by Bailey Angle–
BLACKSBURG, Va.— The Virginia Tech Hokies Softball is optimistic to find a balance between their lack of experience and veteran leadership throughout the fall season.
The Hokies rolled over both Milligan College and West Virginia Wesleyan over the past weekend. West Virginia Wesleyan competed in the NCAA Division II College World Series in 2015.
“I was really happy with how our pitchers worked,” said Elizabeth Birle, a senior first baseman and utility player.
Pitching has been the main question going into the 2017 regular season for the Hokies. Maggie Tyler worked as the ace for Virginia Tech in 2016, earning First Team All-ACC honors. After her graduation, the team strives to replace Tyler with depth in the spring.
Birle explained that the potential pitching staff is both youthful and dynamic. Most of the pitchers work as position players as well. Aysha Richardson and Mikaela Aiken, both juniors, will find time in the circle as well as in the outfield and at third base.
Chelsea Whitcomb, a redshirt sophomore, enjoys the multifaceted responsibility of being both a pitcher and one of the team’s best defensive players. She also applauded the new practice structure that allows her to improve her pitching and offensive technique.
“Pitchers show up to practice thirty minutes early. I like that better because I can focus on one task,” Whitcomb explained.
Two of the bigger additions on the team throughout the fall season have been Taylor Barnes and Carrie Eberle, two freshmen that work as position players as well. Olivia Lattin, a sophomore, will likely continue to be the team’s starting second baseman as well as an option out of the bullpen. They will complete the battery with Lauren Duff, the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year who started for Virginia Tech at catcher.
Even with the overwhelming amount of rawness on the roster, both Whitcomb and Breanna Davenport, a junior outfielder, hope to lead through example for the Hokies. Both players have dealt with meticulous injuries throughout their collegiate softball careers.
“I think since I’ve been through some of the stuff, I can people who are in slumps, who are having trouble…me being in the situation I think I’ll be able to ease it for people,” Davenport postulated, who struggled with an ankle injury for a considerable amount of both the 2015 and 2016 season.
As one of the two oldest members of the team, Birle accepted her role as a leader with Vanessa Gonzalez. She and Birle are the Hokies’ only seniors.
“It’s kind of a mental change,” said Birle. “Even at practice everyone kind of feeds off of your vibe, so you have to be at the top of your game all the time.”