Softball 2014 Season Outlook

A new look softball team will take the field in 2014 for Wilmington University as first year head coach Mike Shehorn returns five student-athletes and welcomes 11 newcomers to the squad to kick off the season.

Shehorn was announced as the head coach in August, becoming the fourth head coach in program history. He was one of the team’s assistant coaches for the 2013 season, helping the team as the first base coach during the team’s run into the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament.

Joining Shehorn for her second season as an assistant is Beth Weaver, who will once again coach the outfield and return to duty in the first base coaches’ box. Local product Cara Stecher joins the coaching staff as an assistant, focusing on the pitching staff. Stecher made four appearances in the DIAA State Championship game at Caravel Academy before heading to play at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

“We work really well together,” Shehorn said of the coaching staff. “The team is adjusting well to the enthusiasm we bring as a staff to every practice. I’m a high energy guy and I hope to instil that into the girls for each practice. Both Beth and Cara have brought their experience from a Division I program to the team and the workout and conditioning program Cara has brought in has already made a tremendous improvement in our pitching staff.”

Before the team settles into each individual role, Shehorn will depend on the depth of the pitching staff to work its way through a few games. Junior Chelsea Botsch returns for her third season as a starting pitcher for the Wildcats while she will be joined by senior transfer Stephanie Sarris and incoming freshmen Brooke Lachette and Colby Wyatt in the circle. All four will be relied upon to start the majority of the games this season.

Sarris, a captain, comes to Wilmington with three years’ experience at the NCAA Division I level, playing at Delaware State to start her collegiate career. She will be joined by last year’s teammate Jen Fischbach who also came over from Delaware State for her sophomore season, and will see time in relief in the circle. Senior captain Danielle Griffin returns for her fourth season as a reliever while freshman Shannon McMahon joins the staff after being a New Jersey All-State performer last season.

Many of the position players provide Shehorn and the coaching staff flexibility, being able to play multiple positions in the field.

Senior captain Meghan Logullo will control the outfield, taking over as the centerfielder after playing left field for the past three seasons. She will be flanked by junior transfer from Delaware State Kelsey Doherty in left field and freshman newcomer Becca Stanley in right field. Returning sophomore Rice Fazio, as well as Botsch and McMahon, give the team experienced depth in the outfield.

Sophomore Cambria Ziemba returns as the lone Wildcat in the infield from last year’s team as she will once again play second base. Sophomore transfer from Delaware State, Miranda Pedersen takes over at shortstop while Doherty can be called upon to fill in either middle infield position when needed.

Sophomore transfer from Goldey-Beacom, Katrina Swank will anchor the position at first base with junior transfer Michelle Panasiti coming from Gloucester County CC and taking over third base. A trio of catchers is set to control the pitching staff, as sophomore transfer Ashley Bennett (Delaware State), Panasiti, and Stanley will take the reins behind the plate.

Panasiti and Bennett are interchangeable between third base and the catcher position while Fischbach and Wyatt will also see time at third base. Lachette and Bennett will also provide backup for Swank at first base while all the reserves are still competing to appear in the lineup as the designated player.

As of the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II National Poll, the Wildcats are set to square off against three teams that appeared in the poll during their Spring Break trip to Clermont, Fla. in the beginning of March. Grand Valley State and Shippensburg were among the Top 25 while Winona State received votes in the latest weekly poll.

“The tough schedule while in Florida allows us to see where this team is at right away,” Shehorn said. “It’s a tough schedule, but it’s going to set us up nicely for when we come back and start the CACC schedule and deeper into the season.”

Last year, the team set a program record for wins in a season (34) and conference wins (19), earning the third seed for the CACC Tournament hosted by Georgian Court in Lakewood, N.J.

The team has improved its conference wins each of the past three seasons, culminating in the team playing four games in the CACC Tournament last year.

The goal for 2014 is to go even farther.

“The team and the coaching staff’s expectation is to win the conference,” Shehorn said. “It’s going to take a team effort which means consistence from our pitching staff and the offense is going to have to manufacture some runs. The conference’s top four teams are all real close in comparison. It regularly comes down to who capitalizes on their opportunities when it comes to advancing in the tournament.

“These girls are eager to play with everything they have had to endure this past offseason,” Shehorn concluded about the tough winter the East Coast has endured. “The team is really excited to get out on a field and play against someone in a different uniform for once. To achieve what we want to achieve we have to work harder than everybody else and that has been our motto this entire preseason.”