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West Shore Conference varsity softball previews (area teams)

Lady Rangers look to defend WSC title under new head coach

West Shore Conference

By Joe Ostrica

The North Ridgeville softball team sent long-time head coach Norm Frindt out on a high note last season, going a perfect 14-0 in West Shore Conference play to win the league title. The Lady Rangers finished the season 19-6 overall and a district semifinals appearance, giving Frindt 468 victories after 33 seasons running the program.

North Ridgeville still has the same goals under new head coach Mike Mease for 2014.

“Our main goal is to repeat as Conference Champs and go deep into the state tournament,” Mease said. “We were 14-0 in the conference last year. It would be nice to repeat that.

“We will be a very competitive team with a lot of speed, many big bats, solid defense and two strong pitchers.”

Key returners for the Lady Rangers include senior Marissa Caraballo (shortstop, second base, .409 batting average) and juniors Ashley Helmink (pitcher, infielder, .400 batting average) and Nicole Andrews (pitcher, infielder).

“Marissa is a phenomenal athlete and a true team leader,” Mease said. “She will be playing for Ashland University and was an All-WSC first team selection last year.

“Ashley is a strong pitcher and can play any other position on the field. She was an All-WSC second team player last year. Nicole Andrews is also a very strong pitcher who can play anywhere else on the field.”

Senior outfielders Gloria Moon and Grace Wade are also in the lineup, as are juniors Shelby Berent (catcher, first base) and Samantha Graham (first base). The remainder of the roster is fairly young with five sophomores (Erin Conroy, Katelyn Graham, Megan Hokanson, Merciana Ruiz and Kayla Whitlock) and one freshman Addison Mease rounding out the roster.

“Megan Hokanson has a lot of speed and hits from both sides of the plate,” Mease said. “Addison has a ton of speed, hits with power and plays great defense.

“Since we are a very young team, the girls need to believe in their abilities and bond while playing as a team.”

Mease expects Avon and Midview to be the key teams to beat in the WSC race this season.

“Avon has strong pitching and great defense,” he said. “Midview has some big bats and it always has been a true rivalry with them. We are a young team that will be very good for years to come.”

 

Rockets ready for breakout season

West Shore Conference

By Ryan Kaczmarski

After last season’s disappointing 9-17 finish, the Bay High School softball team is looking to improve and contend for a West Shore Conference title.

To do so, the Rockets will have to fill a large void in the lineup left by last year’s starting pitcher and leadoff hitter Courtney Woodworth, who was lost to graduation.

“Those are big shoes to fill, and she will definitely be missed,” Bay head coach Katie McCarthy said. “Her athletic talent, positive team attitude and desire to win were huge assets to the team.”

The key returning letter winners are Tina McGovern, Liz Burns, Aubrey Rohlke, Kelly Cooper, Ashley Grisnik and Meredith Brewer.

“They are six strong returning players,” McCarthy explained. “Ashley Grisnik (pitcher/first base) is a utility player who is always willing to work hard. Tina McGovern (second base/short stop) is a very strong leader on the field and in the dugout and a solid contact hitter.”

The key newcomers to varsity this year are outfielders Holly Fox, Annie Peters and Lauren Heldt.

McCarthy thinks this year’s schedule is filled with big games.

“The WSC has a lot of tough teams,” she said. “It is always a battle when we play Rocky River, because of the rivalry, and personally, I enjoy playing Vermilion, and this year we want to come out on top.

“Midview and North Ridgeville will be tough contenders for the conference this year.”

The Rockets will lean on the experienced and confidence of their infield, while adding an exciting, young outfield.

“We wand to compete in every game and stay aggressive at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field,” McCarthy stated. “I’m super excited for this season!”

 

Lakewood brings maturity to the plate

West Shore Conference

By Ryan Kaczmarski

The Lakewood High School varsity softball program is coming off a 2013 season, in which the team finished 4-21 overall, but the fact that there were no players lost to graduation, could mean trouble to the rest of the West Shore Conference.

The Rangers have eight returning letter winners, including Kelsey Kvasnicka (pitcher), Mackenzie Rivera (pitcher), Zoe Lewis, Katie Ribar, Mackenzie Nekl, Amy Ritschel, Lisa Vandervort and Annie Tuleta.

Lewis, Nekl and Analise Beltran will serve as the team’s tri-captains.

“They will bring team leadership, from a senior standing, which we lacked last season,” Lakewood head coach Chris Barrow said.

A key newcomer to the team is freshman Hailey Owens, who has broke into the starting lineup.

“The strength is our team unity,” Barrow said. “Our weakness is our lack of experience playing high level softball.

“Our team goal is to play with passion ans tick by one another,” he added. “We are changing the softball culture at Lakewood to one where we all take responsibility for our own actions.”

 

Pirates look for continued improvement in 2014

West Shore Conference

By Ryan Kaczmarski

Last year, the Rocky River High School softball team doubled its win production from the previous season and finished 6-19 overall (3-11 in the West Shore Conference), and won its first sectional game in nine seasons.

Even with the loss of first team All-WSC catcher Morgan Graham to graduation, second-year head coach Duane Sunagel is expecting big things from this year’s squad.

The Pirates return five letter winners, including seniors Lauren Ihnot (pitcher) and Jessica Rucker (second base); and sophomores Anna Seffernick (pitcher/third base), Emma Opdycke (center field) and Grace Lihani (first base).

“Opdycke was WSC honorable mention in 2013, and Seffernick is looking to stay healthy in 2014 after her suffering a hand injury in 2013 and early January of this year,” Sunagel said. “Lauren will look to carry most of the pitching load.

“Lauren, Jessica and Anna bring experience and leadership to the team.”

Key newcomers to varsity this year are catcher Tess Caroll, short stop Maureen Cain, and outfielders Margo Bush and Becka Sloan., while the roster is rounded out by Kayla Healy, Andreana Dingess, Briar Golladay, Abbie Opdycke and Brianna Stark.

“We have improved numbers (this season), with 11 sophomores and 10 freshmen, and will be fielding a junior varsity team,” Sunagel said. “We have a good attitude and team chemistry, and the girls are very hard working and coacheable.”

Even with the greater overall numbers in the program, Sunagel knows it is still a work in progress.
“We have only two seniors returning, and two juniors that did not play softball in 2013,” he explained. “We lack overall softball experience, and need to improve in competing and knowing how to win.

“We also need to improve our defensive play and eliminate big innings.”

 

Experienced Lady Eagles have big goals for 2014

West Shore Conference

By Joe Ostrica

Avon softball head coach Ken Matuszak has high goals for the Lady Eagles this season, including wining the West Shore Conference, winning a district title and eventually a state title. With all the returning letter winners Avon has back from last year’s 18-7 overall and 12-2 WSC team, the Lady Eagles likely have a good shot at accomplishing some of those goals this spring.

“We return nine letter winners and add two talented freshmen,” Matuszak said. “Our team strength is experience and the will to compete. Our pitching and power hitting is also skills we rely on to compete.”

Senior Rachael Poling and junior Anna Edwards are Avon’s returning pitchers. Poling went 7-5 on the mound last year with an ERA of 2.21. Edwards went 11-2 in 2013. Edwards also batted .533 at the plate.

Key power hitters back for the Lady Eagles include sophomore outfielder Kaylee Morton (.506 batting average, three home runs and 34 RBIs) and junior infielder Ally Sumser (.457 batting average, six home runs, 34 RBIs).

Other returning letter winners include seniors Cyd Clark (outfielder) and Emily Rogers (catcher) and sophomores Alexis Dill (infielder) and Olivia Kula (outfielder), Alex Kozich (infielder, outfielder). Sophomore Alyssa Heitkamp (outfielder) and freshmen Dani Austinson (pitcher) and Katie Matsko (catcher) are new members to the varsity squad.

“Our captain is senior Emily Rogers,” Matuszak said. “She converted to catcher last year and is doing an amazing job leading the team. Anna Edwards and Rachael Poling were very effective last year as our main pitchers. They have worked hard in the offseason to get better and it has shown in the preseason.”

Matuszak said North Ridgeville and Midview are going to be the tough teams to beat in the WSC.

“We have to work on our consistency and communication,” he said. “We are playing perennial power Elyria in a regular season game and are also competing in the Prebis Tournament. This tournament is full of softball powers in the tri state area. Playing Midview, North Ridgeville and Vermilion in the league is always exciting and competitive.”

 

 

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