Clay softball coach Brenda Radabaugh enters her ninth year at the school with five league championships — three consecutive in the former Great Lakes League (2001, 02, 03) and two consecutive in the Toledo City League (2006, 07).
Since 2001, Clay has gone 155-63 under Radabaugh’s direction. At a previous eight year stint at Central Catholic (1992-2000), Radabaugh’s teams were 153-58 and won a City League championship in 2000 and district title in 1998.
Her success has earned her GLL Coach of the Year twice (2001, 02), CL Coach of the Year (2006), and District Coach of the Year (2006).
Radabaugh also has a district championship at Clay (2002), but last year Clay failed to win its third straight City League title.
Last year’s team was 21-5 overall, and was on top of the CL during the regular season with a 10-1 record, but blew the championship during the final four.
Waite coach Tiffany Turner has seen her team improve every year, and this year has five players that could hit over .350.
“The City League is going to be tough like usual,” Turner said. “If we play to our potential we definitely can make the final four, but we can’t take a night off or we will find ourselves on the outside looking in. We had big wins against Start and Toledo Central Catholic last year and I expect more big wins this year.”
Radabaugh has seven returning letter winners to help the Eagles get back on top.
Radabaugh believes this year’s team should finish in the top four again because of “strong defense,” “good hitters from top to bottom of the lineup,” and “solid pitching.”
“Whitmer will be strong with the only returning pitcher from last year’s final four teams,” Radabaugh said. “St. Ursula and Notre Dame should both be strong, also.”
Radabaugh says Clay needs to get past some pre-season injuries.
“I look forward to having the whole team healthy,” Radabaugh said. “Northwest Ohio has some of the best softball players in the state of Ohio. I am looking forward to some great competition and an exciting year.”
Returning are senior third baseman and left fielder Lindsey Wise, junior second baseman Eryn Simon, junior pitcher/third baseman Kasey Graham, senior pitcher/left fielder Erin Screptock, junior center Sarah Stibener, and junior shortstop Hallie Thompson.
Last season, Wise (.418 BA/six doubles/three triples/3 HR/34 RBI/.885 fielding pct.) was First Team All-City, First Team NW District, and Honorable Mention All-Ohio.
“(She is) tough to get out and will foul off close pitches until she gets something good to hit,” Radabaugh said.
Simon (.467/20 RBI/ six doubles, four triples, .935 fielding pct.) was Second Team All-City, First Team NW District; Stibaner (.341/four doubles/1 HR/12 RBI/1.000 fielding pct.) was Second Team All-City, and Thompson (.413/three doubles/two triples/12 RBI/.946 fielding pct.) and Matea Rice were HM All-City.
Screptock has already committed to Notre Dame College in Cleveland, Rice will play softball at Owens Community College, and Wise and Monica Reeves are still undecided.
Radabaugh said Simon has “great form” and a “good eye at the plate.”
Top pitchers will be Graham and returning letter winner Screptock. Graham has led the Clay junior varsity team to two consecutive City League championships.
“(Graham) throws hard,” Radabaugh said. “(Screptock) worked hard in the off-season. She is a strong pitcher and very dependable in left field.”
Defensively, Wise is very aggressive at left field and third base, Radabaugh said, and is “quick with a strong arm.” Simon has “great range” at second base, “fast feet to the ball and solid bunt coverage.” Thompson has “improved range and arm strength at shortstop.”
Radabaugh said Stibaner is a “much improved catcher blocking balls behind the plate and calling pitches.” and has a “very strong arm.”
First year players expected to contribute are sophomore Danielle Holmes, sophomore Cassi Laberdee, and freshman Kim Crawford.
Radabaugh said Holmes is “quick with a very strong arm in right field.” Crawford is “extremely fast and covers lots of ground in center field” and Laberdee is a pitcher recovering from shoulder surgery.
The good news for Waite softball is the return of junior Fantasia Combs. The Second Team All-City League choice batted over .400 with power last year.
“Exceptional player — Fantasia Combs,” says Coach Tiffany Turner. “She is the best shortstop I have seen come through Waite High School. She has improved our defense with her unbelievable range and arm at shortstop.”
Turner, in her eighth year at Waite, has 10 returning letter winners. Turner’s ability to bring out the best in her softball team earned her CL Coach of the Year in 2003.
Key players returning are Combs, senior pitcher Jerrica Wilson, and senior position players Courtney Kenney, Tiffany Valdez, Stephanie Gilreath, Shawna Hester, and Jacki Strunk.
“We lost two our starting outfielders from last year to graduation,” Turner said, “and we have worked hard to fill their shoes. We also have worked hard to improve our short game. Bunting and dragging are essential at the varsity level.”
Valdez, Gilreath, Wilson, and Hester all have the ability to bat over .350, Turner said.
“There will be a lot of pressure on them to hit and hit well,” the coach added. “Pitching is improving every year. Our No. 1 pitcher is Jerrica Wilson. She has worked hard on her pitches and I expect her to keep us in many games. Kelcie Kaweski and Allison Hegge will also see time on the mound.”
Turner says she has some key underclassmen, including four sophomores that are getting varsity experience.
“They have to step up there to help us make the final four,” Turner said.