Echo/Stanfield v Weston-McEwen Softball

Weston-McEwen’s Madison Shell hits the ball during a May 10, 2021, game against the Echo/Stanfield Cougars in Athena. Shell recently signed a letter of intent to play softball at Salt Lake Community College in Utah.

ATHENA — Sometimes, it’s who you know, not what you know, that will open a few doors.

For Weston-McEwen softball player Madison Shell, that’s how she ended up signing a letter of intent to play at Salt Lake Community College, Utah.

“It’s the weirdest connections that get you in,” Shell said. “My USA coach Ron Thompson knew the Utah Valley University coach. I went to a camp there and I loved the Utah area. When I talked to the coach, I told him I loved Utah, and how I would like to play there. He told me I would redshirt my first year. He emailed me a week later and told me there was another school I might like.”

That school was SLCC. Shell contacted Bruins assistant coach Tara Bendt and set the wheels in motion.

“I contacted coach T (Bendt), and she said to come down and spend a day with the team,” Shell said. “When she told me what (scholarship) she would give me, I was like yes, I will take it. It was like that moment you have heard of. It was my place, and I was meant to be there.”

Shell, who plays catcher, second base and shortstop, will focus her efforts on catching — her favorite position — in college.

“Between her and her parents, there has been a huge commitment outside of school,” W-M coach Jeff Griggs said. “Madi set some goals to play college ball. She is landing in a prestigious program and she will contribute right away. That is the tough thing about the college process. You love the game and you don’t want to sit. I think she found a good fit.”

SLCC is one of the top junior colleges in the nation. The Bruins have made an annual appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament every year but one (2014) since 2009. There was no season in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The cool thing with this college is in the fall, they only play Division I schools,” Shell said of SLCC. “They are ranked first nationally.”

The love of the game

Shell got a good dose of baseball when she was growing up. Her dad Rob coached her older brother Garrett’s baseball team and she always tagged along.

“I was always around the baseball boys,” Shell said. “My brother Garrett was a catcher and I wanted to be one too. It stuck like glue. I was that little kid who didn’t have the ball, I would go get a flower.”

In addition to playing school ball with the TigerScots, Shell also plays for the USA Explosion out of Connell, Washington. She is entering her third year with the team.

Shell also works with catching coach Jordan Schilling, who works at ai Sports in Walla Walla.

“I am the catcher I am today because of her,” Shell said. “She is more than my catching coach. She is my mentor for all things. She is truly amazing.”

While summer ball can be cut throat at times, Shell enjoys playing with TigerScots to balance things out.

“At Weston-McEwen, we still find really good competition in 2A,” Shell said. “I still feel like I get good competition. I can just keep training and have fun with the game.”

In an abbreviated spring season her junior year, Shell hit .440 with 22 hits, including five doubles and two home runs. She struck out just four times in 50 at-bats. She also had 15 RBIs, scored 24 runs and had six errors in 15 games.

“I met Madi as a seventh grader and we counted the years until she got here and could catch for us,” Griggs said. “We realized she had a lot more abilities than to sit behind the plate. At a school this size, you have to play more than one position. She has been a real benefit to us and we are certainly going to miss her when she goes. She leaves a good group behind her.”

She also will leave her parents Rob and Trisha behind, but Shell knows she will see them in the stands as often as their schedules allow.

“My parents just want to make sure I’m happy and having fun with softball,” Shell said. “They have been so supportive through all of this, which is fun to have.”

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