MIAMI SHORES, Fla. — Barry University head softball coach Sean Cotter announced the 2020 signing class on Wednesday which includes nine additions to the roster. Five freshman and four transfers.
“We spent a lot of time recruiting the freshman in the last year and a half,” Cotter said. “This is our third signing class now and we feel that we are really starting to build some depth on the roster. We’re really excited about what Maci Barnhart can bring to the pitching staff being the only arm in the class. She is a hidden gem and has a bulldog mentality,” Cotter added. Aside from Barnhart, there are four other freshman signees — Megan Ballash, Taylor Thompson, Angel Villanueva and Chantal Tripp.
“The transfers will really help us offensively in a group that includes three JUCO kids and a Division I transfer,” Cotter stated. “Maggie Wheless brings power to the middle of the order. Kaylin Donavan was the leadoff hitter for the No. 1 team in the California Community College Athletic Association, Monterey Peninsula. Ashley Valencia and Jillian Rodriguez bring a pair of good looking left-handed bats to the lineup,” Cotter said.
Ballash played at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, FL and also played showcase softball with the Jensen Beach Wildcats Xtreme run by Mike Cusimano. Her coaches have said she has a plus arm and shuts down running games with a 1.8-1.85 POP time. She can also play third base and second base.
In July of 2019, Barnhart was named one of Florida’s top prospects by Softball America after helping lead Sebring High School to the 6A State Championship. The standout junior dominated with a 25-1 record, 0.73 ERA, 278 strikeouts in 154.1 innings pitched.
Thompson is a legacy Buccaneer with both parents having graduated from Barry University. Karl Thompson played baseball for the Bucs, while Kari Thompson played softball. Kari is also Taylor’s coach at Lake Havasu High School in Arizona. The left-handed hitting Thompson was batting .591 through the team’s first eight games before having the season canceled due to Covid-19. Lake Havasu had their sights set on making the state playoffs for the fourth time in the last four years, all with Thompson. When asked why Thompson chose Barry University she said, “My decision would not have been completed without my parents, who both are both Barry alumni. I am excited to be able to make new friends, connections, and opportunities in moving away from my hometown in Lake Havasu,” Thompson shared.
Angel Villanueva and Chantal Tripp round out the freshman class each coming from successful programs. Villanueva is a hails from Hagerty High School in Oviedo, FL who compiled a record of 10-2 and Tripp, who can play multiple positions as well as pitch moves south from Canada and the Toronto Fastpitch 19U team.
As coach Cotter noted, the transfers provide offense in a multitude of ways. Maggie Wheless hit 12 home runs her sophomore year at Northwest Florida State earning both FCSAA and Panhandle Conference All-Academic Team honors.
Kaylin Donovan was the leadoff hitter for Monterey Peninsula (16-1), the No. 1 team the California Community College league. She finished with an on-base percentage of .557 with four home runs and 12 RBI. “I am majoring in communications and find myself very interested in sports broadcasting,” Donovan said. “Coach Cotter mentioned all of the possibilities that are available at Barry University and I am so excited to be a part of the BarryU family.”
As a sophomore, Valencia hit .324 with two home runs and 11 RBI as a catcher. As a freshman, she started a majority of games in right field and batted .388 with four home runs and 29 RBI’s. Despite missing the last three weeks of the season due to an injury she was named Second Team All-Panhandle.
The last transfer is an NCAA Division I transfer from Tennessee State. Rodriguez returns to her home state of Florida after playing in 12 games for the Tigers. The left-handed bat also pitched in high school which attracted the coaching staff. Her versatility will give her an opportunity to contribute to the team in many facets.