|Emmalee Cooke returns with speed atop the lineup having swiped 10 bases last year.|
College of Wooster softball coach Victoria Rumph doesn't think a top two spot atop the North Coast Athletic Conference is unattainable as her team embarks on its 2019 campaign.
The Scots were 12-26 overall last year and 4-12 in the NCAC.
However, the conference is losing some of its top talent in Player of the Year Lauren Secaras from Denison and, arguably the two best pitchers in the league, Chelsea Zang from Wittenberg and Emma Baldwin from DePauw.
"We're aiming for that conference championship game," Rumph said. "That's the goal for the team and it's definitely a realistic goal for us with the talent we have returning and coming in."
Unfortunately, another big name who graduated was Wooster's own Maddy Chase. Chase, a four-year standout, was the team's best hitter and pitcher last year compiling a 2.31 ERA in 19 appearances on the mound and hitting a team-high average of .424.
Chase and Anna Blake were the only losses to graduation. This year, Wooster rides with just one senior on its 20-player roster, Chelsea Copley.
"Maddy's definitely a big loss this year, but overall, I think we have a lot more depth this year one-through-nine in the lineup and with more potential for pinch hit and pinch run situations," Rumph said.
Chase was an All-NCAC First Team selection last year with teammate Marina Roski.
Offensively, Roski provided most of the power last year with eight of the team's 10 home runs. She was second-best on the team in average at .397 and led the team with 32 RBI.
"She brings a level of comfort to the field," Rumph said. "When she's at the plate she's an aggressive hitter and you know something is going to happen. She is going to be taking big swings and sending balls in the gaps. She is a hitter that intimidates pitchers."
Now a junior and second-year captain, Roski will be looked upon to provide more of a leadership role. Sophomore Emmalee Cooke will be looked upon to do the same.
Cooke batted .344 as a first-year with six doubles and 11 RBI. She led the team with 10 stolen bases and is expected to bat at the top of the lineup.
"I think our sophomores and juniors have grown up a lot over the past year," Rumph said. "Marina acted like she was an upperclassman from the start of her sophomore year. Although we look young, we have solid leadership."
Rumph praises the depth as an advantage to her squad that will also help their pitching game. The Scots used primarily three pitchers in 2018. This year three freshmen come into the fold vying for playing time.
Wooster ranked fourth in the conference with a 3.46 ERA. They were also among the best defensively with a .952 fielding percentage for second in the NCAC.
Two sophomore pitchers, Olivia Johnson and Marissa Norgrove, will look to improve upon their debut campaigns. Norgrove appeared in 30 games and made nine starts, compiling a 3-8 record with four saves. Johnson went 5-8 in 22 appearances and 14 starts.
"Pitching wise, I think we're going to surprise some people," Rumph said. "Olivia Johnson and Marissa Norgrove have really elevated their game this offseason, and we are excited to see what they will be able to do for us on the mound."
Wooster will look at first-years Katie Agatucci, Catie Rogan and Daphne Pate to fill the rotation and the pen. First-years Gabby Lakes and Grace Randall could each be solid additions to the batting order.
The Scots also add a transfer from Otterbein in junior Kendall Lloyd who should find herself in the lineup more times than naught. Sisters Heidi and Molly Likins could find time in the corner infield positions.
"The necessity of everybody to contribute and the reality of everyone contributing is going to be a lot higher this year as opposed to the majority of offensive contributions being placed on Maddy's shoulders last year," Rumph added.
The Scots ended the year on a seven-game skid and were 3-15 overall in games that were decided by two or fewer runs. Six of those seven games were decided by that margin.
"We're really taking an accountability look at things this season," Rumph said. "I think it's promoting competition in a good way. Them holding themselves to higher standards and being willing to speak up when they see something that shouldn't be happening and giving each other 'great jobs' when good things are happening."
The team opens the season with a 12-game spring break trip in Florida that begins on March 11 with games against Wisconsin Lutheran College and Salve Regina University. Their first home game will be against Baldwin Wallace University on March 31, and they'll open NCAC play three days later, hosting Wittenberg University.