Following a hard-fought series against the Willamette Bearcats, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers baseball team has moved to 6-10 on the season. Under Head Coach Matt Kosderka, the Pioneers have largely revamped their offensive attack, leaning on several experienced hitters at the top of their lineup. Alongside Hitting Coach Eric Del Prado, Kosderka has prioritized improving the Pioneers’ on-base percentage and strikeout rate throughout his tenure as head coach, which has led to an impressive 6.5 runs per game through 16 games.
“We’ve walked and been hit more times than we struck out this year, which is usually not the numbers that we have,” Kosderka said. “Being able to get on base is huge for us … I give a lot of that credit to the players, but also coach Del Prado definitely trying to help them have the right mentality going forward.”
According to Kosderka, the Pio’s improvement as a team has been a long time in the making. When he became the head coach in 2017, he wanted to create a winning culture that emphasized preparation and making the most of opportunities. Four years later, he is pleased with how his players have come together to reinforce that culture, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’ve done a great job of that and obviously, they are super excited to come out and very thankful to get out back on the baseball field,” Kosderka said.
Despite their season being cut short last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kosderka believes that their last performance on March 8 against George Fox University, a consistently dominant team in the NWC, laid the groundwork for what they have been able to achieve this season. In his eyes, that series marked a turning point in how they viewed themselves as a team, which they have carried over into each of their matchups this year.
“That was really the time where it clicked for us that, ‘Hey, we can challenge anybody,’” Kosderka said.
Brett Pierson ’24, who was named a Northwest Conference (NWC) player of the week after pitching a one-hit shutout against Linfield College on March 21, says his teammates pride themselves on giving their best effort every game.
“One of the big parts — something that we all stress — is leaving everything out on the field,” Pierson said. “The seniors are big players in this concept, but Kos (Kosderka) is definitely a big part too, in trying to get us to play to the best of our ability every game.”
As a pitcher, Pierson has had to deal with a heavier workload due to the NWC’s decision to expand inter-conference matchups to four games. The games themselves have also been changed, as the Pios now play two 7-inning and two 9-inning games during a four-game series.
Second Basemen Tyler Gannon ’21 believes that the team’s experience has allowed them to adjust to the new schedule and build on their momentum from last season. Along with his teammates, he has high expectations for what the Pioneers can accomplish this year, especially after their sweep of Linfield College on March 20 and March 21.
“We’re really pushing to be in that top four,” Gannon said.
Gannon has been with the team since his first year. Throughout his time here, he has seen the program come a long way and views this season as a culmination of everything the team has been working toward.
“I think we’re really trying to make a statement … coming out with the young talent that we have and some of the older talent, we want people to know that we’re not (a team) to roll over,” Gannon said. “We’re going to fight and be gritty and punch back.”
With the season in full swing, Kosderka is optimistic about how much the team has improved and their chances of competing for an NWC playoff berth. He credits his starting pitchers with providing a source of stability thus far, and looks forward to watching the seniors play one final season together.
Looking ahead, the Pios will face George Fox this upcoming weekend beginning on April 10. These games will be live-streamed on https://portal.stretchinternet.com/lclark/ for anyone that is interested in watching.