Coming into 2017, junior shortstop Cash Gladfelter returned as one of the Raiders’ key pieces after graduating star third baseman Ryan McMillen and the slugging Jake Kennedy at first base.
While McMillen and Kennedy are not easy pieces to replace — McMillen hit .386 and led the team in hits and runs scored, while Kennedy mashed 22 home runs and a school-record 71 RBIs — Gladfelter is clearly an important piece to the offensive puzzle that includes star catcher Drew Bene and an all-conference selection at second base in Nick Spangler.
Gladfelter put together the best season of his career thus far in his sophomore season, hitting .370 with 19 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 40 RBI to rebound from a .253 batting average in 2016.
The biggest part of the change for the shortstop was his approach at the plate.
“First, my hitting lessons with coach [Anthony] Renz the last year and a half has helped a lot,” Gladfelter said. “He’s really been like my therapist at the plate. I’ve definitely matured as a hitter. My freshman year I went up just looking to hit home runs. Last year, I went into the three hole and was just trying to hit the ball in the gaps and provide run support for my team.”
The maturity at the plate helped Shippensburg University turn around its season after beginning the campaign 12-16-1. With Gladfelter batting third in the lineup, SU rallied and never looked back, finishing the season with a record of 31-24-1 and advancing to the Atlantic Region Championships in Jamestown, New York.
Gladfelter said the turnaround was in large part because of the team learning to win and coming together.
“I think the beginning half of last season we were an immature team that didn’t know how to win,” he said. “Once we got that winning feeling we just rolled with that. Now that we know we want to win, and we know how to win and can keep that going on, we should continue last year’s second half into this year.”
While the season seemed to rival last year’s start as the Raiders lost seven of their first nine games, SU has once again found its stride, as SU is 9-7 heading into Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) play after reeling off a seven-game win streak.
The focus for SU on its winning streak and for this season has been the mantra of “one more.”
“We just have been trying to stay focused,” Gladfelter said. “Head coach [Matt] Jones has been pounding that into our heads to focus one week at a time, one game at a time, one pitch. Just one more of everything.”
After getting a glimpse of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Raiders are hoping to return this season and use past success as a learning experience after falling to Winston-Salem State University in the regional. The Raiders led 5-1 before surrendering the lead. SU scored three runs in the final inning but it was not enough, as SU came up just short, losing 9-8.
That game, along with the tournament experience, has proved to be a learning opportunity for Gladfelter and the rest of the team as they hope to build on last year.
“It was fun, especially coming from my freshman year to make it to regionals. Regionals are a big thing and something we strive for every year,” Gladfelter said. “We didn’t finish last year the way we wanted to, so hopefully we’re able to do that. It was a lot of fun with a great group of guys and we played really well.”
Gladfelter has had a decent start to the season at the plate, hitting .267 with three doubles and three triples in 16 games. Gladfelter also has 11 RBIs, including a walk-off single in a game this season against Le Moyne College on March 4.
The main goal this season for Gladfelter has been to continue to improve at the plate while helping his team win more games than last year. He said that 35 wins is a goal he would like to see the team reach this season.
“I just want to contribute more runs and help my team win more games,” he said. “We’d like to get to 35 wins and just keep playing.”
SU begins conference play on Tuesday with a home-doubleheader against Eastern Division foe Millersville University at SU’s Fairchild Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. The second game will begin shortly after the conclusion of the first.