Umberger to continue softball career at EMU

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Taylor Umberger

By Randy Arrington

SHENANDOAH, April 28 — On Thursday, family, friends and fans gathered at the Page County High School softball field to celebrate and honor yet another member of the program taking their talents to the next level.

Senior Taylor Umberger joined a growing list of Panthers to play college softball when she signed forms marking her commitment to play for the Royals of Eastern Mennonite University next spring.

“Taylor has been a vital part of the recent success of the Page County High School softball program, and we look forward to her furthering her softball career at EMU,” PCHS head coach Alan Knight said prior to Umberger’s signing.

The senior outfielder has a .400 career batting average at PCHS, with a .476 on base percentage. She was a first team All-Region selection in the outfield a year ago, and before losing her sophomore season to the COVID-19 pandemic Umberger was named first team All-District as a DH in her freshman season. She was also a member of the Shenandoah Babe Ruth 12-U All-Stars that won a World Series title in Florida in 2016.

After considering a few other opportunities to play for competitors in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and some interest from one Division II school, Umberger went with the Royals because she could “study nursing and play softball at the same time.” It didn’t hurt that EMU was close to home and offered a smaller campus atmosphere.

“It’s very exciting,” Umberger said of the opportunity. “I’ve always dreamed of playing college softball.”

The four-year starter at PCHS will join a Royal roster next spring that sees five seniors graduating this month. As of late last week, EMU’s young team — featuring five sophomores and eight freshmen — held a 19-14-1 overall record, but stood at only 5-13 in the ODAC. EMU head coach J.D. McCurdy is in his 19th season at the helm and currently has recruited 11 of his 21 players from the northern Shenandoah Valley. Coach McCurdy, the program’s winningest coach, is hoping to get the softball team back to its 2016 form, when the Royals went 31-14 and finished as the ODAC runner-up.

Following her fall volleyball season, Umberger suffered a tear in her hip and faced a decision of whether to have surgery then (and forego her senior softball season) or wait and repair the injury this summer. She made the decision to delay the surgery and now undergoes therapy two or three days a week.

Umberger is accustomed to making sacrifices — like when she wanted to play first base, but Coach Knight needed her in the outfield. She accepted the role, and then excelled at it.

The strong hitter carries on a growing tradition at PCHS. Umberger remembers watching Kate Gordon play on the same field as she does now. Gordon, one of the best to ever play softball at James Madison University, caught the attention of the nation last spring as she and the Dukes shocked the college softball world by beating No. 1 Oklahoma and advancing deep in the World Series. Her younger sister, Maddie, is currently playing for Penn State.

Even starting at the Babe Ruth level in Shenandoah, the southern end of Page County has a growing softball tradition that Coach Knight said hasn’t happened by accident. Now that the PCHS program has established itself, Knight expects one generation of softball standouts to inspire the next — and Umberger is a prime example of that.

“She’s been around the program and saw people do it before her,” Coach Knight said. “I think we’ve built a program here. They watch and learn. She’s been a part of that program, and hopefully she’s left an impression on those behind her.”

Follow the EMU Royals softball team at the university’s WEBSITE.

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