WHEELERSBURG — For Laney Eller, it was all about her comfort level.
That’s what the Wheelersburg High School senior standout shortstop said about her decision to attend Ashland University, where — on last Wednesday when she announced virtually over FaceTime — she will continue not only her athletic career, but her academic career in Early Childhood Education.
Eller — the daughter of Kevin and Amanda Eller — officially announced her intention and signed her national Letter-of-Intent to become an Eagle, joining fellow Lady Pirates Boo Sturgill and Rylie Hughes having signed to play collegiate softball at the next level.
In fact, all three are current Lady Pirates set to become Lady Eagles of fellow NCAA Division II programs —as Sturgill committed to Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., while Hughes has signed with the University of Charleston in the West Virginia state capital.
For Eller, though, the two-time all-Southern Ohio Conference Division II selection and all-Southeast District Division III honoree said “Ashland was the best fit”.
The Eagles are members of the GLIAC —the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference —as Eller will be playing shortstop for head coach Emelyn Knerem.
“When I visited the Ashland campus, I knew it was the best fit for me. The campus is beautiful and the players there are very kind and welcoming. And I didn’t want to go too far from home, and three hours isn’t too bad at all,” said Eller. “There were other schools I was really considering, but when it all came down to it, Ashland was where I felt most comfortable. They also have a very solid softball program with a winning tradition over the years. They’ve only had one season below .500 in the last 10 years.”
Ashland is used to winning, while Wheelersburg of course is too.
In her first two Pirate campaigns, Wheelersburg went 24-1 in 2018 and lost in the Division III regional semifinals —before a 21-3 and district runner-up appearance the following year.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association then cancelled the entire 2020 season in response to the coronavirus threat.
As a sophomore, she paced the Pirates in total hits, as 31 of her 34 were singles —as the leadoff hitter hit .400 with an on-base percentage of .440.
She scored 31 runs, drew five walks, and posted 20 runs batted in.
As a freshman, she was the Lady Pirates’ —as chosen by her coaches — Defensive Player of the Year.
“My first three years at Wheelersburg have been absolutely amazing. Our coaching staff is the best. Coach (Teresa) Ruby and Coach (Susan) Reutzel push us to be the best we can be. They have both made me a better player and better person. Not being able to have our season last year was absolutely devastating. This year, I hope we are projected to do the same because I believe we can do it,” said Eller.
“Do it” — as in capture the coveted Division III state championship, which Wheelersburg won once before in 2016.
“We are motivated more than ever. We are going to be a solid group this year and hopefully we perform well,” added Eller. “We always want to win the SOC II again, then districts. I feel as if we have a solid team and we can make it past regionals then to state, but we really have to work hard.”
Eller also expressed her individual goals for her senior season at Wheelersburg and carrying over into Ashland, and is glad to have her signing completed prior to the spring.
“I want to lead us (Lady Pirates) in on-base percentage. As a leadoff hitter, my job is to get on base and score runs. At Ashland, I’m looking to try and contribute as a freshman and just do whatever I can to help. I am very relieved (after making college announcement) and it takes off a tremendous amount of stress. I am beyond excited for this opportunity,” she said. “It has always been a dream of mine to play softball in college, and I have now achieved that. It will be a brand new experience that I am thrilled for.”
But first things first, before enjoying the comfort of Ashland, it’s one more go-round with Wheelersburg.
“I expect Laney to be a great role model and leader for our program for her senior year,” said Wheelersburg coach Teresa Ruby. “Her talent is never in question. Not only does she have talent, she has a tremendous work ethic. I expect her and us to have a tremendous season.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved