Softball inks four to national letters of intent

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Nov. 12, 2008

OXFORD, Ohio – The Miami University softball program has signed four high school seniors to national letters-of-intent, head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly announced on Wednesday, the first day of the fall signing period. Taylor Rice (Munroe Falls, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban), Kristen Sheffield (Marietta, Ga./East Paulding), Shannon Tillett (San Diego, Calif./Mira Mesa) and Ashley Zappia (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s) will take the field for the RedHawks during the 2010 season.

"We could not be more thrilled with the group of young ladies that are coming to Miami next fall,” said Schoenly. “We traveled the country looking for those special athletes to join our softball family. We were looking for two things: athletes with strong character and players that know how to win. What we found with this group is that they have challenged themselves throughout their careers playing the highest-level softball they can find in their area. We were able to fill some needs with our offense, having a good blend of catalysts for the top of the order as well as RBI producers to bring them in. I can’t wait to see what they can add to our team for the 2010 season.”

Rice has played both catcher and shortstop for Archbishop Hoban. She hit .430 out of the leadoff spot as junior in 2008. Rice helped lead her club team, Grand Slam, to a fourth-place finish in the ASA Nationals in 2008. She was named all-state in 2008 and all-region in 2007 and 2008. She will play with the Ohio Lady Laser Aqua club team this summer.

"One person comes to mind when I think of Taylor: Pete Rose,” said Schoenly. “She is that kid that leaves the ballpark in a cloud of dirt. Taylor can hit from both sides of the plate, making her which the first switch hitter in the program's history. She has a compact, yet powerful swing and knows the game extremely well. Taylor could play just about anywhere in the infield as well as behind the plate. She will add some fire to our team.”

Sheffield, a member of the Georgia Elite club team, was a part of the 2004 ASA 13U National Runners-up and 2005 ASA 14U state champions. At East Paulding High School, she has been named all-region three straight years, leading the team in RBIs in back-to-back seasons and hitting .365 in 2008. In 2007, Sheffield was named an Adidas Futures Top 100 athlete. She is a strong student who is a Georgia Merit Scholar and ranks fourth out of 499 students in her class .

"This kid is tough," said Schoenly. “One word that comes to mind when I think of Kristen is warrior. We have loved our gritty Georgia athletes and will continue to look there in the future. Her summer-ball experience with the GA Elite gives her an edge coming into college. She has played against the best in the country. She will bring depth to our infield. I envision Kristen finding a home in the middle of our order driving in runs.”

Tillett is power-hitting first baseman who tallied nine home runs to go along with a .429 batting average for Mira Mesa in 2008. In 2007, she helped lead the San Diego Renegades club team to a ninth-place finish in the 18 Gold Nationals. She had previously led the Renegades’ 16U team to a fifth-place standing in 2006.

"We set out to find some hitters that can impact the game in one swing and Shannon is definitely one of those players," said Schoenly. "She will hit home runs for us. She is also a superb first baseman and will make the rest of the infield look good with her glove work at first. Although Shannon is coming to us from San Diego, her family is from Indiana and she completely embraces coming back to the Midwest.”

Zappia is a versatile player who can play in both the outfield and infield. She hit .373 for St. Joseph’s in 2008, and will serve as team captain in 2009. With the Indiana Magic Gold club team, she has participated in the 18U Gold Nationals in 2008 and the 16U Nationals in 2007. Zappia is a member of the National Honors Society and has done charitable work for Habitat for Humanity, Hannah’s House and the Women’s Care Center during her time in high school.

“From the minute Ashley came to campus, she knew she wanted to be RedHawk,” said Schoenly. “She understands our Miami culture, the commitment we expect and the dedication it takes to excel at this level. Ashley’s work ethic and desire to get better will help her tremendously in college. We are thrilled to have her join our family. Ashley could transition to the outfield in college but it is nice that she has experience at second base as well. What I found to be one of Ashley’s strengths is that she understands how to do all the little things offensively to help her team.”

Miami opens the 2009 season on Feb. 13 when it travels to Tallahassee to participate in the Florida State Tournament.