The Loyola softball team (19-18, 5-8) ranks sixth out of 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) with a .267 team batting average. But, sophomore outfielder Shannon McGee is an offensive force at the top of the order, reaching base in 31 of her last 32 games.
McGee didn’t always play softball. Her parents pushed her to join different sports, including soccer and track, but she found the softball field to be her home.
“It was mostly my dad pushing for softball because he was a big baseball player,” McGee said. “His parents didn’t push him hard enough to go where I am. He would have if he would have had the chances and opportunities. But because of that, he really pushed me to be the best softball player after I chose the sport.”
When the recruiting process came along during McGee’s senior year of high school, head coach Jeff Tylka said he knew he had to have her on his team for two reasons: She was a good hitter and he had heard good things about her personality.
“[I was told] she’s kind of a gamer and really enjoyed playing softball,” Tylka said. “There’s a lot of kids that play it at a younger age because that’s what they’re supposed to [do] or that’s what mom and dad want them to do or whatever it may be, but you could tell she really enjoyed playing.”
A native of Chardon, Ohio — a town of about 5,000 people in which McGee said everyone knows everyone — McGee said she was looking for a smaller campus which led her to Loyola.
“It felt like everyone was close and the thought of being able to know other athletes and keep up with them and see them in one place was really exciting for me, so I feel like Loyola did feel like home,” McGee said.
McGee said one thing she brought to the team was an outgoing personality and an optimistic point of view. Senior shortstop Jamie O’Brien said she can always go to McGee when she needs advice.
“She always goes her hardest, she’s always picking you up when you’re down and her spirit on the field picks everyone up,” O’Brien said.
McGee said she emphasizes having a positive outlook to her teammates. She said since they only have four years on the team, they might as well make the best of it and focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
“I always go up to the plate singing,” McGee said. “It is truly just a game. We all get so upset over it, [but] the sun rises tomorrow and there’s another game just around the corner. I feel like when I got to the team, it brought a more loose atmosphere.”
While last year was good for McGee in terms of numbers, she had a hard time adjusting to collegiate softball. She said she was a selfish player and was focusing on her individual numbers rather than the entire team’s success.
“Last year, I didn’t want to hit a sacrifice because that doesn’t do me any justice,” McGee said. “This year, I’m excited to get a sacrifice just in order to get someone to move and that’s all [credit to] my teammates. They have made me less selfish.”
For this season, McGee said she focused her goals on more of a team dynamic rather than individualism because she said she knows what’s good for the team is good for her, too.
“One of her goals for this year was to see how many runs she could score as opposed to batting average and things like that. Some of the numbers you can’t really control,” Tylka said. “‘Let’s see how many times we can get you on base and how many times your teammates can move you around.’ Those types of things.”
McGee set a goal of keeping a high batting average, and she currently leads the MVC with a .414 batting average. But, she’s more focused now on her team goal of making the MVC tournament for the second year in a row.
“I have like more team goals [than] individual goals, where like I want to finish at least mid-way in the conference and I want to go past where we were last year because we are a better team than we [were] last year,” McGee said. “To be able to move forward where we were last year is a step in the right direction.”
McGee said she loves how close the team is. She said Tylka’s like the dad and the girls are like the sisters creating a bond that allows them to push one another to do well.
“You could go up to any person of this team and let them know how you’re feeling,” McGee said. “They will take every single word of yours into consideration and analyze it to see how you can get better, how to make the situation better. We don’t really hold stuff in.”
McGee’s talent for the game hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff. Tylka said she’s a good player and he has high hopes for her in upcoming seasons.
“My goals for her more as a person are growing as an athlete and a teammate,” Tylka said. “I know that her physical skills will take care of themselves. She’s going to be among the league hitters. She’s going to do those things because she’s extremely talented.”
McGee and the Ramblers are scheduled to play Valparaiso University April 18 in Valparaiso, Indiana.