LEWISTON - The pursuit of national title number 20 will kick off January 28 for the 19th ranked Lewis-Clark State Baseball team. Head Coach Jake Taylor and the Warriors open the 2020 season in Rocklin, California tomorrow against the 14th ranked William Jessup Warriors before heading down to Phoenix for the Arizona Christian tournament.
In 2019 the Warriors advanced to the third day of the Avista NAIA World Series after a strong opening game against Freed-Hardeman. Lewis-Clark State then fell to Science and Arts (Okla.) on day two before being knocked out by Bellevue (Neb.) on day three. LCSC lost 17 seniors from last season’s roster, including All-American and NAIA West Player of the Year Darren Trainor, and NAIA West Co-Pitcher of the Year Tyler Burch.
In head coach Jake Taylor’s second season, one of the main focuses has been recruiting. The Warriors have 21 new faces who have not stepped on the field in an Lewis-Clark State uniform this season.
“We had to replace a lot,” Taylor explained. “We lost a lot of good arms and a lot of solid position players, but it was a good process and we really like the guys we brought in this year. We’ve got some versatile position players, some guys that can really hit and some top arms.”
The Warriors return a strong infield core, headlined by local products Riley Way (Lewiston) and A.J. Davis (Clarkston). The duo held down the middle infield for the Warriors this year, with Davis earning All-NAIA West recognition. Zach Needham also returns for LC after a breakout season at the hot corner. Needham is the Warriors’ top returning home run hitter after launching 10 last year.
“I really like the guys we had last year, but with the guys we brought in we have guys that can play multiple spots so they will be competing for some playing time,” Taylor explained. “It’s the same thing with our arms. Once guys get healthy we will have some good competition there too.”
Gloves like Trainor and Kyle Callahan will be tough to replace, according to Taylor, but a slew of new talent, and one familiar face, will ease the transition.
“We’ve got Brock Ephan back and healthy, and Luke White who is a local kid has been swinging the bat well,” Taylor said. “He had a great fall for us. We also have Blake Diggle, an All-American coming up from the California junior college ranks.”
The Warriors will have a new set of players patrolling the outfield grass this season after losing last year’s trio to graduation.
“We’ve got some new guys in this year that can really hit and really run the ball down with Dalton Harum, Matt Ornelia and Aidan Nagle,” Taylor said, “along with Caden Goldby we’ve got some good depth in the outfield.”
On the mound, the Warriors will lean on returners Matt Driver, Greg Blackman and Jesse Parker. With a majority of the 2019 class being pitchers, there will be a lot of new faces in the bullpen this season.
“Matt Driver, Greg Blackman and Jesse Parker were real solid last year, and we will have Elias Moctezuma who will give us some innings out of the bullpen,” Taylor explained. “We brought in a couple starters that we are really excited about. Once they get some innings under their belt, I think we will be really strong.”
The Jessup matchup on Tuesday will be one of the biggest of the season as it pits two top teams head-to-head right off the bat. The Warriors will also have a rematch with number 15 Westmont and Antelope Valley while in Phoenix.
“We have a very competitive trip to California and Arizona to open up our season and we will need to be ready to compete right away,” Taylor said.