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Shepherd gets back to softball after curtailed 2020 season

By Bob Madison - For the Chronicle | Mar 5, 2021

Leann Brown is one of the Shepherd University softball team's few seniors. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — As was the case all over the virus-victimized country, the Shepherd softball Rams had their 2020 season ended weeks before it was scheduled to end with a possible return to an NCAA Regional tournament.

Only 10 games were played and the Rams couldn’t properly introduce themselves for the first time in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

Shepherd won four times and dropped six games before the pandemic forced cancellation of the remainder of the season in mid-March.

There will be a long list of returning starters this season and they could make some winning noise in the what will now be Shepherd’s first season in the well-known NCAA Division II conference.

Last season, four infielders led the Rams in individual batting average. All of those four offensive leaders are back in this year’s lineup.

Nicole Purtell made the most of the few chances she had to damage opponents with her bat. She batted .469 and drove in 10 runs in 10 games. Leann Brown batted a crisp .375 and is one of this team’s few seniors. Ashley Burger, who clubbed a two-run homer in Shepherd’s season-opening, 8-6, win over Hillsdale (Michigan) last week, finished the bob-tailed season with a nifty .355 batting average. Allison Baker, the Rams’ only graduate student, contributed her .300 batting average to the virus-mangled season.

Sophomore outfielder Hannah Beeler hit .286 and utility player Tori Seymour finished with a .269 batting average.

The entire four-person pitching staff is back to try again in 2021.

Sarah Lamper had three starts and fashioned a 2.00 ERA in 14 innings a year ago. Lamper went six innings in her start against Hillsdale in the team’s first game, which was played in a tournament in Glenville. She received credit for the win, while reliever Cheyenne Van Pelt pitched a scoreless seventh inning for a save. Van Pelt had two starts last season, losing both decisions and showing a 10.50 ERA. Ashley Mayton also had two starts and worked 10.1 innings overall. Her ERA was 7.45.

Also back from the 2020 team are third baseman Kylie Condon, a .308 hitter and utility player Haley Dawson.

The Shepherd roster shows 10 new players with most of them being freshmen.

Cameron Davis is a sophomore first baseman and Alex Mantz is a sophomore catcher. Blake Connor, Isabella Forte, Chloee Burton, Olivia Reese, Sophia Pell, Elizabeth Padiotis, pitcher/first baseman Hannah Ruffner and second baseman Caitlin Donnelly are the new faces in the Shepherd dugout this year.

Two years ago in its last full season, Shepherd swarmed through much of the Mountain East Conference schedule and was impressive enough with wins to earn a berth in an NCAA Regional.

The PSAC has historically been an impressive softball league with schools earning post-season honors nearly every season. Shepherd is joining a conference that is used to fielding winning teams and filling Regional fields.

Fourth-year coach Marissa Leslie had the Rams in the Atlantic Region post-season NCAA tournament in both 2018 and 2019 before having her third season subverted by the pandemic. Shepherd’s 2019 team was in a Super Regional — one step before the softball College World Series.

The Rams edged Hillsdale on Feb. 26 with Burger’s home run helping them to an early 4-0 lead in the third inning. Allison Baker later contributed a two-RBI single and Purtell rode home on a Cameron Davis RBI double for Shepherd’s last run.

Leslie and crew will be competing against West Chester, Millersville, East Stroudsburg, Shippensburg, Bloomsburg, Kutztown, Mansfield and Lock Haven in conference games.