WVC softball: Senior pitchers give Yellow Jackets a solid combination
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia State softball coach Bob Allen just doesn't think he has one pitcher of the year candidate on his roster this season.
The 10th-year Yellow Jackets coach believes he has two.
State features two all-conference selections in Sara Pelegreen and Kelsey Lorraine, providing Allen with a solid one-two punch at his disposal.
"I think they both want to be pitcher of the year," Allen said. "It would be wonderful if they were co-pitchers of the year. I think these two have a purpose this year. If our pitching holds up, it could be one of best teams we've ever had."
Pelegreen and Lorraine will begin their quest for West Virginia Conference pitcher of the year when State opens its season today in Raleigh, N.C., a doubleheader against Lock Haven and Fayetteville State.
The Yellow Jackets were ranked second in the WVC preseason poll. The Yellow Jackets finished last season 47-15 overall and 22-4 in league play.
Last season Pelegreen, an Ohio native, was a first team all-conference selection with a 17-7 record, 1.48 earned run average, and six shutouts. She struck out 153 batters in 129 innings and only allowed 79 hits.
Meanwhile, Lorraine came to Institute from Georgia and was a second-team all-WVC performer her junior season. She dealt with injuries last season, yet still compiled a 16-4 record, 2.22 ERA and five shutouts.
Both are seniors and understand the importance of their last season as a member of the Yellow Jackets.
"I just know this year I have a whole new outlook," Pelegreen said. "I'm going to work even harder just because I know this is my last time. I just know, personally, it would make my life to win conference this year and go out with a bang."
"It is very important for us," Lorraine said. "We have been working for four years since we have been here. This is our last chance to get a conference title. The team has improved each year, and if we can continue that trend, it will turn out well for us."
Lorraine and Pelegreen have been the standout pitchers on back-to-back State teams that reached the WVIAC championship game before losing to West Virginia Wesleyan both times by 3-2 scores.
The two players hope to use the disappointments as motivation this season.
"The first year we lost the championship, we had that motivation going in and then it didn't pan out the way we wanted it too," Lorraine said. "Doing that two years in a row, we just want to overcome that this season."
"We aren't excited that we have came in second place to Wesleyan both times," Pelegreen said. "I think that score haunts us. We are ready to make a difference this year. It definitely fuels our fire to want to come back hard this year."
Allen knows the importance of having two quality pitchers, instead of just one.
"It's great because there are a lot of teams that are going to rely on one pitcher all the way through," Allen said. "That begins to show up at the end of the season. We also have a junior from Canada, Jade Weinkauf that is also a heck of a pitcher."
Through recruitment of players throughout the country such as Lorraine and Pelegreen, Allen has built a strong program at State. The Yellow Jackets won the WVC tournament title in 2008 and despite losing in the championship last year, reached the NCAA Tournament.
"We lost the tournament championship twice and we hated that," Allen said. "Wesleyan is really good but we know we can play them. We really can play with anybody in this country, we realize that. I've never had a team that's so focused."
"We want to recruit West Virginia and have a lot of great players from the state. I'm also pleased that when I first took over, I had to go all out. Now we have kids calling us throughout the country."
Local players on the State roster include former Sissonville standout Dee Dee Loftis, Kelsey Martin from Hurricane, Cabell Midland's Sydney Kaplan, Victoria Crawford and Poppy Ramey, as well as Scott graduate Hannah Griffith.