The Wilmington College softball team enters the 2017 season with one of the deepest team in the Beth Floyd era. However, a lot of the talent is young, but it still provides Floyd with a plethora of options as the season progresses.
"I'm very excited for our upcoming season," said Floyd. "We have a lot of good components that make up our team. We have a lot of talent from top to bottom, and it's a good mixture of youth and experience. This is an extremely deep team and it creates a great environment in practice because we are competing every day, and learning how to compete every day. We are also learning how to celebrate each other's successes, which are all key components in developing a quality team and quality culture. If you are going to win ball games you have to have good team culture."
Like most softball teams, the experienced arms in the circle could dictate a lot of the Wilmington success. Senior Becca Carpenter (South Charleston, OH/ Southeastern) and junior Beth Persicano (Nashville, TN/Cincinnati (OH) Turpin) return after taking the ball in 30 of Wilmington's 36 starts.
Carpenter hurled a team-high 127 innings with 83 strikeouts, while posting a 4.52 ERA. Persicano battled an injury early, and finished with 48 innings over 13 appearances with a 5.83 ERA.
"Beth Persicano and Becca Carpenter have been tremendous over the years," said Floyd. "They have had to battle some really tough and difficult times with injuries, and this year I am hoping for special things from both of them in the circle. Getting them back to being healthy it would be nice to see them really be able to go out pain free and compete because they both are very good competitors. They are bulldogs on the mound they love the fight and they can draw back on those experiences and difficult times working through injuries and I think that you can really see them rise this year. Because they have been through the battle they are battle tested."
Senior Kerrie Trautman (Hartville, OH/Field) could see some time in the circle in end of game situations, while freshmen Mariyah Burkhardt (Springfield, OH/Kenton Ridge) and Mallory Roberts (Urbana, OH/Graham) could compete for innings as the season progress.
"So many times in softball you see some teams that live and die on one arm and be lucky to have two arms," said Floyd. "The neat thing about our team and some what a unique thing about our team is that we have a pitching staff this year. And the good thing about that is that it gives us options if someone is having an off day. But yes it will be almost a baseball mentality we will have some defined roles in our pitching staff and I think it will be good to keep other teams off balance."
Wilmington will also have plenty of options of catchers for its staff to throw to, starting with junior Sawyer Hooper (Leesburg, OH/Wilmington). Hooper started 22 games last season and will be the primary catcher for the Fightin' Quakers. She hit .257 with two RBI a season ago.
Senior Sydney Kelly (Cincinnati, OH/Sycamore) is back after starting 19 games last season. Sophomore Taylor Priest (Springfield, OH/Shawnee), along with freshmen KenDahl Bowles (Middletown, OH/Madison) and Jillia Cook (Canton, OH/Glen Oak), will compete to split the catching duties with Hooper.
"Sawyer has really stepped up and has developed into a really good softball player, and I look for a lot of big things from her this year," said Floyd. "Her raw athletic ability is tremendous but also her heart and passion for the game is just huge. I am very excited about our catchers. It is going to be very competitive back there, and they each bring so much to the table they really do. They are doing a great job handling our pitching staff. Defensively, we are starting to see them take that leadership role more and more. The nice thing about the depth in the catching position is we are not going to have to wear people out."
The strength of Wilmington's defense will be up the middle with Trautman, an all-conference shortstop, moving to second, freshman Grace Yoder (Springboro, OH/Springboro) manning centerfield and freshman Kaylee Barber (Columbus, OH/Westland) taking over at shortstop.
Trautman, whose glove and range will be impeccable for the Fightin' Quakers, will look to return to her 2015 form offensively. She struggled last season, hitting .195 with seven RBI.
"Kerrie is going to be the anchor of our infield," said Floyd. "Kerrie has a high softball IQ and has naturally leadership capability. The move from short stop to second base is going to allow our team to utilize so much more of Kerrie's ability whether we need her in the circle, whether we need her anywhere. But we are going to count on her experience and her knowledge of the game a lot in the infield.
"Albert Einstein plays center field for us in terms of softball IQ," Floyd continued. "Grace Yoder is a tremendous softball player. It is scary how good she is going to be in four years because of how good she is already. She is fast, strong and just blessed; she is a total package when it comes to a softball player. She is going to do a great job for us she is a young lady that can play multiple positions."
Wilmington will have plenty of options for their corner infielders as Bowles, Cook, Sawyer Hooper, sophomore Kennedy Metz (Russia, OH/Russia), sophomore Madi Wellendorf (Akron, OH/Firestone) and sophomore Allison Pierce (Troy, OH/Troy) all bring something to the table. It's possible that all six players will find some innings on the corner.
Additionally, Wellendorf and Yoder could find themselves playing at second base this season, while Pierce will play some shortstop for the Fightin' Quakers.
"One of the things that I look for in player especially, with your infielders is the ability to play more than one spot," said Floyd. "Having solid utility players as a part of your program is huge because you can never tell when there may be an injury or someone is just in a horrible slump its nice having options or someone has to go in to pitch having a strong utility players kind of defines the strength of your team."
Junior Savannah Hooper (Leesburg, OH/Wilmington), a second team All-Central Region selection last season, returns for her third season. Ironically, it will also be a third position change for the versatile athlete. After spending her freshman season at second base, and last season at left field, Hooper is slated to start the season in right for WC.
She finished third in the Ohio Athletic Conference with a team-high .472 average, which was the third-best average all-time at Wilmington.
"Savannah is very coaches dream she works hard she is a great teammate she is talented she is coachable I expect big things from her," said Floyd. "We have to do a better job of scoring her, we need to get her in. She is going to set the table for us, and our job is to be able to get her in. This year, I think we will have the tools to do that more as we are going to be a better offensive team, and Savannah is just a special player."
Junior Chandler Fields (Delaware, OH/Rutherford B. Hayes) could find her way into the Wilmington lineup, either as an outfielder or designated player.
Freshmen Micalah Hensley (Houston, OH/Houston), Je'Taysia Johns (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington) and Bailey Sweeney (Columbus, OH/Bishop Hartley) all have the tools to contribute greatly for the Fightin' Quakers this season.
"We have some very good outfielders," said Floyd. "Micalah Hensley is very good offensive and defensive player. She is covers a lot of ground, and is not afraid to go after one. Then, we have Je'Taysia and Bailey, who are very different type players, but are very strong on their own right. Je'Taysia is a slapper, a triple threat from the left side. Bailey is just as consistent as you can get from the right side. So there is some depth. Chandler, who always swings a good bat, does a great job of being probably one of our better contact hitters."
Floyd believes this season is capable of putting together one of best seasons in school history, and brings a balanced attack for teams to contend with.
"I think that most coaches want that ideal team that is combination of speed and power and this is close as we have been to having that," said Floyd. "We went from being a very powerful team that was not very fast, to a team that was very fast with very little power. Recruiting is a difficult thing, you just cant snap your fingers and magically get everything you want. This year is as close as we have been with having that balance that allows you to be a dangerous offensive team. One of our goals, obviously you want to outscore your opponent, but if we can score five or six run consistently, we are going to win a lot of ball games."
Wilmington opens the 2017 season Wednesday, March 8 at Centre College.