The Shippensburg University softball team is set to head into the 2020 season with high expectations and a cupboard full of talented players.
Coming off a season in which the team finished 25-22 and was eliminated by rival West Chester University in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament, head coach Alison Van Scyoc has set the goal at 30 wins for this season.
The Raiders are led by their two seniors, outfielders Meghan Klee and Kayla Bonawitz. Both players are four-year starters and bring a lot of experience to an otherwise young roster.
Klee is coming off her best collegiate season, batting .317 with one home run and 21 RBIs. She also got on base at a career-high level (.418 on-base percentage).
Bonawitz, the team’s leadoff hitter, presents a combination of contact and speed at the plate. Last season, she hit .319 with 13 RBIs and a career-high 18 stolen bases.
In addition to the two seniors, the Raiders have a plethora of talented players throughout the roster. Coach Van Scyoc believes the Raiders have a dangerous offense this season led by Bonawitz, junior Courtney Coy and sophomores Hannah Marsteller and Morgan DeFeo.
Coy, hitting third in the batting order, exploded at the plate last season, hitting a team-leading .395 to go with six home runs and 43 RBIs. She put in a lot of extra work throughout the offseason and focused on the mental aspect of the game.
“Focusing more on the little things rather than just hitting home runs,” Coy said. “The things that usually go through my head are ‘OK, there’s probably a runner on first. How am I going to get it around?’ We get a lot of opportunities at practice, whether it is live, cuts or situation-based batting practice and that helps a lot.”
She also talked about one of her weaknesses — hitting the outside pitch — and how she has put in a lot of work in an attempt to be able to cover the entirety of the strike zone.
Marsteller, batting fourth, burst onto the scene during her freshman season. She batted .293 and crushed 10 home runs while driving in 46 runs. The combination of Coy and Marsteller in the middle of the order presents a terror for opposing teams.
SU has a swiss army knife of a second baseman in DeFeo. As a freshman last season, she hit .375 with 23 RBIs. While she did not hit a home run, she finished with eight doubles and one triple.
On the mound, the Raiders will look like a completely different team. Stalwart Taryn Wilson graduated and the team has a handful of options to pitch throughout the season.
“I think we will probably surprise a little bit of people. We plan to use Courtney Coy a little bit more on the mound,” Van Scyoc said. “We will use more of a pitch by committee approach to get us through ball games.”
Coy, in addition to being one of the team’s top hitters, has a history of pitching throughout her high school career and a little bit in college. She has already totaled 32 innings in her two years at Shippensburg, most of them coming during her freshman season.
The Raiders’ committee approach on the mound will be led by a combination of sophomores Tressa Kagarise and Hannah Johnson. Kagarise pitched to a 3.50 ERA and a 12-7 record in 112 innings last season.
She spoke before this season about some of the things she focused on working to improve throughout the offseason.
“I started working on an off-speed [pitch],” Kagarise said. “I need to continue working on my changeup so I can have a change of pace from just throwing hard things after hard things so they kind of catch up to the speed. And just working more on throwing first-pitch strikes as well.”
In addition to working on adding another pitch to her repertoire, she also will improve on the mound based off gaining confidence after getting her freshman season under her belt. She said she felt intimidated when she first came to Shippensburg due to the heightened level of competition at the collegiate level.
In addition to Kagarise and Johnson, the Raiders have some freshman recruits who have the ability to step up and produce this season.
Freshman Hannah Palinkas will have a small role in the pitching rotation to begin the season. She finished her senior season at Emmaus High School 12-5 with a 0.95 ERA and 152 strikeouts, earning a spot on the second-team Eastern Pennsylvania Conference all-star squad.
Overall, the Raiders have a lot of talent throughout the roster, leading to a high potential for success this season. Even with the talent throughout the roster, playing and practicing with a consistent approach will be very important this season.
“Being consistent with our day-to-day approach,” Coach Van Scyoc said. “We struggled a little bit with that due to our youth last year, so being consistent in how hard we practice every day will hopefully translate into gameday.”
The Raiders open up their season this weekend in the Snowbird Softball Freeze Out in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.