Freshmen join Rams for MEC maiden voyage
oming off a 23-28 record in its final year in the now-disbanded West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Shepherd will know most of the other teams in the new league.
Six of the seven freshmen can pitch, including Jefferson High graduate Alexandra Witt. Witt is listed as a pitcher/infielder as is fellow freshman Rachel Kline from Greencastle (Pa.) High.
The lone freshmen who wont do any pitching is outfielder Rubie Tefeteller from Cedar Cliff, Pa.
In Shepherd’s final season in the WVIAC, its pitchers were both Jefferson High products. Tiffany Biggs was a 2013 senior who completed an 11-10 season with a 4.73 earned run average and Shannon Lyons was a freshman whose ERA was 6.23 with a 12-13 record. Lyons can also play the outfield and batted .220 last year. Hayley Kitts authored an 0-5 record with an inflated 10.73 ERA last season.
Returning third baseman Kass Taylor was a .275 hitter. Outfielder Aysha Voytell went 14-for-57, a .246 average, and catcher Elisa Orlandi had a subpar .178 batting mark.
After opening its season with five games in three days in the Shaw (NC) Tournament, Shepherd has its first home date on March 2 against Bloomsburg of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
Mountain East Conference games begin down in southwestern Virginia for the Rams when they see University of Virginia’s College at Wise for the first time in school softball history. Virginia-Wise is one of three schools in the Mountain East Conference located outside the borders of West Virginia. The other two are Ohio-based schools Notre Dame and Urbana.
The first MEC home date is on March 26 when Fairmont provides the competition.
Shepherd has 10 home dates and seven of those days are filled with conference opponents.
Can the seven freshmen — especially the new pitchers — give this team the talent boost it needs to get back to a winning season? Can the new faces be blended with the already-proven hitting of Schaefer, Snyder, Plunkett and Mason?
If pitching is anywhere from 75 percent to 90 percent of baseball, then it is at least that important to softball where 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 games are not uncommon.
This may be the first-ever Mountain East Conference swing, but softball is still most often dominated by the ability or lack of it of the pitchers.
Shepherd had six new ones to evaluate before throwing any of them against its schedule that is top-heavy with non-conference games against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference schools.