GREENSBORO (February 2, 2018) – The North Carolina A&T softball team was picked to finish third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division by league head coaches and sports information directors. Junior utility player Zadaisha Waddell earned preseason first-team and second-team All-MEAC honors.
“It is honor to see Zadaisha earn preseason honors,” said N.C. A&T coach Kenya Peters. “We are looking for her to lead in the circle, and we’re looking for her bat to help us throughout the lineup.”
Waddell earned first team as a utility player and second team as a pitcher. She is coming off a season where she was a third-team all-conference pitcher and utility player. Waddell led the team in batting (.339) and earned run average (3.29) in 2017. Waddell also led the team in doubles (9) and innings pitched (193.2).
Waddell and her teammates hope to build upon a season where they were one-game shy of reaching the MEAC championship game. In fact, the Aggies had two runners in scoring position when they lost to eventual champion Florida A&M, 6-5.
“Being that close has really inspired us to work on finishing,” said Peters who is entering her fifth season as the Aggies head coach. “It’s about finishing each game and playing together while doing it. Rather it is in the circle, at bat or in the field, it’s about finishing all the way through.”
Peters returns 11 letterwinners from a team that finished 8-8 in the MEAC which was good enough for third place in the MEAC South. Among the returning players are two seniors in Raven Gray and Nathaly Pacheco.
Gray is the only four-year senior on the roster and has been a key part of the Aggies program since arriving in Greensboro. Gray is a career .309 hitter with 17 doubles, 11 triples, six home runs, 35 stolen bases and 64 RBI. She batted .326 as a freshman and .369 as a sophomore. Gray was an All-MEAC performer in 2016. Pacheco is a junior college transfer who made an immediate impact in her first season as an Aggie in 2017. Pacheco started all 51 games as the Aggies catcher last season. She batted .259 with five doubles and 12 RBI while throwing out 16 base runners trying to steal. Pacheco was rewarded with a third-team All-MEAC selection.
N.C. A&T is also blessed with juniors who have earned significant playing time led by Waddell. Also in that group is Talisha Jenkins, Mohagony Headen and Zadia Davis. Jenkins has played 82 games with 80 starts for the Aggies as an outfielder. Headen has served the Aggies as a pitcher and a slugger. She has made 67 appearances as a pitcher with 33 starts. She has a career 4.44 ERA in 247.1 innings pitched. In a career as a hitter, she has nine doubles, seven home runs and 27 RBI.
Davis is a career .308 hitter with 34 runs scored. Davis’ defense might be even better. She has a career .967 fielding percentage as an outfielder and she has only made three errors in her career. In 82 games, she has made 70 starts for the Aggies.
“We are certainly looking for leadership from our upperclassmen,” said Peters. “They know the ropes, so they should lead in general. I don’t want to mention any names because we charge all our upperclassmen with that task. Each person plays their part in how they positively lead this program.”
The other junior contributors are Taylor Martin and Morgan Chisolm. Stephanie Williams and Alyssa Green are the returning sophomores for N.C. A&T. Williams started all 51 games at shortstop for the Aggies. Green played in only 27 games last season with 19 starts but still came away with a .377 batting average with two home runs.
As experienced as the Aggies are, they have numerous freshmen who could make an immediate impact. Hailee Cutts is expected to play a role in the circle this season, while Samantha Ramirez will serve as a backup catcher to Pacheco. Azaria Isabell was a contact hitter at Rolesville High School, while Bayleigh Kirby out of nearby Eastern Alamance will look to play a role as a right-hander in the circle. Marcey Jiles will come in as a redshirt freshman after sitting out last season. Jendayi Wright will also catch for the Aggies, while Nijah McCray will bring tremendous athleticism to the Aggies outfield.
“We have really been stressing togetherness and team unity. It’s what we harped on during the offseason,” said Peters. “We have so many players who can play multiple positions. We tell our ladies to be adaptable because we don’t know what situation we may have to put them in at a particular point in the season. We want to go into the 2018 season with emphasis on working together, pushing each other, holding each other accountable and have some fun.”
N.C. A&T opens the season on Friday, Feb. 9 against Towson at 11 a.m., in the College of Charleston Invitational Tournament. The Aggies home opener will be a part of the annual North Carolina A&T Aggie Invitational as the Aggies face Howard on Friday, Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m., at the Lady Aggies Softball Complex. The Aggies conference-opening series is against S.C. State when the two teams play a three-game series March 24-25 at LASC.
Peters said all 17 players will get a chance to play during the non-conference season as she will experiment with different players at different positions in the field and the lineup.
“This team is special because our first recruiting class, our first big recruiting class is getting ready to graduate,” said Peters. “It has been a privilege to see them grow as players and women on and off the field. We’re going to bring a lot of excitement to the field, and I think we have a confident team this year. They believe in what it means to be a student-athlete, they believe in Aggie Pride and they believe in each other.”