The Shawnee State University softball team continued their solid start to the season over the past week, taking another pair of matchups from Penn State-Hazleton on Wednesday and Morrisville State College on Thursday to start off the year with a 6-1 overall record before dropping a pair of matchups to the No. 16-ranked team in the NAIA, Rinehardt, on Friday as the Bears capped off their road trip to Cocoa Beach Spring Training Complex in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
In Wednesday’s contest against Penn State-Hazleton, Kaitlyn Gleich and Katie Wolsefer proved to be the key cogs as Shawnee State took a 9-4 victory against the Nittany Lions. Gleich, a sophomore from Grove City, Ohio, went 2-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs thanks to a triple, while Wolsefer, a freshman from Franklin, Ohio, drove in two RBI via her single. Ashtyn Saunders and South Point, Ohio’s Haley Rawlins combined to go 7-of-9 from the plate with a RBI apiece, while Mckenzie Riley also garnered a pair of hits in four at-bats while adding a team-high seven putouts from her first-base position.
On the mound, McKenzie Whittaker — a West graduate and the daughter of head coach Steve Whittaker — allowed just one earned run over five innings en route to the win, giving up five hits in the process.
It only took five innings for the Bears to rack up a 9-1 victory on Thursday afternoon, as Shawnee State cruised to a 9-1 victory over Morrisville State behind a 13-hit affair.
Wolsefer and Saunders, the latter being a freshman from Lancaster, Ohio, were stars again, as the former drove in two runs via a pair of doubles, which completely accounted for her 2-for-3 day at the dish, while the latter put together a 3-for-4, one RBI outing from her leadoff position. Fellow slugger Marisa Brown supplied two hits in four attempts, to go along with three RBI, from the cleanup spot, and supplied SSU’s only RBI in the Bears’ losses to Rinehardt.
Whittaker, along with Brooke Blevins and Notre Dame’s own Miranda Pauley, combined to surrender just three hits and one run over the final five innings of action. Blevins, who received the start, was perfect through two frames of play in garnering the victory. The freshman struck out three of the six batters that she faced during the contest.
For the year, Brown, Gleich, Wolsefer and Saunders are all batting over .400 for the year, with Saunders’ .500 batting average and Brown’s 14 RBI being among the notable statlines. The quartet, in addition to Riley, have posted OPS’ of over 1.000 for the season to date, with Gleich’s .632 slugging percentage and Wolsefer’s .529 on-base percentage heading the charge.
As far as the pitching performances have been concerned, Blevins, Pauley, and Whittaker have been consistent, with the trio all posting ERA’s between 3.35 and 3.44. The former heads the way with 23 innings pitched, 21 strikeouts, and 102 batters faced on the season. Fellow West graduate Megan Shupert and Valley hand Kayla Koch have helped by combining to not commit an error in 85 defensive chances.
The start represents a continued improvement for the softball program, as Shawnee State won its sixth affair on March 9. The Bears didn’t win their sixth game until March 17 in 2016.
Shawnee State will be back in action against the No. 12-ranked Campbellsville Tigers in what will be the opening quartet of home affairs at Boone Coleman Field in 2017. The doubleheaders will start on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. and will mark the opening set of conference games for the Bears.