The 2009 season was a good news-bad news year for the Warrenton softball program.

The bad news - the Warriors were just 5-21 overall, 4-8 in the Lewis & Clark League.

The good news - the regular season means next to nothing nowadays, as the Warriors won a league playoff vs. Vernonia, and qualified for the state playoffs.

They lost (11-1 at Elgin-Imbler), but gained valuable postseason experience - which will pay off this year.

THE LEAGUE

Warrenton had just four league wins last year, which included three over Neah-Kah-Nie by a combined 60-9.

On the other hand, the Warriors went 0-7 (including a league playoff) against Clatskanie and Rainier, losing all seven by a combined 108-14.

"I know Rainier and Clatskanie are always big competitors, but I'm hoping to take one game from each of those two," said Warrenton coach Dionne Neahring. "We'd like to finish second.

"Rainier has (Heather) Crape, and she'll be a senior this year. She's got good speed and good control. And Clatskanie has a sophomore (Teauna Hughes) with great athletic ability. She's a big hitter, and she's got a great glove and a great arm."

THE PLAYERS

Having a No. 1 pitcher always makes a difference in softball, and the Warriors enter the 2010 season with potentially one of the best in the Lewis & Clark League.

"(Senior) Brittany Nyberg did a lot of personal work in the offseason," Neahring said. "She played volleyball, then right after that, she started to see a pitching coach. She's been working hard, and looks really good.

"We didn't have a main pitcher last year, so we went to Brooklyn (Campbell), who is not a pitcher, but she did her job," said Neahring, who was a three-time all-league player (1998-2000) at Warrenton.

Campbell will head back to shortstop for her senior year, and will also do some catching, although the Warriors have as many as five catchers.

The infield will include seniors MaryLynne Ahrensbach at first base, Emma Bussert at second, Heather Hardwick at third and Campbell at shortstop.

Outfielders include junior Samantha Larsen and sophomore Masie Watkins, with more to be named later, as Neahring evaluates the talent.

Offensively, "Emma Bussert and Brooklyn Campbell will be the two to look for, because they've been four-year varsity players for us," she said. "Masie, Emma and Brooklyn are all good with the bat, and (junior) Shelby Lofton will be a big hitter."

Lofton is a transfer from California, who "played a lot of club ball down there, and I'm real excited to have her on the team," Neahring said.

Warrenton's roster is loaded with experience, with more seniors including Mollee Bighill, Angel Legler and Alisha Tolboe.

Besides Lofton, the junior class includes Hannah Burkhart, Jessie Tussing and Taylor Templin.

Watkins is the only sophomore, while freshman Madyson Hanna could eventually see playing time.

Neahring will be assisted by Becky Bunnell, Jack Burkhart and Larry Neahring.

THE OUTLOOK

Turnouts have increased for most Warrenton sports, including softball, which will benefit from the rise in numbers.

"We have a lot of sophomores and juniors who are new to the school," Neahring said. "And most are pretty athletic - that's the surprising factor. Even the freshmen.

"It makes the other kids work a little harder for their spot."

Which translates into a winning season for the Warriors, who should return to the state playoffs as one of the legitimate top three teams from the Lewis & Clark League.

WARRENTON SOFTBALL

Coach: Dionne Neahring, fourth year

2009: 5-21 (4-8 Lewis & Clark)

Playoffs: Defeated Vernonia (8-3), lost to Clatskanie (16-0) in league playoffs; lost at Elgin-Imbler (11-1) in state playoffs.

All-League returners: Emma Bussert, 1st team; Brooklyn Campbell, 1st team.