Eight incoming freshman will be welcomed to Southern Oregon University this fall to help the Raider softball team launch the Jessica Pistole era after signing Cascade Conference letters of intent.
Pistole, who two weeks ago was named the 10th head softball coach in SOU history, was left with 10 returning players for the 2015 campaign.
Committed to joining that group are Kristin Ahern of Rosary High in Anaheim, Calif.; Elizabeth Baecht of Mountain View High in Meridian, Idaho; Kayla Douglas of Cardinal Newman High in Santa Rosa, Calif.; Cortney Nolan of Twin Falls High in Idaho; Davalin Ontiveros of Centennial High in Bakersfield, Calif.; Ally Painter of St. Joseph High in La Palma, Calif.; Kelsey Randall of Concord High in Concord, Calif.; and Jazmin Ruvalcaba of Banning High in Wilmington, Calif.
Baecht, Nolan and Ruvalcaba are all capable of filling a need at catcher, a position left vacant after All-Cascade Conference player Julia Willison completed her fourth and final season in 2014.
Nolan, who plays all over the field, was the Great Basin Conference Player of the Year while leading her team to the Idaho 4A state title as a senior. She batted .516, slugged .725, scored 46 runs and drove in 32 in 91 at-bats. She was also a class valedictorian.
Ruvalcaba had a .444 batting average and got on base at a .511 clip with nine of her 36 hits going for extra bases en route to All-Marine League honors. Baecht, who doubles as an outfielder, was also all-conference.
Ahern and Painter could potentially help the Raiders fill another hole at third base, which was occupied the last two years by All-CCC player Ashley Lowe. Ahern broke her school's record for RBI (33), batting .411 with 11 doubles, two home runs and two triples to claim a spot on the All-Orange County third team. Painter, who also plays in the outfield, was first-team all-conference with a .325 average, two homers, 19 runs scored and 18 RBI.
The Raiders lost another senior at second base, and Douglas and Randall will conveniently enter the program as middle-infielders. Randall — the Diablo Valley Athletic League's MVP in both softball and soccer — had 44 hits for a .524 average and a .565 on-base percentage, notching 38 runs and 12 extra-base hits. Douglas batted .415 over her three-year varsity career, including .462 as a senior with a .527 OBP.
Ontiveros, an all-around utility player, was a four-year starter at Centennial. She led her team to a 28-4 record in 2014, batting .437 and slugging .563 to earn second-team all-league recognition.
SOU had just two true freshmen on its roster while going 15-23 last season. The Raiders are slated to feature four seniors, three juniors and three sophomores in 2015.