It has been said by many media members in the Tri-State Area that the type of baseball and softball that has been played over the last decade has been truly special.
And with the 2018 class being so successful in both sports themselves, Shawnee State has wasted no time taking notes.
In addition to Valley standouts Faith Brown, Margaret Caldwell, and Marissa Markins, the Shawnee State softball program has added All-Ohio talent and West stronghold MaKayla White, Clay pitching ace Julia Swain, Vanceburg (Ky.) Lewis County stars Gracie Yates and Jalyssa Cortez, and Lloyd (Ky.) Greenup County youngster Aleeya Adkins to its roster for 2019 on forward, while the Shawnee State baseball program has added Kyle Gammon, Isaiah Greene, Collier Wireman, and Ryan Lambert to its own roster for the 2019 season onward.
Vanceburg (Ky.) Lewis County — Jalyssa Cortez, utility player; Gracie Yates, center fielder
Cortez, who has been on the Lady Lions’ varsity roster since the sixth grade, and Yates, who has been in the same program since the seventh grade, signed with Shawnee State on May 15 after posting successful, multi-sport careers at Lewis County.
Yates, who also had an opportunity to play college basketball at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, batted .450 with three home runs, 12 doubles (a team high), and 21 RBI. She scored 36 runs for the Lady Lions, which was also a team-high mark, and posted a team-best slugging percentage of .675 en route to finishing with a 1.151 on-base-plus-slugging mark — also a team-best. The multi-sport standout also hit .475 at the dish in her junior season and finished with a 1.157 OPS mark during the 2016-17 campaign.
“I have really enjoyed my life here at Lewis County and have had wonderful friends, teachers, and coaches who have helped made me into a better person,” Yates said. “When I got the call from (Tim) Brown that Shawnee State had offered me a scholarship, I was overjoyed. I just want to thank my parents for always being there for me through the years hauling me to camps and to tournaments all over the country. I know that it was a huge expense, and I want to repay them by getting a great education at SSU and parlaying said education into a good job in the future. I am grateful and will miss my teammates, but it’s time to move on and take on a new challenge!”
Cortez, a multi-purpose athlete, also starred at the dish by collecting a .387 batting average with five doubles, four home runs, and 28 RBI in 2018. The senior drew 16 walks, which was second on the team, and finished with a team-best .482 on-base percentage of everyday players en route to an impressive 1.095 on-base-plus-slugging mark in her own right. As a junior, the fellow multi-sport athlete went .515 at the plate with three home runs, 18 doubles and 29 RBI in 2016-17.
The 5-3 dynamo, who also saw extensive work in the circle, ultimately went 8-7 with a save in 20 appearances, and struck out 68 while walking 36 in 92-and-a-third innings pitched.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to play at the next level at Shawnee State,” Cortez said. “I want to thank (Steve) Whittaker for offering me a scholarship and my teachers, friends, and coaches here for their support over the years. It has been a blast. I want to thank my parents for the time and the monetary sacrifices that they have made so that I could play the game that I love. I didn’t know if I was going to get the chance to play at the next level, but behind the scenes, there were coaches pulling for all of us, and we truly appreciate the dedication that they put into getting us the opportunity. I will miss my teammates at Lewis County. We have played together for many years, but a new chapter is about to begin and I’m ready for the challenge!”
West — MaKayla White, utility player
White, who was an All-Ohio honoree as a junior in the sport and signed with SSU on May 8, is an athlete that can play all nine positions on the field, according to SSU head coach Steve Whittaker. Like Yates, the senior also stood out on the basketball court by notching 12.3 points, seven rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 3.6 steals per contest en route to Third-Team All-Southeast District and All-SOC honors on the hardwood.
“MaKayla can play anywhere,” Whittaker said. “I’ve seen her play 100 times. She’s a good ballplayer. I’m excited for her. She’s strong and she’s fast. She’s going to be a good one.”
Whittaker and White also don’t have the normal relationship that a recruit has. In fact, White was West’s starting catcher as a freshman when she, along with Whittaker’s eldest daughter and current SSU pitching hand, McKenzie, went to the Division III, Region 11 Finals back in 2015.
“I’ve known MaKayla for a long time,” Whittaker said. “She’s a great ballplayer and she’s a great asset to the team. She can really play anywhere. She can catch, she can play the infield, she can play in the outfield. She’s fast. She’s just a good addition to the team. I think that her experience playing travel softball will translate right into college, and she’s going to help us out tremendously. She’s going to make other people work, because she wants to get in the lineup,” Whittaker said. “That’s more than anything. She works hard and she plays hard.”
Clay — Julia Swain, pitcher/right fielder
Swain, who originally decided on attending Ohio Christian University, changed her choice to SSU by signing with the Bears’ softball program on May 11.
The senior ultimately threw a no-hitter against Green earlier in the 2018 campaign and threw 12 innings in relief against Strasburg-Franklin — the eventual champions of Division IV, Region 15 — in a tight 5-4, 15-inning loss. Swain also produced a game-tying single in the sixth inning that allowed the Lady Panthers to take the Lady Tigers to extra innings.
Lloyd (Ky.) Greenup County — Aleeya Adkins, catcher/second baseman
The eighth player from the Southern Ohio Vipers’ travel ball program to sign with Shawnee State, Adkins hit at least .337 or better in each season of her high school career en route to posting a .407 average with 11 home runs, 49 doubles, 87 RBI, and 93 runs scored. Adkins’ on-base-plus-slugging mark was at least .976 or higher in each of her four seasons of play.
As a whole, Adkins’ junior and senior campaigns are statistical anomalies in their own right as Adkins, as a junior, collected a .434 average at the plate, notched four home runs, collected 23 RBI, and scored 26 runs of her own en route to posting a 1.280 OPS. Those marks only increased as a senior as Adkins ultimately put together a .519 batting average, hammered four additional home runs and drove in 23 additional runners while scoring 29 runs herself. A senior captain who played at catcher and second base, Adkins posted a ridiculous .644 on-base percentage and added in a whopping .883 slugging percentage mark for an astronomical 1.527 OPS mark.
In addition to the players listed above, Cannonsburg (Ky.) Boyd County product Ashton Rankin will play both softball and soccer at Shawnee State for the 2019 season on forward. Rankin, who led the Lady Lions with a .465 batting average as a junior and also drove in 24 runs via nine doubles, posted a .418 batting average in 2018, collected 11 doubles and four triples, and drove in 39 runs while scoring 53 on her own accord. The multi-sport athlete posted a 1.067 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 2018.
Lloyd (Ky.) Greenup County — Kyle Gammon, utility; Isaiah Greene, outfielder; Collier Wireman, infielder; Ryan Lambert, pitcher
Speaking of joining forces, how about signing four guys from the same school? That’s exactly what the Shawnee State baseball program did during the middle of the month by inking electrifying multi-sport athletes Kyle Gammon, Isaiah Greene, and Collier Wireman, along with the Musketeers’ ace pitcher, Ryan Lambert, to lock down 44.44 percent of the starting Greenup County lineup.
A career .373 hitter, Gammon has long been pubbed as one of the best middle infielders in the Tri-State Area, as his career .946 on-base-plus-slugging mark would suggest. The senior is hitting .442 with two home runs and seven doubles while obtaining 34 RBI for Greenup County. Gammon has also stolen 98 bases for the Musketeers over his career — including a crazy 37 alone in 2018 to date — and is 7-0 on the mound with an ERA that sits at 2.23 in 2018 on the mound. He’s 13-0 with four saves and a 1.98 ERA in 40 pitching appearances.
Like Gammon, Greene, a electric wideout on the football field for Greenup County, has also hit above .300 in each of his last three seasons, including an electrifying .395 mark with 11 doubles and 19 RBI in 2018. Greene has posted a 1.007 OPS at the plate, and has only committed one error in 69 defensive chances on the field of play.
Wireman, a soccer standout, has also posted a plus-.300 batting average in each of his three varsity seasons with the Musketeers and is hitting .387 with 13 doubles, 43 RBI, and 34 runs scored in 2018, while Lambert has gone 23-3 on the mound with a 1.54 ERA over the course of his career and is 11-0 with a blistering 1.77 ERA in 13 appearances over the course of the 2018 campaign. The latter, in 66 innings pitched, has recorded 71 strikeouts and has only given up free passes to 16 players in 2018 for a 4.44-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.