PREVIEW: One team with one goal
February 28, 2013
Junior Danielle Monnier is one of the reasons for Wilmington's continued improvement in softball. (Wilmington file)
One Team. One Goal. Win Today.
The premise is simply put for the Wilmington College softball team. A year after taking Ohio Athletic Conference tournament aspirations to the last week of the regular season, the Fightin’ Quakers are ready to bust through the glass ceiling.
“This team has the best chance of doing it since I’ve been here,” said head coach Beth Floyd. “They want to do it and absolutely they have a shot to do it. Our league is tough, top to bottom, and last year they learned that they can play with anybody. Now that they have the confidence, we need to keep moving forward to do so. I am very pleased with how we have gotten better and improved every year. Last year and I think this year, you will see the biggest improvements. It’s come from dedication of our players and hard work.
“We need to play with a purpose,” Floyd added. “Every game is important. We can’t overlook anyone on our schedule. We play a very tough schedule, and we have to do it together.”
In order for Wilmington to reach the OAC tournament for the first time in school history, they must get more production for their lineup. The Fightin’ Quakers were just 1-17 a season ago when scoring two or less runs. They were 4-9 in one-run games.
“The big part of our lineup and scoring runs will come from the upperclassman,” said Floyd. “We need the juniors and seniors to drive in some runs. We need three, four, and five to produce. We need Brooke Byrne, Stacy Lunsford and Catlin Shilling to produce runs in the middle of the lineup.”
Byrne (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington), an All-OAC shortstop, is slated to move from the top of the order to the middle this season. As a junior, she hit .366 and led the team with 49 hits, 15 doubles, four homeruns and 20 RBI. Her 15 doubles were a WC single-season record.
Shilling (Waverly, OH/Waverly) and Lunsford (Wilmington, OH/Clinton-Massie) each hit over .300 last season, and combined to drive in 27 runs. Shilling hit .324 with nine doubles and 15 RBI, while Lunsford hit .300 with nine doubles, a triple, a homerun and 12 RBI.
While the middle of the order can be a focal point, Wilmington hopes to find some table-setters in the talented underclassmen.
Sophomore Allie Noggle (Ashville, OH/Teays Valley) was solid last season, hitting .333. Depending on how several position battles play themselves out freshmen Hilary Daria-White (Bethel, OH/Felicity Franklin), Megan Warren (Grove City, OH/Grove City) or Megan Rachford (Germantown, OH/Valley View) could find themselves jumpstarting the Wilmington offense.
However, Floyd knows simply improving the offensive output won’t be the sole reason for Wilmington’s success.
“I believe you have to do three things to win a game,” said Floyd. “You have to pitch well, play good defense and score runs. If you do two out of those three things, you are not going to win games. It has to be all of those three.”
The main reasons for the WC’s growth in softball has come from the circle. Junior Danielle Monnier (Houston, OH/Houston) and sophomore Jess Clutter (Englewood, OH/Northmont) leads a pitching staff that Floyd believes could be the best in the OAC.
“They both have great leadership abilities and a great desire to win, along with the rest of the girls in the past,” Floyd said of Monnier and Clutter. “We are fortunate to have a solid pitching staff that is committed to getting better everyday, and that has shown great improvement. We can truly have one of the best pitching staffs in the conference.”
Aiding the development of the staff will be senior Kelsey Becker (Clarksville, IN/Clarksville). She headlines a crew of four catchers that Floyd termed as the “deepest catching corps we have had.” Becker, who could also see time at first base, started all 39 games she played in and hit .238 with 15 RBI.
Junior Olivia Hutchison (Mason, OH/Mason), freshman Emily Phipps (Heath, OH/Heath) and Daria-White will all push to spell Becker throughout the season.
“I am pumped about our outfield,” said Floyd. “They have been working so hard this year. They get better everyday. We really have some young ladies that cover major ground in the outfield.”
Leftfielder Lunsford is the leadership lynchpin to the outfield a season after committing just one error in 43 attempts. Warren could join her as the centerfielder, while a collection of players including junior Nikki Tolson (Monroe, OH/Lemon Monroe), freshman Abby Jude (Lancaster, OH/Fairfield Union), freshman Alexis Smith (West Liberty, OH/West Liberty Salem) and Daria-White could all spend time in right.
Freshman Katie McDevitt (Salem, OH/Salem) will join the competition at centerfield, along with Daria-White. Freshman Haylee Cooper (Liberty, IN/Fairfield Union) could factor into the outfield mix if cleared medically.
Byrne holds the infield together from her shortstop position. She was in the middle of seven double plays last season and finished the season with a team-high 82 assists.
“She is a leader on the field,” said Floyd. “She makes routine plays, then will turn around and make a fabulous play look easy. Her strength is her desire to win. She leaves it all on the field, and is 110% all of the time.”
She holds the only solidified spot in the Wilmington infield.
Shilling is close to earning the majority of the innings at third base. Freshman Jessie Stewart (Fredricktown, OH/Highland), freshman Heather Kot (Springboro, OH/Springboro), and sophomore Sarah Maraan (Fairfield, OH/McAuley) will be in position to push Shilling at one of the corners.
“They all do an excellent job of reading bunts, playing the slap well,” said Floyd. “They have very good softball IQs.”
First base is also a crowded competition with junior Lina Larsson (Skovde, Sweden/Kavelbrogymnasiet), freshman Katie Bennett (Newport, OH/Frontier), junior Erika Lee (Blanchester, OH/Blanchester), Rachford, Becker, and Kot all in the mix.
There is a trio of contenders to replace Chelsea Morrow at second base. Lee, Noggle and Rachford are all battling for the bulk of innings.