MC softball eyes three-peat

Like clockwork, spring on Maryville College’s campus means the softball Scots are back in action, and this year is no different. With an elite crew of returning athletes, head coach Leah Kelley’s team is once again eyeing a USA South championship.

Last year, the Scots finished 29-11 and took home the USA South championship with a victory over Averett. The team then qualified for the NCAA regionals, where they ultimately were eliminated by nationally ranked DePauw. The team also took home the conference championship in 2018, with a 31-14 record, adding to the program’s long history of success.

While back-to-back conference titles are nothing to scoff at, this year’s team is looking for even more. Coach Kelley has built this program from the ground up, and a dynasty is forming with each new recruit.

Students begin a game of intramural volleyball.

Photo courtesy of Samantha Adkins.

A strong senior class will lead this year’s team: OF Ashton Hayden, UT Christina White, UT Allison Botts, C/INF Reid Ballard, and INF Morgan Brewer. Hayden, White, and Ballard each had batting averages higher than .330 last year and look to bring some juice into the 2020 lineup.

Along with the senior leadership comes star power in junior Taylor Campbell, who put up video game numbers last year with a slash line of .475/.552/.800 (AVG, OBP, SLG). SLG stands for slugging, which is essentially a calculation of the rate at which a batter accrues bases. For context, the highest slugging percentage in the MLB in 2019 was accomplished by Christian Yelich at .67 — so Campbell’s SLG is quite impressive.

The team also returns two sophomores, C/OF Kylie Canova and OF Amaya Goodloe, who are both looking to contribute to this year’s title run.

The newbies on this team include Kennedy Richardson, a junior transfer from Carson Newman, as well as an inspiring young class of freshman including INF Courtney Deck, UT Bailey Ensley, INF Annie Fowler, P Kennedy Henry, P Hannah Bruce, P Anna Renninger, P/UT Jazmine Geary, P/INF Kasey Monday, and P/UT Danielle Abell.

The team focuses on three things: solid defense, pitching, and the long ball. Last year, the squad accomplished a team fielding percentage of .970, only making 32 errors the whole year. When watching this group play, it’s evident how passionate Coach Kelley is about defense both from a recruiting and coaching standpoint.

Pitching is also a massive strength of Coach Kelley’s team. After putting together a team ERA of 2.40 last year, the Scots have brought in six freshman pitchers to fill in the shoes of greats who came before them. As of March 1, freshman Abell leads the team with a 3.42 ERA and looks like a promising stud for the future.

Along with elite defense and pitching comes power. Campbell led last year’s squad with nine dingers out of the team’s 20. She has started 2020 where she left off — with three nukes already. Hayden has also added to the home run total so far with one, but there are plenty more coming.

It looks like another year of dominance from the USA South’s evil empire. With a strong young core of players combined with battered veterans, this gritty team will be a must-watch during the spring. Support the Scots as they eye their third straight USA South Championship win.

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