A core of experienced seniors and a big group of newcomers will be the nucleus for the Gettysburg College softball team as they have its eyes sight on returning to the postseason this spring.
The Bullets opened the 2019 season with a 7-5 record through the end of spring break, which included taking down then-ranked No. 10 Randolph-Macon College 5-4 in eight innings. The last time the Orange and Blue defeated a top-10 team was back in 2010 as they topped No. 5 Messiah College. Gettysburg, however, finished the 2019 campaign with a 17-19 record and a 7-9 league mark.
After claiming its fourth Centennial Conference championship and the third trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs in program history in 2018, the Bullets missed postseason play last season for the first time since 2014. Last week in the Centennial Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Bullets were selected to finish sixth. With a chip on their shoulders, one of the goals for the Bullets this season is to make a postseason return.
“This year we have strong leaders who are hungry to get back into the fight for postseason play,” noted Head Coach Annette Hunt-Shepherd, who is 146-92-1 in six years at the helm. “We have a good mix of returning players and talented, coachable first-year players. Our team’s cohesiveness and ability to work one pitch at a time will be keys to this year.”
The Bullets graduated three players who started last season with two earning all-conference honors, but the four seniors this season are ready to hoist the conference trophy again and guide the underclassmen.
“As a senior class, we all know what it is like to be on top winning conferences from our sophomore year,” said senior outfielder Liz Cowell. “Getting that No. 6 in the preseason poll is definitely lighting a fire for us.”
As a team last season, the Bullets finished first in the Centennial Conference in home runs (24), tied for second in triples (12), third in slugging percentage (.398) and stolen bases (49), fifth in on-base percentage (.348), and tied for fifth in RBI (152).
The Bullets will be facing new opponents this season as well playing against a ranked opponent in No. 10 Randolph-Macon, who made it to the 2019 Division III Softball Championship, on the road March 14 with conference play starting at home on March 28 against Muhlenberg College.
Gettysburg will be looking to gain the help and momentum of reaching its goals this season by welcoming seven first-years and returning a strong group of nine athletes, many of whom started nearly every game last season.
The infield will be guided by all-conference honorees in senior Rachel Julie (Elmsford, N.Y./Briarcliff), senior Sarahrose Jonik (Glenmoore, Pa./Villa Maria Academy), and junior Shelby Baker (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington North).
Julie started all 36 games at second base and wrapped up the season first on the team in slugging percentage (.558), doubles (10), and triples (seven), and second in batting average (.333) and hits (40).
After suffering an injury that kept her away from the field for a few games, Jonik appeared in 27 games and started 25 at first base. She closed the season by finishing tied for first on the team in homers (five), second in runs (24), slugging percentage (.553), and on-base percentage (.414), and third in batting average (.318). Career-wise, Jonik has a .300 batting average, 74 runs, 16 doubles, 12 dingers, 17 stolen bases, and needs two more hits to reach 100 career.
The team’s starting catcher last season, Baker batted a .282 with 18 runs, seven doubles, tying a team-best five homers and team-high 33 RBI. Baker’s 33 RBI ranked her among the top three in the conference.
Also returning in the infield is junior Emily Colline (Bridgewater, N.J./Immaculata). Colline saw action in 32 games and made 20 starts while tying for first and tying for fourth in the conference in home runs (five). She compiled a .493 slugging percentage and .354 on-base percentage.
Adding some additional depth in the infield this season will be first-years Jess Campana (Brick, N.J./Saint John Vianney), Allie Cluster (Pasadena, Md./Mount De Sales Academy), and Olivia Moser (Robbinsville, N.J./Robbinsville).
The outfield will feature returners in seniors Cowell and Nicole Farese (Sayville, N.Y./Sayville), while sophomores Kyleigh Dinnien (Ambler, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) and Mary Catherine Waddell (Tallahassee, Fla./Maclay School) will be looking to take more of a role in the outfield as well.
Cowell started in all 36 games from the center field, producing a .327 slugging percentage, 25 hits, 14 runs, three doubles, a triple, and a home run. Farese appeared in 34 games and started 30 from left field, while Dinnien saw action in 26 games, making five starts at left field and contributed as a pinch hitter, and Waddell appeared 13 times primarily as a pinch runner. Moser will also be utilized in the outfield too.
After only having two pitchers on the roster a season ago, this year the team will have four in rotation. Gettysburg lost a huge presence in the circle as Morgan Clauser ’19 graduated last spring. She finished her career with 323 strikeouts in 493.2 innings and ranks third in Gettysburg history in wins and second with 131 strikeouts in a single-season. Sophomore Skylar Spinner (Montebello, N.Y./Suffern) saw action in 16 games while starting 13 in 2019. She collected her first colligate win in the circle against Shenandoah University, allowing no runs on one hit and striking out two batters. In 76.1 innings pitched, Spinner tossed 29 strikeouts, a shutout, and a posted a career-high four strikeouts, which occurred twice.
Looking to make an impact in the circle for the Bullets this season will be freshmen Tori Ferraiolo (Belle Mead, N.J./Montgomery), Jasmin Herrera (Hollywood, Fla./Cooper City), and Caroline Bratichak (East Rockway, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial).
The schedule includes two early-season doubleheaders at Mary Washington College and Shenandoah University on Feb. 29 and March 3, respectively, followed by an eight-game spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. The first home game is slated to take place against Muhlenberg on Saturday, March 28, at 1 p.m.
This story was originally posted on the Gettysburg College Website.