Mitchell, senior pitching duo solid for Panthers

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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There is no question that sophomore Haley Mitchell is tearing it up in her second season as she is second in the OVC with a .450 batting average and third in slugging percentage at .863.

Through 28 games, Mitchell has risen as one of the top hitters in the OVC. Her slugging percentage is third best, but she has had 27 and 34 more at bats than the two players in front of her.

Austin Peay’s Danielle Liermann leads the league with a 1.113 slugging percentage and Southern Illinois Edwardsville’s Zoe Schafer has a .978.

Mitchell also leads the OVC with 36 hits, 34 RBIs, tied for first in doubles at 9, leads with 69 total bases and is second in home runs with 8, just two back from the leader.

But what coach Kim Schuette is happiest about is that there is not just one player handling the load, helping Eastern to its 20-8 start to the season.

“Right now we have a lot of bullets that won’t even be in the starting lineup that we’re ready to throw in there for this situation, or to do this on defense, or to give us a jump on this,” Schuette said. “Our kids feel that. They make eye contact with me before I even say their number, because they know what I’m thinking.”

She said all of that was “foreign” at the beginning of the year.

The Panthers have four other players hitting over .300.

Heading into OVC play, senior pitchers Jessica Wireman and Michelle Rogers are shaping up as two of the top pitchers in the OVC, something that Wireman said they could be at the start of the season.

Wireman leads the Panthers in 20 appearances and boasts a 2.00 ERA, which does not put her in the top five but she has pitched more innings than the ones ranked in the top five. She leads the OVC with five saves.

Wireman and Rogers have combined for an 18-7 record and freshman Valerie Thompson has two wins and has pitched 21 innings and has a 3.00 ERA.

One thing that Schuette has preached since she returned as coach last season is to have “one through nine be a weapon,” and have the pitchers going as well.

Eastern has that going for it right now.

“There’s been a handful of games where we’ve had every single player in the game,” Schuette said. “If you can put your hat on something your good at, I think that is pretty cool.”

Eastern starts OVC play this weekend with two games against Belmont and two games against Tennessee State and after what the Panthers were able to do in non-conference play, it gives Schuette options.

But she does want to make sure her players know that “this is not the World Series this weekend,” and that the Panthers should change things up because these are conference games.

“We have been playing some very similar teams along the way and we feel prepared and we need to just keep putting on our shoes the same way, warming up the same way and approaching the game very similarly,” Schuette said. “You want to get kids in there when they’re hot and get them out when they’re not. There’s no hidden agenda there.”

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]