Breanna Swendt winds up for a pitch for Lynden in a game against Blaine on Monday, March 20, at Lynden High School. (Nick Elges/Lynden Tribune)

LYNDEN — After reaching the state tournament last season, the Lions return key starters in Megan Paoli, Alexis Fredin, Elisa Kooiman and Breanna Swendt, which should ease the task of playing without lone graduate Morgan Black.

“Morgan had a great year for us at the plate and defensively,” Lynden head coach Steve Petersen said. “Leadership-wise, she was a plus, plus, plus. It’s a challenge to replace her because she was so solid.”

Coach Petersen expects that the Lions will be able to “score some runs, throw strikes and play good defense,” three big keys for any softball club.

Playing in the typically tough Northwest Conference, Petersen also knows reaching the state tournament won’t be simple.

“LC’s very good, Anacortes is always solid and I think Sehome is very, very talented,” Petersen said.

The Lions had their first action of the season over the weekend, beating Sequim 18-3 and losing to Holy Names Academy 17-10 in a double-header on Saturday at Daniels Field in Anacortes. Lynden then returned home and took care of Blaine 16-1 on Monday.

Lynden hosts Meridian on Thursday and Cedarcrest on Saturday.

Pioneers turn page on large senior class

EVERSON — The Pioneers saw 10 seniors — seven starters — graduate from last season’s district championship club, but plenty of talent still returns to Nooksack this spring.

Seniors Rachel Sande and Nicole VanderHeiden along with juniors Makenzie Unser and Jammi Tresslet will play key roles for the Pioneers and provide experience for a young team.

Coach Tom Harmon isn’t worried about the large number of seniors who left the program.

“It’s a part of high school sports,” Harmon said. “Each year, kids learn from the seniors, which helps groom kids for future seasons.”

A strength of this Nooksack team, according to Harmon, is “energy.” The size of the team, 34 in total, is impressive for a school of Nooksack Valley’s size. Harmon also noted that his team is very “coachable.”

“There is a learning curve when it comes to the speed of the game,” Harmon said. Several of Nooksack’s varsity players haven’t seen varsity playing time prior to this season.

When it comes to last season’s district title helping this spring’s squad, Harmon said a “strong tradition can’t hurt” and that it’s “nice to draw on that experience.”

So far this season, the Pioneers have played just one game, losing to Mount Baker 8-3 on Friday. The team took on Sehome on Tuesday, losing 18-3, and battles Ferndale on Thursday before hosting Sedro-Woolley on Friday.  

“We just want to get better every day,” Harmon said.

Mount Baker returns plenty of talent

DEMING — The Mounties, who saw last season’s playoff run end with a 9-6 loss to Lynden Christian in May, lost three senior starters entering this spring. Coach Ron Lepper doesn’t downplay the impact of those players’ absence.

“They provided 16 home runs and 111 RBIs last season,” Lepper said. “Those are some big numbers to match.”

Four-year starter Jordan Miles, an outfielder, returns to help Baker find success without last season’s seniors. Fellow seniors Tara Chambers, a pitcher who led the team in wins last season, Madison Gates and junior Kaylea Sleveland will also be key for the Mountaineers.

“We have numerous girls who can play multiple positions,” Lepper said. “Improving team chemistry and creating great memories is always a goal.”

Mount Baker started the season with a 4-2 win over Blaine on Thursday and an 8-3 victory over Nooksack on Friday. The team battled Lakewood on Tuesday and will host Sehome today.

Lynden Christian features speed

LYNDEN — The Lyncs return the core of a team that saw its playoff run end with a 7-0 defeat to LaCenter last May.

Offensively, coach Mitch Moorlag said the main strength this season will be “our team speed.” Hollie Scott, Ellie Vander Veen and Avery Dykstra highlight LC’s lineup.

“We have a group that has been playing together for a couple of years,” Moorlag said. “It shouldn’t take long to mesh together this year.”

Seniors Karibeth Engelsma and Morgan Wandel graduated from the team last June. Each of those players only played in reserve roles, making their absence easier to overcome.

On defense is where coach Moorlag want to see his team really come together.

“Defensively, we will need to be able to consistently make the routine play and help out our pitching staff,” Moorlag said.

So far this season, Lynden Christian sits at 1-3 with losses to Bellingham, Cascade and Kittitas and a victory over Chelan. The Lyncs hosted Sedro-Woolley on Tuesday and play at Bellingham on Thursday before welcoming Blaine on Friday.