Whittaker steps down as SSU softball coach

PORTSMOUTH — Shawnee State University head softball coach Steve Whittaker will step down from his head coaching post inside the Bears’ program, as announced by Whittaker from Friday.

In five seasons, the 53-year old from McDermott went 92-106 with the Bears.

However, after going 11-35 in his first year, Whittaker improved the SSU softball program to the point where Shawnee State finished at or above .500 in each of his last four years at the helm.

The Bears went 81-71 from the 2017 to 2020 campaigns.

“I’m stepping down to deal with a health issue and to spend more time with my high school sophomore, Madison,” Whittaker said. “I got to coach McKenzie for four years and spend a lot of time with her, and I want to not only watch all of Madison’s activities, but spend valuable time with Madison as well. I have been very fortunate and blessed with the two of them as well as my wife, Teri, for their unwavering support. They have been behind me at every turn and I am so thankful to have them to learn from, lean on and laugh with.”

In addition to his daughter McKenzie, and Megan Shupert-Martin, Whittaker recruited several high-profile transfers to Shawnee State — including Kayla Koch (Valley), Kalle Coleman (Wheelersburg) and Michal Cunningham (Wheelersburg).

Whittaker also recruited 2020 Mid-South Conference Champions of Character Award winner Haley Rawlins to the program, signed leadoff hitting staple Ashtyn Saunders, and inked other significant pieces to the four straight seasons of .500 or better — such as Maureen Wolansky, Brooke Webb, Ashton Rankin and Kaitlyn Gleich among others.

“(Steve) Whittaker was extremely dedicated to our softball program and the athletes on his teams,” SSU athletic director Jeff Hamilton said. “He knows the game inside and out and each year, has made progress toward the top of the MSC. He has a great feel for the game, but really excelled at bringing in great regional talent. He was able to sign both top-rated transfers as well as high school talent that was able to come in and contribute immediately. His tireless recruiting has set the course for a very bright future for SSU softball.”

Whittaker used his connections that he established on the travel ball circuit to establish a strong reputation with area coaches.

His 350-85 overall record with Buckeye Elite — a program that he founded in 2005 — led to heightened awareness for softball all across the Scioto County area.

He also served in the Army National Guard, which included a stint in the War on Iraq, from 2004 to 2005.

The discipline that Whittaker developed through each of his stops has led to the softball program becoming one of the athletic department’s strongest producers of academic success.

Following the 2019-20 season, all 10 players on the roster who were eligible collected All-Academic MSC honors for their work as student-athletes.

“Steve did a great job of bringing in outstanding students,” Hamilton said. “Our softball team’s academic standards during his tenure was exceptional. He had a great understanding of their priorities, and made sure they balanced the academic rigors with the athletic time commitment.”

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