The prep softball careers of 2019 Verona Area High School graduates Meghan Anderson and Molly McChesney ended similarly, but their freshman years as college players played out much differently.
Anderson shined as Division II Northern State’s top pitcher, while McChesney suffered an injury last fall that kept her from getting on the field for Division I University of Akron. Both players had their freshman seasons end prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Anderson said she will take the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to all spring sports athletes. McChesney is considering her future academic and medical career as she debates on whether to take advantage of the extra year or not.
Northern State won its first 10 games of the season and finished 15-4 before the NCAA pulled the plug on the season.
Anderson earned the win in the Wolves’ final game of the season on March 13 against Edinboro University in Winter Haven, Florida. She allowed six hits, two runs and one walk while striking out eight in a complete-game 7-2 victory. NSU was set to play Nyack College later in the day.
“The team we were supposed to play next dropped out and so did a lot of the others,” Anderson said. “It was very overwhelming and scary to think that all the hard work we’d put in for the season was only going to be for a few games.”
The 5-foot-5 right-hander led the Wolves in innings pitched (67), appearances (13), wins (10), complete games (9), shutouts (3) and saves (1) this season. She finished 10-1 with a 1.15 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a .185 batting average against in 13 appearances.
“I was lucky enough to have a coach that believed in me and motivated me,” Anderson said. “All of the support around me really helped.”
Anderson allowed just 46 hits (only 13 for extra bases), 20 runs (11 earned) and 24 walks compared to 68 strikeouts. She attributed her accuracy – only two wild pitches and five hit batsmen – and increased velocity to NSU’s strength and conditioning program.
“The biggest adjustment I had to make was keeping the ball low,” she said. “All of the hitters are playing D-II for a reason. Also trying to work around a college umpire’s strike zone was really different.”
Anderson went 53-7 with a 1.54 ERA, 545 strikeouts, 26 shutouts and 10 saves in her four years as a varsity starter for Verona. She was a four-time all-Big Eight Conference selection, two-time all-state pick and finalist for the Wisconsin Pitcher of the Year award as a senior.
Akron struggled to a 6-19 record this season, but might have received a boost had the reigning Big Eight Co-Player of the Year and Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Outfielder of the Year been healthy.
McChesney medically redshirted the 2020 campaign due to a torn left labrum she suffered diving for a ball in practice just two weeks into the fall season. She underwent surgery and wasn’t cleared to resume softball activities until April 4 – when she was already back home in Verona due to the pandemic.
“I was really fortunate to still travel with the team and kind of fill a manager’s role,” McChesney said. “I was able to learn a lot, so I’ll be ready to go once I get back on the field.”
The NCAA made its cancellation announcement nine days before the Zips’ Mid-American Conference opener against Central Michigan.
“We were in the middle of a lift and were told by the training staff to take all our stuff and get out of the fieldhouse,” McChesney explained. “We all had a feeling something like that was going to happen. We met as a team outside the complex, went back to our respective houses, and then a couple days later were told we couldn’t be on campus.”
McChesney was a four-year varsity letterwinner and two-time first team all-conference outfielder as a junior and senior at Verona. She hit .594 with a .645 on-base percentage and 1.302 OPS, and went 34-for-36 in stolen base attempts as a senior.
“Based on what the coaches (at Akron) told me before the injury, I would have been a prominent player this spring,” McChensey said. “I want to be able to contribute to the team in any positive way, whether that be as a pinch runner or in the outfield.”