CMS Softball Favored to Win 2020 SCIAC Championship
CLAREMONT, Calif. - The defending regular season champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps softball team was picked to finish first again in 2020 in a preseason vote of the conference's coaches, it was announced by the league office.
The Athenas were picked first with 61 points, including six first-place votes, six points ahead of Pomona-Pitzer, which received the other two first-place votes. Whittier, which captured the SCIAC Tournament last year, was chosen third, while La Verne and Chapman tied for fourth with 35 points apiece.
CMS enters the new season in strong position to challenge for the league title again, with eight of its 10 starters returning. Former All-America Chloe Amarilla left a big hole at the top of the batting order after hitting .381 with six homers and 49 runs scored last year, as well as in the circle, where she had a 10-7 record. Rachel Perley (.302, 21 RBI) also graduated from her starting right field spot, where her strong defense will be missed.
The loss of Amarilla from the pitching circle will be offset by the return of sophomore Lauren Richards, who had a spectacular rookie season with a 19-6 record, leading the SCIAC in wins, and a 2.86 earned run average. Richards, who started out the year 10-0 and finished 16-1 in the circle in SCIAC games, also found a role in the heart of the CMS batting order in her first season, hitting .276 with 25 RBI. Sophomore Lexi Singh threw 36 innings in her rookie year as well, picking up two wins and a save, and will be ready for a more expanded role this spring.
One of the top returners in the batting order is junior Megan Perron, who was a second-team NFCA All-America selection as a designated player last year. After seeing limited action as a first-year due to injury, she exploded last season for a team-high .442 batting average, to go along with three homers and 42 RBI. Perron will certainly be counted on to continue in the role as a run producer in the heart of the CMS lineup, while also potentially seeing time in the outfield this year as well.
The Athenas can put an experienced player at every position around the infield this season. Leading the way will be catcher/corner infielder Maddie Valdez, who was a second-team NFCA all-region selection last year after hitting a school-record 11 homers to go along with 43 RBI. After only two seasons, she already has 16 homers, which ranks No. 3 on the CMS all-time list, just two shy of the school record.
Valdez' ability to play first base or third base gives the Athenas the flexibility to get other players into the lineup. Senior Savannah Green is an experienced catcher who can step in behind the plate, while sophomore Jordan Bassett will looking to earn playing time behind the plate as well after seeing action in 11 games last year. Sophomore Ananya Koneti saw a lot of action at first base last year, emerging as the regular starter at that spot by season's end, and hit .340 with 19 RBI. Richards also regularly played third base or shortstop when she wasn't pitching to keep her potenti bat in the lineup.
At second base, senior Kylie Hetzel is back as the anchor of the team's infield defense. Although she was usually the flex last year, Hetzel could find her way into earning more consistent at-bats this fall. Three different Athenas saw action at shortstop last year, including Richards, junior Jessica Fox and sophomore Alexa Schulten. Fox has 192 career at-bats and 25 career RBI to her credit in two seasons, while Schulten saw action in 16 games last year and produced a big two-run single to break a 3-3 tie in a 5-3 win over La Verne.
Two positions in the outfield are likely locked in, as juniors Kawai Scanlan and Molly Spaniac are back for their third seasons as starters in center field and left field, respectively. After Amarilla was injured late in the year, Scanlan and Spaniac also started at 1-2 in the batting order and both enter their junior years with career batting averages well over .300 (Spaniac at .324, Scanlan at .323).
The third spot in the outfield will be up for grabs, with Perron among the candidates. First-years Heather Shipley, Ari Livi, Maren Summers and Salina Muñoz all have outfield experience, while one of the CMS infielders could also take an outfield position. Sophomore Natalie Dale, who had a major role as a pinch-runner last season off the bench, could be an outfield candidate with her speed as well.
Shipley and Muñoz also join the CMS program with pitching experience, as does first-year Alexis Gero, giving the Athenas a wealth of depth in the circle this spring. Summers can also play first base, while Livi can play catcher, as the incoming Class of 2023 will have a significant impact with its versatility and ability to play multiple positions.
CMS will get its 2020 season underway with a three-game league series with Chapman on Feb. 7-8, traveling to Chapman on Friday, Feb. 7 and then hosting the Panthers for a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 12 noon.