The Lady Cougars softball program will bid farewell to four seniors at the end of the season.
Pitcher Lauren Arndt, third baseman Hayley Gray, outfielder Hannah Shaffer and shortstop/catcher Konnor Byers will all graduate this spring.
All four athletes said softball has been a key part of their identity through college.
The sport helped them make “lifelong friends” and taught them many valuable lessons, they said.
“The memories that come from softball are unforgettable,” Byers said.
Lauren Arndt is a pitcher from Canal Winchester, Ohio. She is earning her degree in life science education and plans to become a high school biology teacher. After graduating college, Arndt is getting married to her high school sweetheart, Brendon Buchler.
Arndt had big shoes to fill coming into college. Her father, Joe Arndt, played basketball at MVNC, and her mother, Barb Arndt, played basketball, volleyball and softball. Both have been inducted into the Cougar Wall of Fame.
Since her freshman year, Arndt has struck out 139 batters in 250 innings pitched. She posts a career ERA of 4.61 and a fielding percentage of .797.
Arndt said she has learned a lot from playing a collegiate sport.
“Looking back, I would tell myself not to stress over the little things as much, because in the end they weren’t a big deal,” she said. “I would tell myself to relax and not take everything so seriously.”
She also learned that proper time management is crucial.
“Softball takes a lot of time and commitment,” Arndt said. “It is hard to find time to get everything done, but I have learned that you have to make time, and that will definitely help me when I am in the classroom.”
Hayley Gray is a third baseman from Howard, Ohio. Gray has spent her four years at MVNU studying communication. She hopes to establish her career in sports communication with a company that is partnered with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Gray said many of the most important lessons of college have come from softball. She stepped up as a freshman and secured her starting position on the third base corner. Gray has started in 155 games over the course of her college career.
She earned a .301 batting average and has made 434 plate appearances with 116 hits, 21 doubles, three triples and four homeruns.
She also earned the Daktronics Scholar Athlete award for the 2015 season.
Gray has taken away valuable lessons from being an athlete.
“It has made me more diligent with my time, more responsible and has taught me how to juggle multiple things at once,” she said. “I could not imagine my college life without softball in it, and I am so blessed that I was able to play the game that I love for the past four years.”
The softball team travels often, and it is challenging to balance athletics and academics, she said.
“People think it’s awesome that we miss so much class, but it’s actually challenging,” Gray explained.
Looking back, Gray is amazed at how quickly the years passed.
“Enjoy every moment, because it truly flies by,” she advised the underclassmen.
Hannah Shaffer came to MVNU expecting to be an infielder for the Lady Cougars. She soon settled into her role as an outfielder and excelled.
As she reminisced about her time at MVNU, Shaffer discovered her fondest memories came from the ball field.
“There are so many great memories,” she said. “Most of them involve laughter. The Florida trips will always be most treasured.”
Shaffer said she met some of her best friends through softball. She also learned how to handle pressure and became a confident leader on and off the field.
“The hardest part about softball is maintaining confidence,” she explained. “But in moments like that, I knew I could look to my teammates and to God to remember who I was playing for.”
From her 191 hits over four years, she has collected 41 doubles, eight triples and 14 homeruns. Shaffer has also held an impressive fielding percentage of .954.
So far this year, she leads the team with four stolen bases on the season. She also leads the team with a .426 batting average.
Shaffer has earned the Capital One Academic All District 1st team award, Daktronics Scholar Athlete Award, NAIA 2nd Team Midwest All-Region award and Crossroads League First Team award in 2015.
The center fielder from Marion, Ohio, is graduating with a degree in mathematics. She will attend graduate school at the Ohio State University and lay the foundation for her career in biostatistics.
“My advice to the underclassmen is to always work hard, find joy in every single moment, and do the very best that you can,” she said.
Konnor Byers stepped up this season and took command behind the plate. The political science major from Delaware, Ohio, was the starting shortstop for the Lady Cougars three years in a row. When the team needed to use her in a new position, she accepted the challenge.
“It was challenging to adjust at first, because I hadn’t caught in such a long time,” Byers said. “I’ve really enjoyed the dynamic from behind the plate though.”
Byers leads the team in games played at 158 appearances. She has earned a .301 batting average throughout her college career. Out of her 144 hits, 32 have been for extra bases. Byers has scored 76 runs for the Lady Cougars and batted in 64 runs. She has proven to be solid in the field, maintaining an average fielding percentage of .939.
She has earned numerous scholar athlete awards, including the Daktronics Scholar Athlete award in 2015.
Byers said softball was central to her life as a student at MVNU.
“Honestly, I don’t think I could have done college without softball,” she said. “It definitely tested my physical and mental strength, but without it I probably would have lost motivation, and I wouldn’t be living with the girls that I live with now.”
Byers stressed the importance of living in each moment.
“I encourage the underclassmen to take in the moments they have off the field with the girls on the team, because that is how the team becomes close and how I met my lifelong friends.”
Byers is graduating with a degree in political science and will attend graduate school to get a master’s in education. She wants to become a history professor and coach softball at the collegiate level.