The college softball season is already under way and a pair of former Logan County players haven taken to the field for the West Virginia State University Yellow Jackets.
On the Division II West Virginia State roster are Man High School’s Summer Sword and Chapmanville Regional High School’s Shian Meeks.
Sword is a senior Yellow Jacket and started 53 games last season for 26-28 WV State, mostly at first base. She is also a catcher.
Meeks is a freshman shortstop. Last year, Meeks was a Class AA First-Team All-State selection and led the CRHS Lady Tigers to the state championship and 33-6 record.
The smooth-fielding Meeks was also a force with the bat last year as she ripped 12 home runs, had 17 doubles, four three-baggers and knocked in 60 while hitting .436 and stealing 16 bases at CRHS.
West Virginia State has started the season with a 1-3 record in the University of North Carolina-Pembroke Tournament, Feb. 3-4.
The Yellow Jackets lost 1-0 to Kutztown on Feb. 3 in the season opener, then beat Winston-Salem State, 3-2. On Feb. 4, WV State lost games to UNC-Pembroke (7-1) and Shippensburg University (5-0).
West Virginia State is scheduled to return to action Feb. 17-19 at the February Freeze Tournament.
On March 6-9, the Yellow Jackets are set to play in the Fastpitch Dreams Tournament at Myrtle Beach SC.
The home opener is March 25 vs. Wheeling Jesuit in a doubleheader.
Meeks had two base hits in the season opener against Kutztown. Sword also had a hit.
Sword is a biology and Pre Med major. She stands 5-foot-6 and wears jersey No. 11. Meeks, a shortstop and third baseman, is 5-7 and is a sports studies major. She wears No. 21 for WVSU.
The Yellow Jackets return 13 players from last season’s squad but were picked to finish fifth in the Mountain East Conference’s six-team South Division.
WVSU lost leading hitter Sydney Kaplan. Kaplan hit .371 with nine home runs and drove in 33 runs, all team highs. Third baseman Dee Dee Loftis was the only other starter to graduate and leaves a hole at the hot corner after starting all 54 games in 2016.
“We have a strong pitching staff returning with a solid defense behind them,” WVSU Coach Kerri Blackwell said. “The addition of six freshmen — Cheyenne Herrera (outfield), Amanda McDonald (pitcher), Madee Rafuson (catcher), Shian Meeks (infielder), Callie Huck (utility), and Kelsey Moore (utility) will make us well-rounded in all areas.”
Centerfielder Brookelyn Hale is back for State. The sophomore hit.323 last season mainly from the leadoff spot.
Catcher Brittany Allison is also back. The Parkersburg native finished with a .303 batting average last year in her freshman season and was second on the team with five home runs and 31 runs batted in mainly from the cleanup spot in the batting order.
Starting second baseman Kayleigh Thompson also returns. She batted .280 last year and was solid in the field. She was 9 for 10 in base stealing attempts.
Junior outfielder Allyson Funk is back as well. She hit .330 in just 97 trips to the plate while playing in 39 games last year.
Shortstop Micca Mirabela, outfielder Zoey Carte and designated hitter Shandell Curtis are also back for West Virginia State.
The Yellow Jackets have a trio of junior pitchers.
Calli Norton finished 9-7 with a 2.66 earned run average last year, while Allyson Burgess wound up 6-5 with a 2.56 ERA, and former Buffalo High School star Chelsey Parkins was 10-16 within the circle.
Others fighting for playing time include redshirt freshmen Emily Thompson and MacKenzie Dunlop.
West Virginia Wesleyan and Shepherd were tabbed by the league coaches as the preseason favorites for the 2017 Mountain East Conference softball season.
Shepherd is picked to repeat as the North Division champion, while West Virginia Wesleyan was voted to win the South Division title.
Shepherd ended the 2016 campaign at 34-16 overall and 24-7 in the MEC.
West Virginia Wesleyan posted a 54-11 record last season and 27-5 mark in the MEC after capturing the 2016 MEC Championship and securing its fourth NCAA Division II Super Regional appearance in five years.
The top four teams in each division will advance to the MEC Tournament May 5-7 in Salem, Va.
MEC NORTH DIVISION POLL
1. Shepherd (9) 62
2. Wheeling Jesuit (2) 54
3. Notre Dame (1) 42
4. Fairmont State 40
5 West Liberty 30
6. Urbana 18
MEC SOUTH DIVISION POLL
1. West Virginia Wesleyan (9) 64
2. Charleston (3) 58
3. UVa-Wise 37
5 West Virginia State 32
6. Glenville State 18
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner.