After leading the Fighting Scots to their first North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament appearance since 2012, second-year head coach Victoria Rumph and company bring proven leadership and a new slate of athleticism to the fold in 2018 with a collective mindset fixed on competing for an outright league title.
"We have players who have been to the conference championship, they know what it takes to win games there, and we are all in on competing for an outright conference championship," Rumph said.
The Scots welcome a host of first-year talent – eight student-athletes to be exact – in addition to three All-NCAC returnees, including the reigning Conference Player of the Year in senior Maddy Chase.
|Last season, senior Maddy Chase became the first player in program history to be named NCAC Player of the Year.|
"It's exciting to have back the Player of the Year in Maddy," Rumph noted. "She's going to continue from where she left off last year at the mound and, at the plate, she's continuing to show everything that she did and improve on what she did last year, so that's obviously really exciting."
Chase earned second-team All-Central Region honors last season after becoming the first player in program history to be crowned NCAC Player of the Year.
Last season, Chase led the league with a .436 batting average in addition to top-five conference marks in slugging percentage (.564), on-base percentage (.477), hits (61) and runs (33), with the latter two statistical categories marking single-season program records. From the circle, Chase earned 11 wins on the year while striking out 90—both top two totals in the NCAC—en route to a 2.61 ERA, another top-five conference mark.
Returning alongside Chase at shortstop is sophomore Marina Roski, who comes back after a second-team All-NCAC caliber season which witnessed her break the program record for single-season assists with 133. Additionally, Roski is the Scots' returning lead RBI generator with 21 last year on .310 hitting and will serve as one of four team captains, along with Chase, junior Chelsea Copley, and senior Anna Blake.
Copley, on the other hand, is expected to lead the Scots from the outfield after hitting .357 in league play en route to honorable mention honors as the everyday right fielder. Notably, Copley rocketed the game-winning two-run homer against top-seeded Wittenberg University in the opening game of the NCAC Tournament last season, and currently stands tied for seventh all-time in program history with six career home runs.
Blake, a defensive reserve and pinch run option, is one of just two seniors on the roster and has continued to improve her mechanics over the offseason, according to the staff. She is expected to see an increase in playing time as a pinch hitter.
Continuing with the outfield, sophomore Samantha Tromba, an everyday starter at second base last year, is expected to move to left field. As a first-year, Tromba garnered 13 runs and four RBI last season and provides a good deal of athleticism alongside Copley and first-year Torrey Totman, who is slated to start in centerfield.
Speaking of first-years, with the new season comes a largely young roster, as eight of Wooster's 15 players are first-years. Regardless of their experience levels, Rumph noted the team's overall heightened sense of competition and athleticism.
"One of the biggest things we have this year is athleticism to where our players can play many different positions on the field and I can move them around freely," Rumph said.
At the circle, in addition to Chase, Wooster welcomes two first-years to the rotation in Olivia Johnson and Marissa Norgrove. As a trio, Rumph noted the line-up's overall variability as a positive development from last year's pitching staff.
Behind the plate, sophomore Morgan Bailey and first-year Alexis Bauer are expected to compete for a starting position, though Bailey could see time at first when Chase is pitching. Bailey totaled 31 at-bats in 22 appearances last season while playing behind veteran catcher Linea Brouse, who graduated with the most all-time appearances in program history (152).
Additionally, sophomore Savanna Hitlan, who spent most of 2017 recovering from injury, has improved significantly since her first day on campus, according to the staff, especially in terms of her bat and is expected to compete for time at first base and as a designated player.
At third base, first-year Heidi Likins is battling for a starting role, though in reference to the Scots' noted flexibility, she could see time at second base as well as the outfield, according to Rumph. A hard swinger, expect Likins to appear in the cleanup position.
First-year Emmalee Cooke has continued to show her athleticism and versatility, as well as her solid bat, and will probably start at second base though could see time at third as well as behind the plate, per the staff.
With last year's conference tournament qualifiers all returning their respective top pitchers, the competition level remains steady throughout the NCAC. However, with adaptability and a stout defensive lineup combined with a solid hitting core, Wooster's sights remain clear in 2018.
"Our girls want to win a conference championship, and we've got the tools to do it," Rumph said.
Wooster opens the season on March 12 against Centenary University (N.J.) at 1 p.m. at Kissimmee, Fla., before opening the conference schedule at home against reigning NCAC champion DePauw University on March 31 at 1 p.m.