First-year slugger Shannon McGee is one of Loyola softball’s rookie players making an impact.
The Loyola softball team (24-21, 7-13) came into this season with seven first-years on the 17-player roster, making it one of the youngest teams in Division I. At the beginning of the season, head coach Jeff Tylka acknowledged that one of these rookie players would have to step up the program in the future.
Right after she signed with Loyola before her junior season, McGee, a native of Chardon, Ohio, led her Berkshire High School team with an impressive .750 (39-52) batting average and stole a team-high 48 bases.
Tylka said he knew what McGee was capable of while recruiting her, and he felt she could make an impact early on.
“She’s just a kid that if you put the bat in her hands, she’s pretty good with it … [It’s] definitely her biggest strength,” said Tylka. “We had a good idea that as a [first-year] she could be able to contribute.”
This season, McGee has been one bright spot for Loyola’s offense, leading the team with a .316 batting average and a .456 slugging percentage. The next best batting average with a minimum of 80 at bats is senior Jordyn Cordell with a .264 batting average. As the only first-year in Tylka’s lineup, McGee had a nine-game hitting streak snapped against Indiana State University and earned Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Newcomer of the Week honors on April 17.
McGee said while high school softball was fun, she feels even better about the hot start to her college career.
“[It feels] good to come in as a [first-year] and being able to have an impact with this team,” said McGee. “It’s fun to be able to let loose and have fun in college.”
Lately, Tylka has shuffled his lineup around and gradually slid McGee up to the leadoff spot from the sixth slot. The top spot had previously been filled by senior outfielder Erica Nagel, who earned first team All-MVC honors in that spot. Since moving up against Northwestern University, the Ramblers are 6-3, including a sweep of a doubleheader against Indiana State. While McGee said she had a feeling she’d be toward the top of the order, she didn’t expect to be leading off so early in her career.
Nagel has adjusted to her new role in the No. 2 slot in the lineup, hitting .276 since the shift. Nagel praised McGee and said McGee is adjusting well and playing confidently as the top of the line-up.
“I think she’s doing a great job at leadoff,” said Nagel. “She’s obviously gotten a lot of hits and as a [first-year] she’s [come] in and been a big part of the offense.”
Nagel also added that McGee is a catalyst when she leads off the game. In the first 13 MVC games, Loyola scored just nine runs. In the last four matchups alone, 10 Ramblers have crossed the plate.
“I think that when she got a hit, everyone else was really excited,” Nagel said. “We kind of fed off of her … against Southern [Illinois University], so I think she just has to keep doing what she’s doing and we can continue winning.”
McGee and the Ramblers are scheduled to be back in action when they head to Terre Haute, Indiana, to close out the Indiana State series on April 26. The team is trying to stay in the top eight of the ten MVC teams, which would qualify the Ramblers for a spot in the MVC tournament.