Softball ready to take on the ODAC

Twenty-seven girls. One team. One family.

On Feb. 20, the Guilford College softball team will kickoff their 2016 season with an all-too-familiar home game against Meredith College.

“Last year, we split with (Meredith),” said senior pitcher Casey Snead. “We played doubleheaders each time. We lost one game and won one game. As seniors, this year we are trying to make it (two wins).”

The team sees the game against Meredith College as the first step toward an Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championship.

Coaches can now only hope for the best.

“(Meredith College) is always competitive,” said head coach Dennis Shores. “I am looking for two wins, but it all depends on the softball gods.”

One thing teammates and coaches agree on is the new strength of the first-years.

“All the first-years we brought in are really good hitters,” said assistant coach Anna Mitchell. “Hitting will be a strong point for us this year.”

The first-years have managed to tackle the area the team struggled with last season. “Last year, we lost nine games by one one run,” said junior catcher Erin Ogden. “In order to change that, we need to hit the ball that much better to win those games. That will change our overall record for the better.”

Returning players foresee the first-years as the key to unlocking an ODAC championship.

“We have a young team, but I think, with our talent, we should be able to go a lot further than last year,” said Snead. “I think we can make it all the way.

“I think our girls want to see a ring.”

Last season the team went 24–17 overall and 11–9 in conference play.

Coming off of last season, the Quakers were picked fifth in the ODAC coach’s preseason poll.

But players cannot wait to prove the ranking wrong.

“I have a gut feeling that this season will be one of the best,” said senior outfielder Calli Pastor. “The group of girls we have on the team this year just clicks, and everyone can see it. We all work well together, and each individual brings their own little spunk to the team’s personality.”

This season, the Quakers are returning with two All-ODAC honorees, first-team junior second basemen Caroline Barnette and second-team junior shortstop Taylor Boyd. The team also possesses the leadership and guidance from experienced seniors — outfielder Brooks Bray, outfielder Laura Hall, pitcher/infielder Maggie Shaffer, Pastor and Snead. 

“I believe, as a senior pitcher, I bring a kind of calm leadership to the team,” said senior Maggie Shaffer. “I love pitching and playing in close games, and when the pressure is high, I like to try and calm the team down and make sure they’re just focused on this one play or on this one pitch.”

The Quakers have also been training hard, implementing a few key routines.

“One thing I have always done (and always will do) is making sure I work out on my own and build up my muscular endurance,” said Pastor. “It is important that athletes in and out of season maintain an ‘in-shape’ body.”

Coaches have been working hard to keep the girls safe.

“We are trying to get them into proper condition to try and prevent injuries,” said Shores. “Our season is so fast, and we play so many games in a short period of time.

“If they do get hurt, they miss a lot.”

For the girls, one word sums up their goal: consistency.

“As for the team, I know we all want to see consistency,” said Pastor. “Consistency of play, focus and determination will definitely be the key to our success this year.”

However, all is futile without the support of fellow Quakers.

“We play consistent, fundamentally sound softball,” said Shaffer. “We are well worth the trip down to Haworth Field.”