College softball: Loftis steps right into role at W.Va. State
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."
Loftis has provided Allen with versatility at the plate and in the field. She has batted anywhere from third and sixth and has played third base, left field and shortstop.
"She gives us a lot of options," Allen said. "She commits very few errors. We also have another freshman in Anna Eggleston that can also play shortstop. It helps in the fact we get two good bats in the lineup.
"Dee Dee is a good hitter. We had Hyatt leave to graduation and we needed to try and replace her. She has come in and can really hit the ball. She works really hard and has been great."
Loftis has flashed power for State, hitting three homers this season. She hit her first career home run on March 26 at Pfeiffer.
One week later, Loftis perhaps got perhaps the biggest hit of her collegiate career in a 6-4 victory at Slippery Rock.
With her team trailing 4-0 in the sixth inning, Loftis belted a grand slam to tie the game.
"It was a really big hit, by far by biggest one," Loftis said. "I honestly didn't know. It was very cold that game. I just got my bat on the ball, and did my job that game. It was very exciting."
Loftis hit her third home run of the season on April 20 in a 16-1 rout over Seton Hill. The Yellow Jackets earned a doubleheader sweep over the Griffins, pounding out 33 hits and five homers.