AP NEWS

Bubbly Dunlap brings calm to Hurricane softball

May 8, 2019

HURRICANE, W.Va.—Calm is not the word that comes to mind when talking with bubbly Hurricane High School softball catcher Zoe Dunlap.

Often laughing, or at least smiling, the exuberant senior embodies fun. On the field, though, the Youngstown State University recruit takes her job and those of her teammates, particularly ace pitcher Harlie Vannatter, seriously.

“She’s awesome,” Redskins coach Meghan Stevens said of Dunlap. “What I love about Zoe is her calm, She’s great for Harlie. She’s just what Harlie needs. She calls all of our pitches, which you don’t see often in high school. I 100 percent trust Zoe. She’s so consistent and quiet behind the plate.”

Dunlap has a settling effect on Vannatter, a junior committed to Bowling Green State University. When the senior catcher goes to the mound, she usually returns to her position smiling.

“Usually when I call time it’s because I need a break, not Harlie,” Dunlap said. “I’ll go out and usually we’ll tell a joke. It’s funny.”

Dunlap said Vannatter “makes my job easy because she always hits her spots.” Vannatter, though, said Dunlap is superb at calling pitches and setting up behind the plate.

“Zoe has always come through in the clutch,” Vannatter said. “She’s my best friend, she bats right before me in the lineup and she’s clutch a lot. She’s definitely overlooked.”

Vannatter said she rarely shakes off a sign flashed by Dunlap, who leads Hurricane into next week’s Class AAA, Region IV tournament against Parkersburg.

“I did a couple of times (Monday),” Vannatter said. “I don’t often. I trust her.”

A descendant of President Abraham Lincoln, Dunlap’s catching days are winding down. Youngstown State, which she chose over offers from Radford University and Hiram College, plans to play her in the outfield. The strong-armed right-hander who plans to major in early childhood education said she is fine with that.

“Catching is not my favorite, but I like it,” said Dunlap, who is in her 11th year at the position. “When I started playing, I was put back there because none of the other parents wanted their kids to catch. My dad was the coach, so he put me there.”

Dunlap is batting .505 and has driven in 40 runs. She ranks among the state leaders in doubles. Her average is second on the team only to Caiti Mathes, a Marshall University recruit. Stevens said Vannatter, Mathes and fellow power hitter Taylor McCray, a St. Leo University signee, receive much of the attention, but Dunlap deserves plenty.

“Zoe is always overlooked, but she’s part of our senior leadership,” Stevens said. “Zoe is super clutch.”

Dunlap demonstrated as much last week when she doubled in three runs in the sixth inning of a victory over Cabell Midland to allow Hurricane to seize control of the winners bracket in the Class AAA, Region IV, Section 2 tournament. On Monday, Dunlap helped the Redskins clinch the sectional title with a grand slam home run against the Knights in a 10-2 triumph.

Dunlap, who counts gardening and hiking among her hobbies, said she doesn’t feel overshadowed.

“We’re like a family,” Dunlap said of her team. “I’m going to prom with about half of them. We’re really close.”