BRENHAM, Texas — The Blinn College softball team is loaded with pitching depth and defense entering the 2021 season.
“We are hungry to play and have great depth in pitching,” head coach Rick Church said. “Defensively, we are as solid as we have ever been. Offensively, I am excited about putting one lineup together and seeing what we can produce.”
The Buccaneers started the 2020 season with a No. 11 national ranking and posted a 7-9 record before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Blinn returns 11 sophomores from last year’s roster.
The Buccaneers have five players on the pitching staff, including sophomores Renna Toomey (Orange) and Nevada Dolnik (Richmond). Freshmen Skylar Shanahan (Magnolia), Shaelyn Sanders (Splendora), and Kendall Johnson (Cypress), will join them.
“We have a lot of depth,” Church said. “Each one brings something unique as to what they can do, so that gives us flexibility. We should be able to make some good matchups pitching-wise.”
Toomey posted a 4-4 record and led Blinn with five complete games in nine appearances. She led the Buccaneers with 27 strikeouts and finished the season with team’s lowest earned run average (4.11) after 47 2/3 innings. Dolnik posted a 2-3 record and pitched three complete games in eight appearances for the Buccaneers.
“Having Toomey and Dolnik pitch for us is going to give good stability to our pitching staff,” Church said. “Toomey is always ready to compete and give it her all. Dolnik had some good outings for us last year.”
Shanahan earned all-district honors at Magnolia High School, earned all-state honors at Splendora High School, and was named the district’s utility player of the year. Johnson is a left-handed pitcher who played at Cypress Ranch High School.
“Shanahan has a good curveball and rise ball,” Church said. “Sanders has a really good drop ball and is a tough competitor. Johnson is the one lefty on the pitching staff and can also play first base.”
Blinn returns sophomore catcher Reagan Majewski (Bellville) and adds freshman catcher Acie Prince (Cypress).
Majewski finished last season with a .308 batting percentage and recorded three RBIs in 13 at-bats, while Prince earned all-district honors at Bridgeland High School.
“Majewski and Prince are going to be important, and both have to step up and do an equal job for us behind the plate,” Church said. “Majewski has a good bat, so we are hoping she can produce for us offensively. Prince has an excellent attitude and tries to improve every day.”
Marley Mahoney (Livingston), Chloe Woodward (Katy), Amy Hitt (Katy), and Samantha Rodriguez (Houston) return to the infield, while freshmen Keely Castillo (Richmond), Bailey Barrile (Spring), and Natilee Reed (Orange) are new to the infield.
“We have a rotation that we can put in the middle infield with quality in Rodriguez, Woodward, Mahoney, and Barrile,” Church said.
Mahoney finished the season with the second highest batting average (.395) and tied for second on the team with nine runs and 17 hits in 43 at-bats last year, Woodward finished the season with a .333 batting average in 18 at-bats, Hitt scored three runs and had six hits in 23 at-bats last season, and Rodriguez finished the season with a .300 batting average after 20 at-bats.
“Hitt played first base for us and is probably going to spend most of her time over there, and Woodward plays short and second,” Church said. “Mahoney started at second base for us last year, has good composure, and is a steady competitor. Rodriguez is another middle infielder, so we have some good flexibility there.”
Castillo was named offensive player of the year and MVP of the year at Fulshear High School, Barrile earned all-district honors at Oak Ridge High School, and Reed earned all-district honors at Bridge City High School.
“Castillo has been practicing mostly at third base, but can move around on the infield,” Church said. “Reed is a third baseman with good power and can also play second and in the outfield. Barrile can play second and rotate in the outfield.”
Returning to the outfield are Mikaela Lopez (Cypress), Emily Murphy (Round Rock), Italie Speziale-Potter (Tomball), and Bailee Stanzione (Seguin). New to the outfield is freshman Chandler Talbot (Beaumont).
Lopez finished the season with a .357 batting average and was fourth on the team with seven runs and 10 hits in 28 at-bats. Murphy scored three runs and had three hits in 18 at-bats last year, Speziale-Potter finished the season with a .267 batting average in 15 at-bats, and Stanzione scored one run in two at-bats.
“Lopez is our center fielder, a great athlete, and is going to be an impact in Region XIV,” Lopez said. “Murphy is a good lefty hitter in our lineup, and Speziale-Potter can play left and right field. Stanzione is a good lefty slapper and has some good speed.”
Talbot earned all-district honors at Kelly Catholic High School.
“Talbot is a great athlete with good speed,” Church said. “She is a lefty slapper and all fall put the ball in play and found a way to get on base. She is going to be a good offensive threat for us.”
Of the 19 players on the roster, eight bat left-handed.
“We have a ton of lefties this year and that can be advantageous to us when we are putting our lineup together,” Church said. “We have speed, the ability to do the short game, and we have some good power we can sprinkle in there. I look for us to get on base and score, so I am excited to see what we can do as a team offensively.”
Blinn opens the 2021 season at the Galveston College Invitational on Friday, Feb. 5. The Buccaneers play Temple College at 10 a.m. and Louisiana State University Eunice at 12:30 p.m.