Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month: River Valley's Shelby Westler at home on softball field

·5 min read
River Valley senior softball shortstop Shelby Westler awaits a pitch during a tournament game with Bexley. Westler was named Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month for May among Marion County girls.
River Valley senior softball shortstop Shelby Westler awaits a pitch during a tournament game with Bexley. Westler was named Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month for May among Marion County girls.

CALEDONIA — For some kids, it's singing or dancing. For others, it's computers or technology. For Shelby Westler, it's softball.

The recent River Valley graduate always knew what she wanted to do.

"I played coach-pitch and I played some around-town ball and I really enjoyed it," she said. "We got an offer at 8-years-old to join a travel team. I loved it. I loved every second of it being around the girls.

"At 8-years-old that’s what it was mostly about, being around all these girls my age and getting to go out and roll in the dirt. That was my thing."

And it's still her thing.

Westler continues rolling around in the dirt, just at a higher level

The multi-time All-Ohio softball player will be a part of the Ohio University squad next season. Getting there been quite an experience for her.

"It went up from (8-year-old travel softball), and we progressively got more and more competitive," Westler said. "We eventually reached a point where we’re on a top tier travel team that travels around the country playing the top competition. It’s crazy. I went from a little girl who liked to roll around in the dirt with her friends to someone who competes on a national stage every summer and fall."

A few years into her travel experiences is when she decided softball was the sport for her. She still played volleyball until early high school, but the sandlot is where she felt most at home.

River Valley's Shelby Westler runs to first base during a tournament softball game against Bexley this season. Westler was a first-team All-Ohio pick as a senior after earning honorable mention All-Ohio as a junior.
River Valley's Shelby Westler runs to first base during a tournament softball game against Bexley this season. Westler was a first-team All-Ohio pick as a senior after earning honorable mention All-Ohio as a junior.

"I think at about 11 or 12 is when it really kicked in that I could really do something like this," she said. "I can do something past high school and into college with this. I always sat and watched college softball games on TV. I was like I want to play college softball one day."

River Valley coach Phil Shepler was glad to watch her develop into the player she wanted to become.

"She’s like a coach in the field," he said. "She’s been that way since she was a freshman. There are no surprises with what you’re getting with Shelby."

Westler is simply high-caliber all over the softball field.

In eight games in May, she batted .615 with a .677 on-base percentage, recording 15 hits, 15 runs and 15 RBI. She hit four doubles, two triples and three home runs in that span. Her season's on-base-plus-slugging percentage was a remarkable 1.624, and as the shortstop, she had a .971 fielding percentage in May with 18 assists and 15 putouts.

Westler was named first team at every level: All-Mid Ohio Athletic Conference, Division II Central District and All-Ohio. She was MOAC Player of the Year and the Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month for Marion County girls in May.

"I think it’s super cool," she said of the Fahey Bank Award, which is her first. "I’m the first in my family of athletes to get the Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month. It’s super cool to be able to represent a family of athletes and be up there forever and to represent a good season. We had a pretty good season. To be able to represent my family and my coaches and teammates and everybody involved in the year is pretty cool.

"That’s definitely been a goal of mine. With all the awards out there, that is one that is out there forever. Your plaque is on the wall, so that was definitely a goal of mine throughout my high school career."

And she's reached the ultimate goal by becoming an NCAA Division I athlete.

River Valley senior softball shortstop Shelby Westler awaits a pitch during a tournament game with Bexley. Westler batted .615 with 15 runs, 15 RBI, four doubles, two triples and three home runs in May.
River Valley senior softball shortstop Shelby Westler awaits a pitch during a tournament game with Bexley. Westler batted .615 with 15 runs, 15 RBI, four doubles, two triples and three home runs in May.

Westler said she had interest from Big Ten and Southeastern Conference programs, but the COVID-19 shutdown changed softball recruiting. With athletes already on campus being granted an extra year of eligibility, there was a glut of talent just ahead of her class. Also hurting was that the shutdown caused recruiting and scholarship budgets to shrink due to a lack of revenue in 2020 and into 2021.

Nevertheless, she found a comfortable home in Athens at Ohio University.

"They gave me a lot of money, and I like the program and I like the coaches and I knew the girls who went there," Westler said. "I had a couple (travel ball) teammates going there, and it happened to work out perfectly."

When she was a girl, she looked up to RV softball players Claire Nicholson and Morgan Lott who went on to play at Ohio State and Miami University respectively. Westler was glad to continue their level of play while in an RV uniform and show younger players that elite college softball is attainable.

"To follow in their footsteps and continue the legacy is amazing. There are a lot of girls coming up who now look up to me like I looked up to Claire and Mo. It is cool," she said.

That's how Shepler sees it.

"Shelby and all those (NCAA Division I) girls were very good whether I would have been coaching there or if you would have been there," Shepler said. "I tell umpires all the time, anybody could coach this team when you get talent. It’s what you do in practice with them. In a game, it’s the kids’ time to shine, and I just coach third and make a lineup out. They do all the work. It’s true."

rmccurdy@gannett.com

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Fahey Bank Athlete of the Month

May Girls Nominees

» Winner: Shelby Westler, senior, River Valley softball.

» Abrianna Smith, junior, Marion Harding track and field.

» Tiffany Hix, senior, Elgin track and field.

» Whitney Waddell, sophomore, Pleasant track and field.

» Mackenzie Delaney, freshman, Ridgedale softball.

River Valley senior Shelby Westler runs to first base after getting a hit against Bexley in a tournament game. Westler will play college softball at Ohio University next season.
River Valley senior Shelby Westler runs to first base after getting a hit against Bexley in a tournament game. Westler will play college softball at Ohio University next season.

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Fahey Bank Award: RV's Shelby Westler at home on softball field