EMORY, Va. - The Emory & Henry College Softball Team was picked fifth in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference preseason poll to start the 2016 season. Last year, the Wasps finished sixth in the regular season and third in the ODAC Tournament with a 26-12 overall record. The .684 winning percentage ranks second best in school history behind the 2002 team which finished 32-12.
Head Coach Tommy Forrester is heading into his third season and is already the second-winningest coach in program history. Forrester returns sixteen letterwinners including all eight defensive starters and senior pitcher Taylor Banner.
Banner, who started ten games last year, will be the Wasps' ace this season. She has 16 wins and 14 complete games in her collegiate career. Banner will also contribute with her bat this season after posting a .444 batting average and five RBI last season. The number two pitcher for E&H is Kaitlyn Pruitt. Although she did not play in 2015, Pruitt has valuable pitching experience with two wins over five starts in her previous two seasons played. She also has 29 career strikeouts in 40.2 career innings.
Last year, Emory & Henry saw three freshman players named to the All-ODAC Teams. Outfielder Leah Elswick hit .398 with four home runs, 11 doubles, and 24 RBI on the way to All-ODAC First Team accolades. Fellow freshmen Caley Hodge and Danielle Loving were selected to the All-ODAC Third Team. Hodge led the league with 11 home runs and posted a .375 batting average with 38 RBI. Loving hit .366, which included a nine-game hitting streak.
The Wasps will rely on their veterans to be leaders on and off the field, paving the way for a crop of young talent. Senior Hannah Bays, who has been a key player for the past three years, has 21 career home runs which is one off the E&H career record. In 2015, Bays hit .317 with five home runs. Senior Taylor Doss drove in 22 runs on 32 hits last year with 10 extra-base hits. Senior Alyssa Clark returns to her shortstop position for the Wasps after finishing the 2015 season with a .945 fielding percentage, 11 double plays and a team-high 81 assists.
Juniors Riley Pudney and Jordan Chrisley are also among the returners for Emory & Henry. Pudney and Chrisley posted 29 and 27 hits, respectively, playing stellar defense at second base and behind the plate. Both hit a home run and stole eight bases in 2015.
With all of their starters returning and an infusion of freshmen, the Wasps have the talent and depth necessary to make waves in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
-photo courtesy of Caleb Johnston, E&H'15