BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Wesleyan softball fans are wondering if their 2018 Lady Bobcats can equal, or better, their “incredible” 2017 season.
They battled all the way into the semi-finals of the Division II World Series last year before falling to the eventual champion Minnesota State-Mankato Lady Mavericks, 5-2.
Veteran coach Steve Warner just shrugs his shoulder, saying “It was an incredible year for us. All the accolades and hype was nice, but we just want to qualify for the Mountain East Conference Tournament this year, and then anything can happen.”
The Lady Bobcats have been picked to win the conference’s Southern Division title.
Warner lost his two top hitters in outfielders Tori Pogue (.421) and Olivia Gore (.398), and No. 2 pitcher Sayaka Foley (18-5).
But not all is lost.
Returning to provide the offensive punch are seniors Morgan Bruce (3B), Krista Waggoner (1B), Sara Scoone (C) and Aylin Gutierrez (3B).
Also lost via graduation was second baseman Brooklyn Waddell (.314, 12 homers, 40 runs-batted-in).
Other returnees include seniors Brittani Bible (1B), Faith Tichnell (C-OF), Brianna Ross (OF) and Mikayla McElwayne (OF).
Junior Madison Casto will move into the second base slot vacated by Waddell, while junior Megan Magsamen and freshman Lauryn King take the outfield positions left by Pogue and Gore.
And back as head of the mound staff is senior Hannah Vet, who had an unbelievable season. She racked up a 28-4 record with a stingy 0.94 earned-run-average, which ranked second nationally.
The only other hurler back is senior Alyssa Shawgo, who posted a 3-0 record in 2017. Freshmen Kelley Bourne and Emily Ward are expected to see varsity action.
“Offensively, we don’t have a lot of power, so we’ll have to get the ball in play, get the bunts down, and do a lot of hit-and-run,” Warner said.
“Defensively, I think we will be solid. Right now, we aren’t sure about anything because we haven’t been able to get outside to practice.”
The Lady ‘Cats will open the season Saturday, taking on Mercyhurst (Pa.) and Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) to start their Spring Break schedule at Clermont (Fla.).
Spring Break – Clermont, Fla.
March 3 – vs. Mercyhurst (Pa.), 9 a.m.; vs Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.), 11:30 a.m.
March 4 – vs. Wayne State (Neb.), 9 a.m.; vs. Saint Rose (N. Y.), 11:30 A.M.
March 5 – vs. Felician (N. J.), 9 a.m.; vs. Lynn (Fla.), 11:30 a.m.
March 6 – vs. Wilmington (Del.) 9 a.m.; vs. Georgian Court (N. J.), 11:30 A.M.
March 7 – vs. Upper Iowa, 11:30 a.m.; vs. Findlay (Ohio), 2 p.m.
Salem (Va.) Tournament
March 9 – vs. Edinboro (Pa.), 5 p.m.
March 10 – vs. Indiana (Pa.), 2 p.m.; vs. Chowan (N. C.), 4 P.M.
March 11 – vs. Lake Erie (Pa.), 11 a.m.
Mountain East Conference
March 17 – at Fairmont State, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
March 18 – at Shepherd, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
March 20 – Ohio Valley, doubleheader, 3 p.m.
March 24 – Virginia-Wise, doubleheader, 2 p.m.
March 25 – Concord, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
March 28 – Davis & Elkins, doubleheader, 4 p.m.
March 30 – Urbana (Ohio), doubleheader, 1 p.m.
March 31 – Notre Dame (Ohio), doubleheader, 1 p.m.
April 4 – at Glenville State, doubleheader, 4 p.m.
April 7 – at West Virginia State, doubleheader, 2 p.m.
April 8 – at Charleston, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
April 10 – Alderson-Broaddus, doubleheader, 4 p.m.
April 12 – Salem International, doubleheader, 4 p.m.
April 14 – at Wheeling Jesuit, doubleheader, 2 p.m.
April 15 – at West Liberty, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
April 18 – Glenville State, doubleheader, 4:30 p.m.
April 21 – Charleston, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
April 22 – W.Va. State, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
April 27 – at Concord, doubleheader, 1 p.m.
April 28 – at Virginia-Wise, doubleheader, 1 p.m.