Skinner hit .328 with 11 doubles, four homers, and a team-high 25 RBI last season. The Yotes other three pitchers – Janelle Wiebold, Alexis Macias, and Kayla Park, will share time at first when Skinner is pitching.
POSITION BY POSITION – OUTFIELDERS: The Yotes return a pair of everyday players in the outfield – including two-time All-CCC selection Nikki Shumway (Boise, Idaho / Boise HS). The senior led the team with 10 stolen bases last season, hitting .284 with four home runs and 22 RBI – while making some highlight reel catches in center field. Kayla Webb (Garland, Utah / Bear River HS) started 29 games in right field last season, while the slugging Paige Gabiola (Payette, Idaho / Payette HS) will get a look in left field – after hitting a pair of home runs and knocking in six in just 25 at bats. Speedy senior Jordan Huttash (Nampa, Idaho / Bishop Kelly HS) can play all three positions, while Julia Henrie and Molly Mills may also see time in the outfield. Reserves will include a pair of freshmen coming off injuries in Lauren Arnzen (New Plymouth, Idaho / New Plymouth HS) and Mollie Bourner (Buhl, Idaho / Buhl HS).
SURVEYING THE SCHEDULE: For the second straight season, the Coyotes will be playing in a pair of preseason tournaments – one in Northern California and another in the Portland metro area. The Simpson Invitational will feature six teams from California – including Biola and Concordia-Irvine from the Golden State Athletic Conference, along with host Simpson, the NCCAA national runner-up. A week later, the squad will face solid competition at the Northwest Cup – including games against Division III foes Whitworth, Willamette, Pacific, and George Fox, and NAIA member, British Columbia. The Yotes open up the home schedule in late February with a four-game series against Dickinson State – the beginning of a homestand that features 14 of the next 16 games at Symms Field. Also heading to Caldwell is a rematch with UBC (a four-game series) and the annual Canyon County clash with Northwest Nazarene. In all, The C of I will play 22 non-conference games in 2012.
RESPECT FOR THE CCC: It will be interesting to see what kind of respect the CCC will receive on a national stage this season, after Oregon Tech’s run at the NAIA Championships. OIT, the preseason CCC favorite, returns a potent line-up, featuring infielders Jess Plummer (.335 12 HR 52 RBI) and Ashleigh Larson (.324 15 HR 66 RBI), along with No. 2 starter Taylor Schmidt (17-4 2.02 ERA). Corban has been steadily improving under head coach Nathan Ohta – advancing to the CCC title game in 2011 behind the play of slugger Stephanie Nippert (.481 19 HR 44 RBI). Concordia lost a huge senior class, but returns pitcher Jordyn Brown (10-6 2.39 ERA), with Southern Oregon returning slugger Irene Barrantes (.395 9 HR 24 RBI) and pitcher Jordyn Kurtz (9-7 2.88 ERA). Northwest Christian and Eastern Oregon look to be much improved, with NCU returning All-CCC selection Brooke Davis (4-11 3.09 ERA) and EOU returning infielder Emily Anderson (.309 5 HR 19 RBI). The league will play a double round-robin 24 game schedule, with a three-team postseason tournament determining an automatic berth to the NAIA Championships in Orange Beach, Ala.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more information on The C of I softball program, head to the official homepage of the Coyotes, http://www.collegeofidaho.edu/softball.