Lexington, Ky. – After reaching new heights as a program in 2017, the Transylvania softball team is excited to get the 2018 season started.
The 2017 campaign was one for the record books as the Pioneers won three straight games in the regional round of the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament in Mount Berry, Georgia to advance to the Super Regional round for the first time in school history.
The Pioneers made a big splash in their first-ever trip to the Super Regional, reaching the cusp of a near Women's College World Series berth before bowing out in an 11-inning 6-2 loss to Illinois Wesleyan in the third and deciding game.
Transylvania's historic 2017 run ended with a record of 35-13, which included a 6-3 victory over Franklin in the HCAC Conference Tournament Championship game and witnessed seven Pioneers being honored with All-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference selections.
But even with the team's recent success, the Pioneers know there is still work to be done to advance to where they want to go.
Along with a continued ascent towards the top of the Division III softball pecking order, the outside expectations and respect have accrued in the meantime for Transylvania. The Pioneers enter the season ranked 13th in the nation in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 preseason poll and for the second straight season, have been picked to finish first in the HCAC preseason coaches' poll.
Leading the charge for the Pioneers on the mound last year was senior starting pitcher Renae Morton (Olivet, Mich. / Olivet HS), who posted a record of 21-9 and collected two saves on the season. Morton led the HCAC with 21 wins, 180 strikeouts, and 208.1 innings pitched. Morton was named HCAC Pitcher of the Week four times during the season, and was selected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region third team to cap off a memorable first campaign with the Pioneers.
The Pioneers' offensive attack will be headlined by junior outfielder Shelby Gambrell (Owenton, Ky. / Owen Co.), who wields one of the Pioneers' most reliable bats. Gambrell produced a solid hitting percentage of .321 and finished second on the Pioneers in hits with 52, third-most in the HCAC.
Along with Gambrell, key veteran junior infielder Brittany Mumford (Louisville, Ky. / Christian Academy) assists in the Pioneers' offensive output. Mumford, who finished third on the Pioneers with a slugging percentage of .490, and fourth in hits with 46 on the season is a versatile offensive threat. Mumford also adds power into her individual offensive equation as she finished the season with 12 doubles, three triples, and two home runs.
Transylvania will look add to their roster with a loaded freshman class that includes eight new Pioneers. The incoming class includes two talented pitchers in freshmen Kameron Bowling (Louisville, Ky. / Holy Cross HS) and Jessica Gunter (Pataskala, Ohio / Licking Heights HS). Bowling brings a high strikeout quotient to the Pioneers while Gunter was also adept at finding the zone during her high school playing days, ringing up 259 batters over her four-year career.
Transylvania opens up the season on Friday, March 2 in the 2018 Pio Classic at Hall Field in Lexington as the Pioneers welcome five other programs for three days of high-intensity softball. The Pioneers will take on Calvin College at 4:00 p.m. and Greenville University at 6:00 p.m. on opening night, and play twice more on Sunday, March 4 against Olivet at 12:00 p.m. and against St. Mary's (Ind.) at 2:00 p.m.
The season-opening home set precedes a spring break trip to Clermont, Florida from Sunday March 11 through Saturday, March 17 to face a rigid slate of 12 games in seven days.
HCAC conference play commences on Saturday, March 31 as the Pioneers host Bluffton University at Hall Field. That date kicks off a string of play that the Pioneers hope will once again end in HCAC glory and beyond with the conference tournament arriving on May 4.