Former ace pitcher Emily Estep has taken over the pitching coach for the Lady Trojans softball team. Video by Lizi Arbogast
When Chris Skultety was hired as Chambersburg's softball coach, he had one thing on his mind.
"I said from Day 1 that I needed to find a good pitching coach," Skultety said. "And I couldn't have found a better one."
The Trojans were pleased with a blast from their very good past when Skultety enlisted the help of Emily Estep, a star pitcher for the Trojans and at Shippensburg University.
"Being offered this position is really a dream come true," Estep said. "Even though we're a new coaching staff, I knew the other coaches, and it's just like a family automatically."
During her playing days, Estep was impressive. At Chambersburg, she was a three-time Mid Penn Commonwealth Division first-team selection and was on the Public Opinion first team three times, including a Player of the Year honor during her senior campaign in 2010.
The accolades continued for Estep in a Lady Raider jersey. She was named the 2014 Daktronics Atlantic Region Pitcher of the Year, which was her third career first-team nod.
She had eye-popping stats. During her three-year career with the Trojans, she had a staggering 454 strikeouts and finished with an ERA of 0.958 in 270 1/3 innings of work.
Once again, her skills reached a high level at Shippensburg University, where she threw all four years, finishing with a 62-21 record, 652 strikeouts and a 1.65 ERA.
"I was just enjoying the ride," Estep said. "I was a really goofy player, and I just loved every minute of it. I get stressed out more now than I did when I was playing. As I coach, I defensively see the girls developing into what I really enjoyed the sport, and I think I even enjoy it more now."
While the four-lady staff of Leah Hunt, Laken Myers, Dori Loukopoulos and Sam Bender may not yet have the talent that Estep had in the circle, they're certainly headed in the right direction. The Trojans are currently 15-1, thanks in large part to their pitching staff. Hunt and Myers are currently undefeated, and the Trojans have allowed an average of just 2.69 runs per game.
"They are a strong staff, and they each have their own quirks and strengths," Estep said. "Leah has a lot of spin; she gets batters to swing and miss. Laken gets batters to swing and hit to her defense. Dori has things that just move and pop, and Sam has a really good changeup now that we've developed. With the different pitches they have, there are different outcomes."
Hunt said, "Her pitch calling is really good, and it's really nice to know that if you're up there pitching and if something's off, we have somebody there to help us correct it. She can tell us what we're actually doing wrong."
Estep and the Trojans also put a lot of emphasis on scouting. Chambersburg must play each team in the Commonwealth Division twice and meets at least one of its non-league foes on two separate occasions, so Estep understands how important it is to know your opponent.
"It's something that is a huge strong point in this game, because you see these players over and over again, and you have that edge over them," Estep said. "We're seeing a whole bunch of good players that are on the same level as us, but if we scout beforehand, we have the edge in being one pitch ahead of them."
The Trojans have managed to stay one step ahead of the competition all season, and it's clear they're building more than just a team.
"I grew up here, and I remember my mom always making me come to the games and watch," Myers said. "I enjoyed every minute of it, and I loved watching Emily. She was a very good player. She definitely loves the game, and that carries over to us, too."
Estep said, "It's funny because there are girls just like them when they were looking at me, but they're looking at them now. They're the role models. I had people that I looked up to when I was younger, and I'm just here to develop them and keep their heads into the fact that this is something that's so special in your life."
And with all four of Chambersburg's pitchers coming back for their senior seasons, don't expect Estep, or the Trojans' success, to go anywhere any time soon. At least not if Skultety has anything to say about it.
"The great part is, she'll have an entire offseason to work with them once this is all said and done," Skultety said. "And she'll be back. She'd better be back, or else I'll go find her."