She’s Back: WOU's Bishop Returns After Halted 2020 Season
Chandler Bishop finished with a 3.80 earned run average and 13 strikeouts in the pitcher's circle in 2020. She also had eight hits and 10 runs batted in at the plate.
Chandler Bishop finished with a 3.80 earned run average and 13 strikeouts in the pitcher's circle in 2020. She also had eight hits and 10 runs batted in at the plate.
Chandler Bishop
Chandler Bishop

Monday, February 15, 2021
by Kaho Akau, GNAC Media Relations Assistant

MONMOUTH, Ore. – March 12, 2020.

It’s a day in the life of Chandler Bishop that will forever live in infamy.

The Arlington, Washington, native was in the midst of her senior season for the Western Oregon University softball team when she and her teammates received some tough news. With COVID-19 cases rising worldwide last spring, the NCAA and the GNAC suspended all athletic competition until further notice, effective March 13.

The Wolves had just finished the first game of a doubleheader against Montana State Billings in Monmouth when the news broke. Bishop, the winning pitcher in Game 1, tossed a six-hit shutout to lead her team to a 4-0 victory. It was one of the only positive takeaways from what was a bittersweet moment in her career.

“I don’t think my teammates or I will ever forget that day,” Bishop said. “We knew about the virus, but we never thought it would actually affect us the way that it did.”

Emotions ran high in both dugouts. Tears ran down Bishop’s face as she reflected on the future of her softball career.

What was next?

What made the news harder to deal with was that the Wolves and Yellowjackets still planned on finishing the doubleheader. Bishop was full of raw emotions, but she went into Game 2 feeling grateful to just be able to play one more game with her teammates.

“On one hand, I was able to go into the next game feeling like I can leave everything on the field,” she said. “On the other hand, it was also hard to know that the rest of my senior season would be compressed into those seven short innings.”

The Wolves took care of business to complete a sweep of the Yellowjackets with a 4-2 win. Bishop was slotted at first base and went 1 for 2 at the plate with a walk in what very well could have been her final game in a Western Oregon uniform.

“Chandler is an amazing person who has grown so much here at Western Oregon,” head coach Lonny Sargent said. “She has meant everything to our softball program.”

Following the doubleheader, the coaches, with a little help from members of the Western Oregon community, put together a ceremony that honored the seniors of both teams. Although it wasn’t the picture-perfect Senior Day that Bishop envisioned, she still enjoyed celebrating her career in any way, shape or form.

“I need to be thankful for the things I have and enjoy them in the moment,” Bishop said.

With the anniversary of that unforgettable day approaching, Bishop is back for another season with the Wolves after the NCAA granted spring student-athletes another year of eligibility.

Of the four seniors on that 2020 Western Oregon squad, Bishop was the only one who returned for this season. When asked about why she decided to come back, her answer was simple.

“Because of my love for the game,” Bishop said. “I knew my journey with softball wasn’t over and I wasn’t satisfied with the way things ended. I wanted the right ending for something that I had put so much time and dedication into.”

Of course, Bishop still had her doubts about returning when the 2020 season ended. The passion for wanting to play another season was there, but she had to weigh her options to make sure she was making the best decision for herself.

Bishop didn’t know what the 2021 season would look like, but she took a leap of faith and decided to give softball one final ride. Through what has been a crazy past 11 months for her, the only thing that felt right was the opportunity for her to get back on the field with her teammates.

“I just had to stay true to myself and have faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to and embrace the journey of this season,” she said.

Now a graduate student, another year at Western Oregon also allowed Bishop to take a broader set of classes. Those classes have opened her eyes to different avenues of community health as she prepares for a career in the medical field. When her time at Western Oregon comes to an end, she will head to nursing school and ultimately hopes to become a pediatric nurse.

Bishop broke out as a main contributor from the moment she stepped foot on the Western Oregon softball field.

As a freshman, she appeared in 39 games and started in 31 as a pitcher and utility player. As a batter, she finished with a .315 batting average with nine runs scored and 19 runs batted in.

She started in 33 games as a sophomore, getting starting assignments at pitcher, first base and as the designated player. During her junior campaign, she posted a 3.73 earned run average in 56.1 innings and pitched seven complete games.

“She works hard and enjoys what she does every day,” Sargent said. “She’s an incredible leader and we are extremely fortunate to have her back on the team.”

In the halted 2020 season, Bishop led the Wolves’ pitching staff with a 3.80 ERA to go with three complete games, including the shutout of Montana State Billings on the final day of the season. She also added eight hits and 10 RBI at the plate.

“I am really lucky to have been given opportunities to play and fulfill any role I have been given since being on this team,” Bishop said. “Whether I’m on the field or just being supportive, I try my best to meet those needs. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my amazing teammates and coaches throughout the years.”

Pitching is an art, and that art doesn’t get any easier for Bishop when she also plays other positions. But she has never backed down from a challenge.

There is so much strategy that goes into pitching. When Bishop is in the pitcher’s circle, she controls the pace of the game. She can’t take any pitch off because she needs to stay locked in. Every pitch that rolls out of her hand can affect the outcome of the game. All she can do is trust in herself, be confident and let the ball fly.

“You have to go right at the hitters, trust your pitches and the work you’ve put in and, most importantly, trust that your defense has your back and will work to get the outcomes that you want,” she said.

Since Bishop is also a hitter, she often taps into that pitching mentality while she’s in the batter’s box. But that doesn’t always work out because batting requires a clear mind.

Hitting is meant to be simple. See the ball then hit the ball. While she wants to understand the opposing pitcher’s tendencies, she also doesn’t want to think too much at the plate or she will struggle.

“I have to remind myself to just focus on the pitches rather than getting in my own head about what a pitcher might throw next,” she said.

If Bishop could describe her time at Western Oregon in one word, it would be “Irreplaceable.”

Every pitch. Every hit. Every game. Every setback that got her to where she is today. It was all worth it.

Bishop has a go-to pitch while she’s in the circle, but that secret stays with her. Batters will just have to find out for themselves when the season starts.

“I am looking forward to playing the sport I love with the people I love,” she said. “I am ready to feel the joy that I get from playing and to make more unforgettable memories with my friends.”