By Ryan Kaczmarski
The 2011 spring sports season was tarnished by record-setting rain and canceled games. The hope is, with the early summerlike weather, this season will go off without a hitch.
Softball, along with boys baseball, was most affected by last year’s weather. Here is a look at this year’s Westshore area high school softball squads that will be starting action this week:
The ROCKY RIVER team has a new head coach in Leah Black. She hopes to turn around the Pirates squad, which had an overall record of 1-15 in 2011.
Black spent four years as an assistant coach in Rocky River, and knows the strengths of her four key returning players.
The first is senior pitcher Hannah Olenick. Olenick earned second team All-West Shore Conference honors last year and was named this year’s team captain. She not only has a high school career ERA of 2.97, she also has 293 career strikeouts and led the Pirates last year with a batting average of .372. Second is senior shortstop Kim Leitch, who earned a WSC honorable mention last season and batted to a .348 average. Hard-working senior outfielder Elyse Schodowski is known for her speed. She also was a WSC honorable mention last year and hit for a .245 average. Senior pitcher/utility player Elena Chiviles contributes to the team with her versatility.
A promising newcomer to the team is Eve Schodowski (Elyse’s sister), who will shore up the middle of the infield.
“We plan to improve the record from last year,” Black said. “We have focused on improving our fielding skills in the offseason.
“We have five pitchers, so we look to have more depth in the pitching position led by Hannah Olenick, a four-year varsity starter, who plans on attending Allegheny College next season and playing softball there.”
The BAY squad did not fare much better last year, finishing with a 6-16 record (3-10 in the WSC).
The Rockets have seven returning letter winners from last year, including pitcher Meghan Kevedsy, catcher Chelsea Woodworth, second baseman/outfielder Michele McGovern, outfielder Maggie Ward, corner infielder Cheyenne Santee, middle infielder/pitcher Courtney Woodworth and outfielder Stephanie Sheppa.
“I am excited about each member of the team and what they bring,” said Rockets head coach Katie McCarthy. “Meghan Kevesdy is a central part of our team and our No.1 pitcher. She is a great team leader and works hard every practice.
“Chelsea Woodworth is a great athlete and continually wants to improve her game,” she added. “McGovern is always working hard and cheering on her teammates.”
McCarthy also noted that Katie McFeeley and Amy Urwin will be key contributing members of the team.
“Some of these girls have been playing together for several years and have a lot of varsity experience,” McCarthy said. “I think that experience is going to help us in close games. The team communicates well and works together.
“As a coach, I think we can always improve all aspects of our game,” she added. “We are working on staying consistent and making big plays under pressure. This season, we want to come out on top each game, and we are working hard to do so.”
NORTH OLMSTED graduated five starters, with a combined nine years of varsity experience, from the team that went 12-8 (6-7 in the Southwestern Conference) in 2011, including the starting shortstop, second baseman and the No.1 pitcher in the rotation.
What the Eagles do have is returning senior catcher Jordann Sanchez, who was 1st Team All-SWC, 1st Team All-District and honorable mention All-Ohio last season. Also returning are juniors Danielle Jonas, who is moving from center field to shortstop; Kayla Runyon, who is moving from left field to second base; and sophomore third baseman Erica English and senior pitcher Katie Banchek.
“We will need Jordann Sanchez to continue her offensive and defensive play (from last year),” said first-year Eagles head coach John Wadas. “We will also need a big year from Katie, and offensively, we will rely on Jonas, Runyon and English as well.”
Wadas sees the entire conference schedule as being No. 1 on the list of importance.
“The SWC is a battle every year,” he said. “It is very competitive from the top to the bottom. We need to come ready to play.
“We have a close-knit group of girls,” he added. “I really think they embody what a team is. We also have a solid core of returning players from last year, who through tournament play have come in looking good on both sides of the ball.”
The Eagles expect to win, but they have not set unrealistic goals.
“I would like to see us improve on our 6-7 conference record from last year,” Wadas said. “In addition, I would like to see us get past the first round of the state tournament. I really believe we can surprise some teams this year, but the girls have to believe in themselves.”
The WESTLAKE softball squad has already split a double-header with Magnificat over the weekend to start the season 1-1. The Demons are coming off a 2011 season in which they went 13-10 (7-7 in the SWC) and made it to the district semifinals.
The key returning players are juniors Jamie Screen, second baseman/outfielder, and Julia Kosco, third baseman/short stop; and pitcher/first baseman Mackenzie Gambetta, pitcher/shortstop Jesse Moracz, outfielder Sarah Turgeon, catcher Laura Campbell, first baseman/outfielder Tarra Pease and outfielder Meredith Leech, all seniors.
The promising newcomers on the Demons team are Mackenzie Smith, Erin Brown, Katlyn Nagel, Alex Tinline, Caroline Hazapis and Rachel May.
“We have eight returning lettermen, who are very talented and have varsity experience,” said Demons head coach Tom Shiban. “We lost four excellent seniors, so we have openings both offensively and defensively that need to be filled.
“As always, our success will depend on our pitching and defense,” he added. “Jesse Moracz and Mackenzie Gambetta will share the pitching duties. Offensively, we return leadoff hitter Jamie Screen, who set school records for batting average and hits, our RBI leader in Gambetta and our leading run scorer in Kosco.”
Last year, OLMSTED FALLS finished 14-9 overall, 10-4 in the SWC (second place) and went to the district finals.
The Bulldogs graduated seven seniors from last year’s team, including Kim and Kelly Kirkpatrick (both playing college softball) and Lauren Rodgers. The key returning letter winners are seniors Lauren Franklin and Amanda Abraham, and juniors Mary Gorski, Jen Pierce and Kate Edgehouse.
“Lauren and Kate give us depth at the pitching position and are both really good,” said Bulldogs head coach Jim Smith.
Key newcomers for Olmsted Falls are Julia Newhouse, Amelia Caraballo, Allison Gerycz, Kristina Mancini, Emily McKenzie, Madison Woods and Katelyn Nowicki.
“Our pitchers are our strength, but we have really good speed also,” Smith said. “Our goals are to win the SWC and advance to regionals.”
The LUTHERAN WEST softball program had a disappointing season last year, finishing 4-12 (2-8 in the Patriot Athletic Conference), but turned it on in the postseason, making it to the district semifinals game.
“Last year’s team worked really hard and made huge strides at the end of the season,” said Longhorns head coach Angela Stelts. “They were a young team that had to learn how to work together at the beginning of the season. Caitlin Vidovic was a strong leader and a great pitcher, and will be missed this year.”
The Longhorns have six returning letter winners, including Emily Mystic and Carey Smith.
“Emily Mystic and Carey Smith are both sophomores who will have a vital role in this year’s lineup,” Stelts said. “Emily is my starting pitcher and a great leader on the field; and Carey is my starting catcher, who has worked hard in the offseason to improve her game.”
The team captains this year are Rachael McClain and Kristen Sedlak.
Coach Stelts plans on having a lot of offense this season.
“Hitting is going to be a strength for us this year,” she said. “I have a lot of girls who have worked on their swing in the offseason and are ready to make a huge impact at the plate.
“Mental toughness is a weakness,” she added. “They are a young team and need to overcome their fear of making mistakes. Our goal is to work hard, play as a team and make it to districts for a second year in a row.”
The FAIRVIEW squad is also coming off a sub-.500 season, where it lost to Bay in the first round of the state tournament after beating Bay twice during the regular season in its final season competing in the WSC.
The Warriors lost six girls from last year’s team to graduation, but have four key returning letter winners in Erin Wolansky, Sara Fountain, Shannon Gullette and Morgan Belliveau.
“Erin will be moving from second base to shortstop to anchor the infield (this year),” said Warriors head coach Kathryn Bzdafka. “She is a multithreat at the plate.”
The team will be counting on sophomore Mackenzie Piorkowski to be an all-around team leader.
“She is an aggressive fielder and vocal leader,” Bzdafka said. “We are looking forward for her to be in the meaty part of our lineup.”
Other players who will be key this year are sophomore pitcher Marisa Rinehart and freshman catcher Kelsey Bilak, who has a strong arm and should be a threat on the bases.
The Fairview team is looking forward to a tough schedule in its first season competing in the PAC.
“We are very young this year, but our upperclassmen have been doing a great job mentoring the younger girls,” Bzdafka said. “It’s a great group with a lot of potential.”
The MAGNIFICAT softball team is 1-1 on the season after the double-header split with Westlake on Saturday.
The Blue Streaks had a sub-par 8-14 season last year, and are still in a rebuilding stage as a program.
“Magnificat softball is still rebuilding, but we do have a solid nucleus of returning players,” said head coach Chris Barrow. “Unfortunately for us, our top freshman ‘prospect’ injured her knee two weeks before tryouts began and, most likely, will miss the entire softball season. We do have a few other freshmen who will contribute to the varsity team.
“Our pitching is still not where we want it to be, but with one junior and four freshmen, we do have some depth,” Barrow added. “Our goal is to develop these young pitchers, so that they can contribute to the varsity in the near future.”
The key returning players are senior catcher/first baseman Callan Ganim; junior pitcher/second baseman Alexis Setta; sophomore infielders Carly Levindofske and Destinie Keeton; and freshman outfielders Ellie Dougher and Laura Girgash.
“I see us improving again this season and being a .500 ball team,” Barrow said. “It all comes down to how our young pitching staff improves. We will field a solid defensive team and should improve our hitting.
“I feel we are still one year away from being competitive with the better teams (in the area), but we should hold our own against the good teams.”