by Tim Miller
Cedarville Lady Jackets head softball coach Wes Rowe said his 2017 team is the best he has had in his 10-year tenure at Cedarville.
The 2016 season ended just as it did in 2015 with a second-place finish in the G-MAC. The team concluded 2016 with a 28-31 record, including a 16-12 record in the G-MAC.
Coach Rowe said his team underachieved in 2016, but that the players improved as the year went on.
“We probably did not produce as well on the field as we were capable of producing,” Rowe said.
Even with a less than stellar 2016 season, Rowe said he expects his squad to be much stronger this spring.
After almost a decade of coaching softball, Rowe has learned how to lead his players. Rather than focusing on ending each game with a victory, Rowe gives his players a different objective.
“We want to strive not for wins, but to play the perfect game in every which way,” Rowe said. “We know if we do that, the wins are going to take care of themselves.”
Rowe said it also helps to have coachable players. Although the team won less than half its games last season, the team didn’t get hindered by conflict.
Rowe enjoys the notoriety Cedarville garners and said the school’s reputation makes his job a lot easier.
“Cedarville is a unique place to coach,” Rowe said. “The strong Christian values, morals and education allows me to work with girls that I think are just higher quality human beings.”
Cedarville was ranked third in the G-MAC preseason coaches poll behind Trevecca Nazarene and Kentucky Wesleyan. The Lady Jackets also didn’t receive a single first-place vote.
“That was a little surprising to me,” Rowe said. “I honestly assumed that we would get more first-place votes.”
Rowe said being ranked lower than expected is nothing new for the team.
“Every year so far we’ve always been above what we were voted in the preseason,” Rowe said. “I would say even though we were voted third, we are very capable of competing for the league championship this year.”
The team itself is deep at every position according to the coaching staff. Along with having a deep roster, the squad is also versatile at every position. The coaching staff also said this is the best defensive team it has had.
Those factors make Rowe’s job as head coach less stressful.
“Most of our players can play multiple positions, and it makes it so much easier to coach a team like that,” Rowe said.
The team possesses talent in every major category in the game of softball according to the coaching staff. Hitting, defense, speed and pitching are all strengths the team has this season.
The Lady Jackets will lean on three veteran pitchers this season.
As a freshman last season, Morgan Arbogast posted an earned run average of 2.53. Rowe said he expects Arbogast to continue to lead the pitching staff as a sophomore.
Danielle Wolgamot and Rachel Furman are expected to help lead at the pitching position as well.
Shortstop and outfielder Brianne O’Dell led the team in hitting last season with a .369 batting average. The junior also led the conference in hits. O’Dell is expected to produce heavily this season after starting in every game in 2016.
Logan Eppich has finished in the top three in the G-MAC in stolen bases in each of her seasons at Cedarville. Rowe said if she can stay healthy, Eppich could lead the nation in stolen bases this season. She missed almost half of last season due to injury.
Cedarville has won 30 or more games in four of the last six seasons. Although Trevecca Nazarene has won the conference tournament in each of the conference’s first four years of competition, Rowe thinks his Lady Jackets have the best shot they have ever had at winning the conference.
The Lady Jackets will open the season in Florida over spring break with 16 games. Their first home games will come in a doubleheader against Findlay on March 15.
Tim Miller is a freshman journalism student at Cedarville University. Tim loves anything that has to do with sports, and hopes to write about sports for a career after graduating from Cedarville.