CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia State softball Coach Bob Allen knew he had a tall task in replacing All-American Brittany Hyatt, who graduated after last season.
Hyatt was the West Virginia Conference Player of the Year in 2010 and 2012, and is the first Yellow Jacket player to receive All-American honors. She holds 28 State program softball records.
While no one can replace Hyatt, at least yet, Allen has received a pleasant surprise to the lineup in freshman Dee Dee Loftis.
Loftis has stepped right into the State program and played an integral role in helping the Yellow Jackets to a 35-11 overall record and 18-5 in the WVC.
State has won 12 games in a row and 16 of its last 17. The Yellow Jackets have an outside shot of being the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament, which will be held in Vienna starting Thursday.
The former Sissonville standout has started 39 of the 42 games, including most at shortstop. Loftis is batting .346, has four doubles and is second on the team in home runs with three.
"No, not really," said Allen, when asked if he had anticipated so much production from Loftis so early in her career. "She has exceeded what I expected from her in her freshman season. It's great for her, and a plus for us. She is a player."
Loftis is happy and appreciative of her role.
"I'm very privileged and lucky to have a starting position, and I'm liking it," Loftis said. "We have excelled a lot. It's a different experience from high school and it's a lot of fun to be here."