Eastern Mennonite University had just one senior, Cassidey Chrisman, on its softball roster this spring.
So that made it just a little bit easier on veteran coach J.D. McCurdy when the coronavirus shut down the season prematurely - he wasn't left with having to tell several seniors that their college careers were over.
"I really feel for the seniors," McCurdy said Thursday. "Normally I would have four, fix or six (seniors) and that would be a different situation."
And as a bonus there is a chance Chrisman, the hard-hitting senior infielder from Riverheads, may get a chance to play one more season.
McCurdy, a 1978 graduate of Bridgewater College, said the NCAA will allow spring athletes one more year of eligibility. And while that can be a financial challenge for Division III athletes, McCurdy said Chrisman is an elementary education major who already planned to do her student teaching in the fall. If she enrolls at EMU for the spring semester of 2021 she may get to play a fourth year.
"I have communicated with Cassidey several times," said McCurdy, the EMU coach for 17 seasons. "She is looking to come back in the spring and take advantage of that. We think this will work out fine. The NCAA is going to give that" extra year.
Chrisman hit .333 in all 12 games this spring and drove in a team-high eight runs. The right-handed batter had an average of .309 with 17 RBIs in 2019 and was an All-Academic ODAC pick in 2018 and 2019.
She was one of several local products to aid the Royals, who were 4-8 overall before the season came to an end. Perhaps fittingly, the last two games for Chrisman and EMU came in the split of a doubleheader at Mary Baldwin in her hometown of Staunton on March 10.
She was not the only central Shenandoah Valley product to play a key role for the Royals.
EMU had a battery this spring consisting of county products. The freshman catcher was Autumn Bailey, a graduate of East Rockingham who hit .167.
"Autumn came in and really stepped up as a freshman and she won the position," McCurdy said. "I tell you what: she is a really great receiver. She has a very high softball IQ; that makes a big advantage with a kid like that. She is going to come around offensively. She is going to get better and better on the offensive end because she has that potential."
The top pitcher for the Royals was Emily Campbell, a sophomore from Broadway. She was 4-4 in 10 games, with eight starts, and had an ERA of 4.82. At the plate, she hit .375. Campbell was an ODAC All-Academic Team member in 2019. She hit .250 as a freshman with an ERA of 3.13 as a pitcher in 10 games, with six starts as EMU went 16-20 and 5-15 in the ODAC.
"This year she really stepped it up in the circle and at the plate," McCurdy said. "She played a lot as a freshman, she gained a lot of experience. She really worked hard on her pitches and location. She is going to be a really good pitcher in her career. Offensively, she has come a long way there as well."
Another local product was Sierra Lantz, a sophomore infielder from Broadway. She hit .160 in 10 games with two doubles as a second baseman after playing a lot of first and third base as a freshman. Lantz was All-ODAC as a utility player in 2019 while hitting .303.
"We had lost a second baseman and we needed to fill that position," McCurdy said. "She said, 'I will try second.' She was getting a feel for that. She is the kind of kid that will come around. I think she will put up good numbers for us next year."
McCurdy is a graduate of Turner Ashby and was a standout for the Bridgewater Reds of the Rockingham County Baseball League and is a member of the RCBL Hall of Fame. He also played in the Valley Baseball League while in college.
He said he will keep in touch online with his players; all but one one have returned home to take classes online. He plans a Zoom video meeting with his team early next week.
"With technology, it does help. It has helped in this situation a lot," McCurdy said. "There are some texts going back and forth."
EMU announced Monday that spring sports seasons were over. That came after the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) - EMU is a member - shut down spring sports effective Saturday. By then players were already working out on their own. That includes Emily Davis - the last ODAC softball player of the week winner for 2020. She was also named the EMU athlete of the week on Thursday.
"As a team, we know what we have to do," the EMU sophomore infielder/outfielder said of working out on her own.
McCurdy said the NCAA allows four weeks of practice in the fall and the past few years EMU has been invited to JMU to scrimmage the Division I Dukes. He added recruiting could be a challenge if many high school seniors don't get to play a final year.
"We have to deal with what is in front of us," he said.