LU softball unveils standout 2017 recruiting class

Published 11:25 am Thursday, December 8, 2016

Longwood Head Softball Coach and two-time Big South Coach of the Year Kathy Riley announced Monday the addition of six student-athletes to start competing for the Lancers beginning in the 2018 season. The class includes five athletes from Virginia and one from North Carolina.

“The 2017 class as a whole is one that we are depending on heavily for future Longwood softball success,” Riley said.

The six-player class comes on the heels of Longwood capturing back-to-back Big South regular season and tournament titles, while advancing to the NCAA Harrisonburg Regional championship game a season ago.

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“It would not surprise me when we look back five years from now that 2017 is one of our strongest recruiting classes in history,” Riley said. “This year is another one of those recruiting classes where we looked for character and athleticism and we feel lucky to have accomplished our primary objectives.”

Sydney Backstrom | P | Huntersville, N.C.

On her way to being named 2016 MECA Most Outstanding Player as a junior this past spring, Sydney Backstrom recorded 199 strikeouts with a 1.32 ERA.

“Losing (Elizabeth) “Biz” McCarthy and Jenna Carnes will leave some big shoes to fill on the mound,” Riley said. “We feel fortunate to have found Sydney Backstrom late this past summer as one of those late bloomers that can end up being something special.”

In addition, Backstrom helped her travel team — Carolina Cardinals Mahone — to a 2016 ASA “A” National Championship and was a semifinalist in the same tournament in 2015.

“Sydney has late movement on her pitches and enough velocity to pitch successfully against high-level opponents,” Riley said. “I also like her work ethic and desire to set the bar high in regards to achievement.”

Danielle Calloway | OF | Evington

Danielle Calloway starred at Brookville High School, leading her team to a pair of state championships. A four-sport athlete in high school, Calloway earned first-team all-region and all-state accolades in softball. In addition, she played the past year with the Carolina Cardinals Long travel organization.

During her sophomore year, Calloway produced the game-winning hit to lift Brookville to a state championship, before setting her school’s steals record last season as a junior. In addition, she led her team in batting average and on-base percentage.

“Danielle is primarily a short game player on offense, but we expect her to become a threat with the deep ball sooner than later in her development,” Riley said. “We love the fact that Danielle is left-handed and gives us an added element against the opponent’s defense.”

Mallory Odell | SS | Richmond

Mallory Odell is a two-time all-conference selection in softball and two-time team captain who hit .414 last season with six doubles, two triples and 11 RBIs for Deep Run High School.

“Mallory is a Longwood basketball and softball recruit that wants to play two sports,” Riley said.

On the hardwood, Odell will come to Longwood as a 1,000-point scorer and owner of the Deep Run school record for most double-doubles in a season with 13. Heading into her senior campaign, she has been a three-time all-conference performer and team captain.

“I have always felt there are some strong correlations between basketball skills in terms of angles, spatial awareness, and explosion that translate well into softball,” Riley said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Mallory turns out to be a huge surprise for us.”

Leah Powell | UTL | Stanardsville

Leah Powell is a three-sport standout at United Christian Academy, leading the softball team to the 2015 NACA Division I National Championship and earning all-state softball honors her first three seasons.

“Leah is a dynamic all-around athlete who can play multiple positions but has primarily played middle infield,” Riley said. “She’s very quick and has tremendous competitive spirit which is something we highly value.”

During her championship-laden sophomore season, Powell earned a spot on the NACA All-American team. Powell regularly earned Academic Honor Roll in high school and also volunteered for Pennies for Patients.

“She played in the middle infield for the Vienna Stars this past year and gained some valuable experience against high-level competition,” Riley said. “Leah is a gap-to-gap offensive player whose best attribute is she does a lot of things well.”

Taylor Robinson | SS/OF | Louisa

As a two-sport athlete at Louisa High School, Taylor Robinson displayed the tools to become a force on the Division I level. She was a conference MVP and a three-time all-conference selection.

“She has tremendous explosive ability, strong arm, hits with power and will have an opportunity to fill some valuable roles over the next four years,” Riley said.

Heading into her senior season, Robinson has improved in each of her three seasons at the plate, batting .510 as a junior. She was also a first-team all-conference pitcher and second-team all-region.

“Taylor played for the Sarasota Heat this past fall, spending most of her innings at shortstop and third base,” Riley said. “While we don’t know where she will play, we expect for Taylor to be somewhere on the field playing an exciting brand of softball.”

Arleigh Wood | P | Tappahannock

Having played softball throughout her career at Essex High School, Arleigh Wood is a three-time all-academic and all-conference selection, as well as a two-time all-region and all-state honoree.

“Arleigh is a pitcher who excels at keeping the ball down and knowing how to get a hitter out,” said Riley. “There is no doubt I was attracted to Arleigh because she competes on the mound with intelligence and a fire inside her soul.”

A standout for the Virginia Legends Premier travel squad out of Virginia Beach, Wood is a standout in the classroom as well, participating in the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School for three years and National Honor Society.

“Both [Assistant Coach Kayla Miller] and I feel that we will see tremendous development with Arleigh’s ability to successfully get hitters out over her career at Longwood,” said Riley.