WOU's Field Sergeant Named Coach of the Month
Second-year head coach Lonny Sargent has made an immediate impact on the softball program at WOU, as the Wolves currently hold a 3.5 game lead in the GNAC standings.
Second-year head coach Lonny Sargent has made an immediate impact on the softball program at WOU, as the Wolves currently hold a 3.5 game lead in the GNAC standings.
Sargent's Wolves had an average margin of victory of 5.4 runs during their 16-2 run during March, and have won 15 of their last 16.
Sargent's Wolves had an average margin of victory of 5.4 runs during their 16-2 run during March, and have won 15 of their last 16.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
by Evan O'Kelly, Media Relations Assistant

PORTLAND, Ore. – Earning a berth in the 2014 Great Northwest Athletic Conference softball championships appeared to be a long shot for Western Oregon after the first month of the season. 

Through February, the Wolves were 6-9 after losing the first six games of their season, and were playing with little momentum or confidence.

As the calendar turned to March, WOU reset its outlook, and began a torrid winning spree that now has the team in first place in the conference standings.

“The key was to finish the at-bat, finish the play, finish the inning, and finish the game,” Western Oregon softball head coach Lonny Sargent said about the month-long hot streak. “Our kids have really bought into that.”

Sargent has been named the GNAC Coach of the Month for March, and the concept of earning a postseason berth is now a highly probable reality.

After splitting a nonconference doubleheader with Concordia to open the month, WOU won its next 10 games in a row, eight of which were GNAC contests. Overall, the Wolves have won 15 of their last 16 including five in a row, and finished the month with an outstanding record of 16-2.

Not only did the Wolves jump to a significant lead in the conference standings with their success, but they left little room for uncertainty along the way. 

Both of WOU’s losses were by a single run, coming in the form of a 4-3 loss to Concordia and a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Central Washington on March 23. Among WOU’s 16 victories in March, only one was decided by a single run – a 2-1 nonconference win over Northwest Christian on March 11 – and the average margin of victory during the stretch was by 5.4 runs.

Additionally, WOU trailed just seven total times during the month, and just five times after the completion of the first inning of play.

“Our upperclassmen have carried everything we talked about last year into this year, and we keep striving to get better every day and move forward,” said Sargent. 

Leading the offensive charge have been senior Melanie Pfeiffer and junior Amanda Evola, who hit .516 and .492, respectively in March. The two combined for 67 hits, 44 runs and 27 RBI on the month, and they currently rank third and fourth in the conference in batting average at .446 and .437. In 129 combined at bats, the duo struck out just once each.

“Those two have been incredible leaders for our team, and have kept improving and wanting to learn and get better,” Sargent said of his shortstop and center fielder. “Sometimes it takes a year or more to buy into a different hitting style, but our kids have improved in all aspects of the game. On the offensive side we are putting balls into play, they have gotten better on defense, and our pitchers are locating pitches really well.” 

From the circle, WOU has counted on one of the best arms in the conference in the form of Kelli Demianew. The junior leads the GNAC with a 1.73 ERA and has tossed nine complete games over 81.0 innings.

In the month of March, Demianew was nearly untouchable, allowing just four earned runs in 53.0 innings. She completed all six games that she started, and also picked up a pair of saves in five relief appearances.

Also excelling for WOU has been senior hurler Eryka Brill, who went 4-1 in the month of March and currently ranks eighth in the GNAC with an ERA of 3.45. 

Sargent attributes his pitchers’ success to the coaching of first-year assistant Abigail Farler. “Abigail has been tremendous for those kids, and they work hard every day for her,” Sargent said. “She is really getting our pitchers to buy into her style, and their success is really a testament to what she’s done for us this season.”

While Farler has made an immediate impact in her first year, Sargent’s presence has positively influenced the team in just his second year on the job.

Sargent hails from Casper, Wyo., where he developed a baseball acumen playing on American Legion summer ball teams. “I grew up in Casper and went to high school there, but there was no high school baseball,” Sargent remembered. “I played on summer ball teams, and got into coaching softball when I moved out here to attend Warner Pacific.”

While earning a degree in human development, Sargent joined the Warner Pacific softball staff as an assistant. Following a path of successful coaching stints, Sargent most recently served as the head coach at Reynolds High School in Gresham, Ore., before moving to WOU.

“I wanted to move back here to be with my kids during high school and into college,” Sargent said of his son Brock and daughter McKenzie who now attend Northwest Nazarene and Western Oregon, respectively.

Sargent’s early success at WOU is not unprecedented, as he compiled a 175-98 record in six seasons as the head man at Mount Hood Community College. Prior to his time at MHCC, he led the program at Utah State to 23 victories in 2005, the most games the Aggies had won in nine seasons.

So far in 2014, the Wolves are in first place in the GNAC at 13-1 in conference play and have 15 games left on the regular season calendar. This weekend, WOU will play five of those games over two days at a tournament hosted by Cal State Stanislaus. 

“This weekend will be a great challenge for us, to see how we can compete against a lot of teams that we don’t normally see,” Sargent said about the five California schools his team will face. “The GNAC has really prepared us for this tournament, as it is a very competitive conference and is well-coached all the way around.”

Following the trip to California, the Wolves will continue their road trip with six more away games before closing the season with a pair of home doubleheaders.

“This next stretch will make it four weeks in a row on the road, and it is going to be pretty tough and taxing on our players,” said Sargent. “The nice thing is that the team had a trip like this at the beginning of the season, so now we are at a point where we just get to enjoy each others’ company. It is fun to be a part of.”

As the conference schedule takes the turn into the second half, Sargent is optimistic that his squad can keep its momentum going and play with the same enthusiasm and grit it displayed during March.

“Sometimes it takes a few innings to get started, but I know that they believe they can win in every game we play,” Sargent said. “The fun part about coaching is watching the kids grow together, and it has been very enjoyable to see how they’ve handled every situation with class, whether winning or losing.”