Girls softball: Rockets look to go out on top in final SBC season

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

From top to bottom, Oak Harbor’s girls softball lineup might be better than it was last year.
That’s saying something, considering that last season the Rockets won their first-ever regional championship in getting to the final four.
Needless to say, Oak Harbor is hoping to leave the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division on top before joining the Northern Buckeye Conference.
The Rockets have a pitcher with plenty of potential in Alyse Sorg.
Oak Harbor returns six starters and senior center fielder Emily Sommers leads things off. Second baseman Hannah Schimmoeller, who burst onto the scene as a freshmen last season, bats second, followed by Porter Gregory (1B), Reese Adkins (SS), Sorg, Tatum Baumgartner (LF), Ava Geyer (RF), who is the club’s other pitcher, Allie Giezie (C) and Karder Haas (3B).
“Overall, we’ve come out of the gate hitting strong. We’re solid all the way through the lineup and keeping that up is going to be the remaining goal for the season,” said Oak Harbor coach Cami Haas. “Things are set to change, but we’ve been pretty successful with what we have now.”
Haas has high hopes for Sorg.
“Alyse has come out extremely strong,” Haas said. “She’s really dialed in, and she’s been working hard and her efforts have been fantastic.”

As usual, Gibsonburg is hoping to compete for a league championship and make a tournament run.
The Lady Bears, coached by Sarah Gruner, feature senior Jenna Bloomfield in the circle, and she also hits third in the batting order. Bloomfield was an all-Ohioan for her efforts and has verbally committed to the University of Toledo.
Freshman Emily Henderson, who normally plays first base, could see time in the circle, too.
Center fielder Mariah McNett is the lead-off hitter, followed by Aryah Ritchie (2B), Bloomfield, Cheyenne Reese (catcher), Henderson, Ansley Fleming, Madalynn Hannigan (3B), Leah Hall (LF) and Karley Mendoza (RF).
“We are strong on the mound and overall strong defensively with having six starters back,” said Gruner. “The leadership from the six starters on the field has helped strong freshmen step up to fill open positions. We have a lot of talent on the team this year.”
Last season, Gibsonburg, one of the area’s finest programs, went 15-9 and 9-6 in the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division and won a sectional title.
For now, the Lady Bears are just taking it slowly.
“Our first goal is to continuously improve throughout the season,” said Gruner. “After that, the goal is to win the league and make a solid run in the tournament.”

Another year means another set of high expectations for Eastwood.
The Eagles, who have excelled for the last 15 seasons under the guidance of Joe Wyant, lost just two starters from last season and return hitting sensation Delaney Maynard, who was an all-Ohioan.
Last year, Maynard, the catcher, batted .524 to go with six home runs, 16 doubles, two triples, 40 runs and seven stolen bases.
Cassi Kieper is going to be the pitcher; and Jessica Smith, the center fielder, will hit at the top of the order. Maynard bats second, Lilly Escobedo (LF) hits third and Ady Boley (SS) is the clean-up hitter.
“I’m still tinkering with it,” said Wyant. “We’re pretty set with the first four.”
The rest of the lineup will likely consist of second baseman Grace Kingery, third baseman Mackenzie Hady, first baseman Caitlyn Stiner, Kieper and right fielder Katie Oestrich.
Wyant talked about how he thinks the league will shake out.
“I think there are five pretty good teams that could beat each other on a given night,” he said. “I thought Otsego was going to be the best team (last year), and there’s Elmwood. I think Lake is really good – the best they’ve been for a while, and Genoa is pretty good; they’ve got a good pitcher.”

In each of the last two seasons, Northwood has won the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
Now the Rangers are looking to capture another league championship, but also hopes to make a tournament run.
Back to lead the way is C/SS Elizabeth Wauford, who was named the conference player of the year for the second straight season last year. She has broken eight team records in the last two seasons. In 2022, Wauford, batted .602 to go with seven home runs, two triples, 20 doubles, 46 runs, 54 RBIs and three stolen bases.
Pitchers Mikayla Hanely, who set the school record with 165 strikeouts last year, and Lea Wauford and third baseman Brooke Sakac make for a potent lineup.
“E.B. hits for power; she had 50 hits last year,” said Northwood coach Jennifer Noonan. “She is smart at the plate and aggressive on the bases. Lea hits for power and sits behind E.B. in the No. 4 spot. We can count on RBIs from her, she had 41 last season. Mikayla hits behind Lea and is consistent and battles at the plate. Brooke does a great job of getting runners in scoring position. She had 10 extra-base hits with a home run last season.”
Some of last season’s top hitters include shortstop Shealyn Nestor (.415), center fielder Mara O’Connor (.387) and outfielder Natalie Thompson (.320).

One of Woodmore’s best players last season was Cameran Quisno.
The junior pitched for the Wildcats and hit .333 in 2022. She will bat third this season.
Some other top returning hitters are second baseman Emmaleigh Lawrence (.241), third baseman Kara Schneider (.308) and right fielder Lily Strong (.292).
Scott Smith talked about the strengths and weaknesses of his team.
“The strength of this team is they are very coachable and want to learn the game of softball. They work hard in practice and want to get better. We have experience at most positions and have depth at most positions,” he said. “A weakness of this team is inexperience. We have to improve our fielding and hitting.
“We only have four returning letter winners back from last year's team. They are Lilly Strong, Cameran Quisno, Kara Schneider and Emmaleigh Lawrence,” he said.
Last season, the Wildcats went 6-20 and 2-12 in the Northern Buckeye Conference. The top of the league is very good, but there should be room for upward mobility for Woodmore.
“Our team goals for the season are to improve every day and to be competitive,” said Smith.

Is this the year Genoa gets to the top of the Northern Buckeye Conference?
The Comets went 15-11 last year and finished third in the league with a 9-4 record.
“Our strengths should be our hitting and pitching,” said Genoa coach Troy Susor. “The weaknesses could be our defense and definitely our depth.”
It starts in the circle with Kaylin Shields, who will be backed up by Violet Plantz.
Shortstop Emersen Bickel is the lead-off hitter, followed by Maddie Bronowski (catcher), Shields, Plantz (1B), Courtney Chapinski (2B), Marin Butler (3B), Natalie Hamilton (LF), Mya Colvin (CF) and Megan Valentine (RF). Makayla Magrum plays outfield and third base and will fill in as needed.
“Our goal is to win the league and have a good run in the tournament,” said Susor. “We have high hopes for this year’s squad, and anything less than competing for the title would be a disappointment.

For Lake coach Dave Rymers, it’s about keeping it simple.
“Our goal is to improve every day,” he said. “This season will be about growth and moving forward. To be successful, we need to make the routine plays defensively, throw strikes and have productive at-bats.”
Diem Isbell is the shortstop and hits at the top of the order, followed by Sarah Patrick (2B), Jess Materni (3B), Kali Bedford (P), Alivia King (CF), Kylee Pietrzak (catcher), Addy Boehm (1B), Ellie Rymers (LF) and Sophia Gruetter (DP). Maura Deutschman is the flex player and plays right field.
“Kali Bedford will throw a majority of our innings this year, with sophomore Sarah Patrick also seeing time in the circle,” Rymers said.
Last year, the Flyers went 10-14 and 5-9 in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
In 2022, Isbell hit .364 with 14 RBIs and stole 21 bases; Bedford batted .357 with 11 RBIs and was 7-12 with a 3.34 ERA in the circle; Boehm hit .333 and Patrick batted .325 with 15 RBIs while going 0-2 with a 5.02 ERA.
“This is an aggressive, hungry, smart group, but our overall depth concerns me this year,” Rymers said.

After going 13-12 and 10-4 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference last year, Clay is looking to win the league and make a run in the tournament.
Eagles coach Brenda Radabaugh talked about her club.
“With eight returning varsity players, six of whom are seniors, our strengths are experience and leadership. We only have one pitcher with varsity experience,” she said. “As the season progresses, our young pitchers will gain experience and confidence and continue to improve.
“We want to win the TRAC and make a run in the postseason,” she said.
Freshman Olivia Haas is the No. 1 pitcher, and Emily Maix and Jenna Swartz, who is also a freshman, will see time in the circle. Maix and Swartz will also be the primary subs for the lineup.
“All three pitchers will start games and pitch in relief,” said Radabaugh.
Second baseman Olivia Yenrick leads off, followed by Sharon Snow (1B), Morgan Cook (3B), Madison Franke (catcher), Haas, Camryn Reiter (SS), Brynn Reiter (CF), Rebekah Kolinski (DP), Aubry Artz (RF) and Dominique Swain (LF).

Last year, Waite went 12-12 and 6-2 in the City League, good enough to get to the conference’s championship game.
Could this year be the one where the Indians take the next step?
“I’m very optimistic. They are talented kids that work well together,” said Waite coach Lindsey Barton. “They are all upperclassmen, minus Lexi Avila, so they have experience. If they bring their ‘A’ game, I think we will be a competitive team against anyone we face.
“We want to make it to the City League championship game again this year and finish better than .500,” she said.
Jake Morales is the first baseman, Avila plays second — but the team is waiting for Bri Guajardo to be cleared to play — Janiyah Moye or Kayla Rogers will split time at shortstop, Serenity Garza or Jasmine Schneider will play third and Schneider or Rogers will play catcher.
The outfield is comprised of Cadence Kuharchek in left field, Tyniyah Thomas in center field and then a rotation of Hailey Zervas, Lavarianna Hemfield, Jasmin Martinez and Maranda Quillen, who can also play first. Martinez and Hemfield can also play second when Avila pitches.
The pitchers are Zervas, Moye, Garza and Avila.

Cardinal Stritch
It wasn’t that long ago that Cardinal Stritch was one of the top teams in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
Perhaps the Cardinals can get back to the top of the league this season.
Coach Tony Esposito has an experienced group that starts five seniors and one junior, but there are younger players at some of the key positions, namely pitcher, where sophomore Shelby Mercer and senior Lily Smith will play.
Second baseman Allison McVicker leads off and is followed by Cadence Zgurich (SS), Olivia Cronin (LF), Mackenzie Kinnie (CF), Brooke Warren (RF), Emily Mossing (3B), Mercer, Bella Schwirzinski (catcher) and Georgia Burnham (1B).
“With the seven seniors (eight total) that have been here since their freshman canceled COVID year, I would like to see them reach the potential and success that they have been striving so hard for,” said Esposito. “Our program, like many smaller schools with no JV squad, is asking freshmen to rise from middle-school play to the high school varsity level in a short period of time. Our seniors were thrown into this dilemma in their sophomore year, making it even more difficult. I believe they have performed admirably under these conditions and with the experience, readiness and leadership of our seniors, we are ready to make 2023 a season they will not soon forget.
“We are looking to compete for the TAAC title and further in the state tournament than last year,” Esposito said.


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