BEREA, Ohio – The Baldwin Wallace University softball team continues its quest in 2018 for the program's first ever Ohio Athletic Conference Championship
Head coach Tom Spencer, who is in his 14th season in Berea and 20th overall, returns 13 letterwinners, seven everyday players and two pitchers while welcoming 11 new faces to the field this spring.
"We are ready for the season to get underway," Spencer said. "With our brand new BW Softball Complex, we have a lot to be excited for this year."
The infield will prove to be a strong point as junior third baseman Paige Loveless (Mechanicsburg), junior shortstop Erica English (North Olmsted), sophomore second baseman Alex Kozich (Avon) and sophomore first baseman Hannah Albrecht (Northridge, Calif./Chaminade College Prep) all return in 2018. An All-OAC selection as a freshman, English batted .301 in her sophomore season with four doubles, one home run and 12 RBIs while Loveless scored 11 runs with 10 RBIs. Meanwhile, Kozich and Albrecht had successful freshman seasons in the Brown and Gold and both hope to build that into a strong sophomore campaign. Kozich was third on the team with a .313 batting average, second with six doubles, tied for second with 13 RBIs and first in stolen bases with 11. Albrecht led the team with 17 RBIs and 13 walks.
Rounding out the infielders are junior second baseman Krista Jennings (Luckey/Eastwood), freshman first baseman Hailey Blankenship (Berlin Heights/Firelands), freshman first baseman Hannah Perrine (Sagamore Hills/Nordonia), freshman first baseman Mackenzie Milligan (Cleveland/St. Joseph Academy), freshman third baseman Abbie Priel (Alpharetta, Ga./South Forsyth) and freshman first baseman Shae Sted (Parma/Valley Forge) as each hopes to make an impact on the field and in the lineup.
Junior Abbie Thompson (Madison) and junior All-OAC right fielder Alexis Boledovic (Brook Park/Berea-Midpark) are the only two everyday outfielders that return to roam the grass this season. Boledovic led the team with .373 average, 44 hits and eight doubles en route to a first-team All-OAC selection after making the switch from first base to the outfield. Thompson saw limited action in 2017 due to an injury and will look to bounce back while leading the outfield corps along with Boledovic.
Sophomore outfielder Macy Leach (Westerville/Central) also looks to return from injury as she appeared in just 14 games but batted .300 and tied for the team lead with a 1.000 fielding percentage. However, freshman outfielder Hailey Owens (Lakewood) will also push for that third and final outfield spot.
In the circle, the Yellow Jackets return senior pitcher Sam Mott (Frewsburg, N.Y./Central). Mott made 26 appearances on the mound, recording 10 wins, 121 strikeouts and a 2.91 ERA in 125.0 innings pitched. Sophomore pitcher Nikki Turner (Hudson) also returns after a freshman campaign which saw her throw in 17 games for a total of 59.1 innings and finish second in strikeouts with 40. However, freshmen pitchers Abby Cosart (Lima/Bath) and Makenzie Storts (London/Licking Heights) will prove to be stiff competition as each fights for a spot in the rotation.
Behind the plate, junior Sami Minor (North Royalton) will look to be the primary backstop. Minor hit .297 as a sophomore, led the team in triples with two and was third in stolen bases with six. Defensively, she recorded 83 putouts and 14 assists to tally a fielding percentage of .970. Senior Tori Young (Tallmadge) and sophomore Talia Prignano (Avon Lake) also saw time in the battery. Young hit for a .318 average last season while Prignano also tied for the team lead with a 1.000 fielding percentage and caught 11 runners stealing.
Transfer sophomore catcher/utility player Lexi Ripperger (Loveland/Mount Notre Dame), freshman catcher/outfielder Renata Russo (Columbus/Bexley) and freshman catcher/utility player Alex Dick (Elyria) have the opportunity to make an impact behind the plate or in other areas of the field as well.
BW opens the 2018 season with its spring break trip to Kissimmee, Florida, to compete in the Sunkissed Match Games from March 4-8. The Yellow Jackets will take on Thiel (Pa.) College, Bluffton University, Alfred (N.Y.) University, Simmons (Mass.) College, Emerson (Mass.) College, Widener (Pa.) University, Bridgewater (Va.) College, Rhodes (Tenn.) College, Montclair State (N.J.) University and DeSales (Pa.) University while on the trip.