Softball’s young roster ready to swing into 2020

Guilford College softball had a successful 2019 season ending with a record of 26-15. In Old Dominion Athletic Conference play they finished with a record of 10-10. Compared to the Quakers 2018 season of going 5-13 in ODAC play, they made huge improvements.

“Maturity had an impact in the bettering of our season last year. As you get older, you get wiser,” said head coach Dennis Shores. “This year, we are going to keep running with the program. Our pitching and fielding are looking good. Our hitting, I’m not sure yet.”

This year’s team is young after losing nine seniors last year.

“Inexperience is one of the team’s weaknesses this season. We graduated so many last year,” said Shores. “We definitely lost a lot of talent and leadership from last year, but I’m really excited to see the girls step up, break into the lineup and feel comfortable leading one another.”

“Sometimes when you have such a large senior class, it is hard for younger girls to feel it is appropriate to take a leadership role,” said senior Kayli Blankenship.

The Quakers have several key returners who plan to fill these leadership roles to the best of their ability.

Last year, senior Natalie Conrad appeared in 40 games, leading the team and ranking third in the ODAC with a .430 batting average. She also set a new school record for triples in a season, and currently sits third in school history with 41 runs, and in fifth for hitting with 58 hits.

Conrad earned second-team status in the ODAC and was named the league’s Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance scholar-athlete of the year.

Sarah Aukamp appeared in 38 games and ended the season with a .374 batting average. Her best game was against Mary Baldwin College on Feb. 24, 2019, where she led the team to victory with three hits, two RBI’s, a double and two home runs.

Returning pitcher Abigayle Rowell ended last season with a 7-5 record, 21 strikeouts and a 5.25 ERA.

“My mindset is to just work hard this season. I did well last season, but I am looking to improve. I want to be a teammate that people have confidence in and look up to,” said Rowell.

The Quakers ended the 2019 season with a team batting average of .356 and an on base percentage of .412.

In the 2020 ODAC preseason poll, the team ranked sixth.

“Some current goals for the team this season are to win and to better the girls this season compared to last,” said Shores.

“As a whole, the team is closer this year, and it seems to be working really well so far. There’s a lot of positivity going on at practice and it’s encouraging,” said Rowell.

“I am so stoked for this season,” Blankenship said. “My softball career as a whole, and specifically in college, has been quite a journey. I am so thankful I have been given this experience. I want to go into each day and enjoy every second because I know it is going to fly by.

“I also want to be able to look back on my career and know that I gave it my all and that I left everything on the field. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls and coaches to finish this journey with,” Blankenship said.

The Quakers will play their first game of the season on Saturday, Feb. 8, at William Peace University. ODAC play begins on Wednesday, March 18, at Ferrum College.

Editor’s note: This story originally was published in Volume 106, Issue 9 of The Guilfordian on Jan. 24, 2020.