SU Baseball Notebook: Woolford bringing power to a Hornets lineup that needs more pop

Keegan Woolford leads Shenandoah University's baseball team in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage this season, bringing power to a lineup in need of more pop at the plate. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah University

WINCHESTER – Days before Shenandoah University’s baseball team opened its 2018 season last month, head coach Kevin Anderson said he was anticipating Wake Tech transfer Keegan Woolford being a player the Hornets could plug into the middle of the lineup as a power threat. The junior designated hitter has been that player through SU’s first 17 games.

After Tuesday night’s 7-6 conference victory over Eastern Mennonite University, Woolford – who was slowed in the preseason by a hamstring injury – leads the Hornets in home runs (three), doubles (six), RBIs (22) and slugging percentage (.708) and ranks second on the team with a .396 average (19-for-48).

The 2015 William Monroe High School grad was the offensive star for Shenandoah against EMU, going 3-for-3 with a two-run homer, two doubles and three RBIs. Woolford’s second double of the evening tied the game at 6-all in the bottom of the seventh, and he scored the go-ahead run on Luke Nussman’s RBI single in the inning.

“Thank goodness we have him,” Anderson said of Woolford on Wednesday. “I mean he’s been our one power threat in a lineup that, quite frankly, we’ve been lacking extra-base power, and especially home run power. … He had a huge night last night with a home run, two doubles, an outstanding baserunning play at third base, and if we don’t have that, we probably lose that game.”

Woolford’s productivity has been a boost for a Shenandoah offense that, so far, has not had the same pop that the Hornets have been accustomed to in recent years. The Hornets are last in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in home runs (four) and are in the bottom half of the conference in runs scored (115), RBIs (98) and slugging percentage (.409).

Shenandoah (11-6, 3-3) has played only 17 games, tied for the second-lowest mark among the 11 ODAC teams entering Wednesday, but so has Randolph-Macon, which leads the conference with 24 home runs and is fourth in runs scored (154) and RBIs (136).

“This team is completely different in terms of offensive productivity to what we’ve had in the past. We’ve searched maybe for some combinations in the lineup or combinations at positions,” Anderson said, explaining that SU’s coaching staff evaluates production at each position in 10-game segments during the season. “We need to get more production out of some key positions, quite frankly.”

Shenandoah, which returns to action today in a non-conference game at Marymount, has slipped to No. 24 in the latest D3baseball.com/NCBWA poll after opening the season ranked 12th.

ODAC LEADER: While Woolford has supplied the power for Shenandoah, junior shortstop Robbie Marcelle has been bringing a consistent bat to the plate and leads the ODAC with a .511 batting average.

Marcelle, who emerged as a regular starter during the latter half of the 2017 season, is 23-for-45 with four doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs this spring and leads SU in runs scored (16) and steals (seven). The junior has also walked 10 times and leads the ODAC with a .633 on-base percentage.

“He’s gone from a guy that started the last third of our season hitting in the nine hole (in 2017) to where he’s our three-hole hitter,” Anderson said. “He’s going up loose, aggressive, using the big part of the field, and he goes up with the plan. The biggest thing, I think, has been Robbie’s aggression at the plate. He’s been a very pleasant surprise.”

Marcelle has recorded multiple hits in eight of the 16 games he’s played in this season. He was 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored against EMU on Tuesday night.

MILESTONE NIGHT: Tyler Ritenour, a 2015 Skyline High School graduate, recorded his first save with Shenandoah on Tuesday night. Ritenour tossed the final 1 1/3 innings of the contest, limiting EMU to a hit and a walk to close out the 7-6 win.

Ritenour, who transferred from Garrett Community College in Maryland, has made relief appearances in each of SU’s last five games after making no appearances through the first 12 contests of the season. He has a 1.80 ERA with three strikeouts in five innings and has allowed four hits and five walks.

LOOKING AHEAD: Shenandoah hits the road for its next five contests, including three games against ODAC competition. The Hornets play a two-game set Friday and Saturday at Guilford and travel to Washington and Lee next Tuesday before finally returning home to host Emory & Henry on April 7.

Shenandoah, the ODAC’s preseason favorite, is fifth in the conference race and plays its next five league games against teams sitting in the bottom half of the ODAC standings.

The Hornets, who were swept by No. 6 Roanoke (17-3, 8-0 ODAC) during a doubleheader last Saturday, play two games apiece against Hampden-Sydney, No. 10 Randolph-Macon and Virginia Wesleyan – the ODAC’s fourth-, third- and second-place teams, respectively – in the season’s second half.

“This is the best I’ve seen the ODAC in my 15 years at the Division III level,” Anderson said. “… You’ve got a number of teams that could compete for the national championship in this conference. You better have your ‘A’ game every game or you’ll get swept, you’re gonna get beat. That hasn’t always been the case in the past, but it is now. Anybody can beat anybody.”