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With seven starters returning from its 2008 City League championship softball team, St. Ursula is the clear favorite to repeat that title this year.
Third-year coach Frank Zalewski s Arrows should expect their top challenge to come from Clay, which had won the prior two City titles, and Whitmer, which lost to St. Ursula in the CL playoff final.
The other two teams most likely to contend for one of the league s four playoff spots are Notre Dame, which reached the final four last season, and Central Catholic.
St. Ursula (24-5, 9-2 CL last year) is led by the 1-2 junior punch of Tori Allen (shortstop) and Lydia Loy (pitcher-outfielder), who were selected All-CL first team last year.
Allen, a third year starter, was third in the league in batting at .495, with two home runs and 18 RBIs. Loy, the winning pitcher in the 2008 CL title game, takes over the No. 1 pitching spot from graduated All-Ohioan Alyssa Schultz, who was 16-4 with an 0.40 ERA. Loy earned All-City as an outfielder, batting .350 with 18 RBIs.
Also returning as starters are seniors Caitlin Jadwisiak (3B, .302), Andrea Glowczewski (1B), Lauren Grana (2B, .286), Amanda McCurdy (OF) and Chelsey Arnett (OF).
On paper, we look pretty good, Zalewski said, but we have to play the games, and we re replacing an all-state pitcher. We have two pitchers with completely opposite styles. Lydia is a junkball pitcher and [sophomore] Grace Ammons throws it over 60 miles per hour.
I m always concerned about our defense, but if the defense plays well we ll do well because I think we re going to hit the ball.
Clay (21-4, 10-1) returns five starters for ninth-year coach Brenda Radabaugh, including seniors Lindsey Wise (3B-LF, .443, 34 RBIs), who was named All-CL first team, Matea Rice (1B), Erin Screptock (P-LF) and Monica Reeves (LF-DP). Also back are juniors Eryn Simon (2B, .476, 16 RBIs) and Sarah Stibaner (C), who were each All-CL second team, and junior Hallie Thompson (SS). The No. 1 pitcher is junior Kasey Graham, who attempts to fill the void left by the graduation of the 1-2 punch of Lauren Frank (11-0, 1.49 ERA) and Brandy Holmes (6-3, 1.66 ERA, .397 batting average), who were each named All-City first team.
We ll need to have consistent hitting, and we should have pretty solid defense, Radabaugh said. If the pitching stays healthy we should be strong.
At Whitmer (16-10, 8-3), 14th-year coach Mark Figliomeni has the luxury of eight returning starters, a group that includes seniors Kellee Molloy (SS-OF, .389), Alexis Molik (OF, .304), Brittany McVicker (OF) and Jessi Woelfl (2B), juniors Hayli Erdmann (P, 15-10, 1.90 ERA), Stacy Sumner (C, .318, 4 HR, 21 RBIs) and Elyse Roberts (DP), and sophomore Stephanie Andrews (1B). Erdmann and Sumner were each all-league second team.
I m optimistic, Figliomeni said. If our best players play well, and our new people get right into it, then we ll be a contender.
Jessica Jordan takes over as coach at Notre Dame (17-9, 9-2), which lost nine players to graduation, but she has three returning starters to help with the transition. Back are seniors Kendall Brickman (3B), Tina Song (1B) and Lindsay Davidson (OF).
The pitching is being handled by senior Marissa Jones and freshman Ashley Boring. Jordan sees promise in sophomore catcher Bitty Treece.
We won t settle for anything less than the final four, Jordan said. We ve got an incredibly talented group of players, and I m excited to see how the season unfolds. We ve got good leadership with our seniors.
Central Catholic (10-17, 6-5) returns seven starters for second-year coach Norm Kujawa, including seniors Ashley Sujkowski (SS, .451, 4 HR, 23 RBIs), Fallon Matuszewski (OF, .333) and Ashleigh Whitacre (OF, .316), who were all All-CL second team. Also back are seniors Emily Sifuentes (2B, .409) and Emily Grau (1B), and juniors Kellie Thorton (3B) and Monica Klonowski (C).
We should realistically challenge for a playoff spot, Kujawa said. The key will be playing solid defense and having timely hitting. We have a good nucleus and our expectations are high.
Bowsher (15-14, 7-4) just missed out on a playoff spot last year but third-year coach Melissa Wagner thinks contending may be a bit more difficult this season with an inexperienced squad. Leading the Rebels as returning starters will be senior Brittany Guerrero (SS), juniors Taylor Empey (3B) and Sara Goding (CF), and sophomore Kirby Jewell (LF). Junior Katie Dibble is a first-year pitcher, and Wagner is trying out some freshmen hurlers.
Truthfully, it s a rebuilding year, Wagner said. We have the potential to be there, but it ll come down to how we play in the big games.
Waite (6-16, 6-5) looks to improve under eighth-year coach Tiffany Turner, led by junior shortstop Fantasia Combs (SS), who was a second-team All-CL pick last year. Also back are seniors Tiffany Valdez (.333), Jerrica Wilson (.328) and Courtney Kenney.
Start (3-14, 3-7) will face an uphill battle trying get back to its playoff form of 2007, as first-year coach Carrie Hansen returns just three starters. Back are the team s only seniors, Crystal Bailey (P) and Michelle Trabbic (SS), and sophomore Kelsay Newland (CF). Junior Jessica Fernbaugh joins Bailey in the pitching rotation.
I think we ll be in the middle of the league, Hansen said. Their biggest challenge right now is learning how to play as a team. We need to keep a positive attitude.
First-year coach Kelli Short returns four starters at Rogers (5-13, 3-8), including senior Jessica Jagodzinski (SS-P), junior Carol Jagodzinski (CF), and sophomore twins Rebecca Modrowski (utility) and Renee Modrowski (2B). The Rams top task is finding pitching, and overcoming the fact that 10 of 20 girls in the program have not played before this season.
Coach Dan Smith, who started the Woodward (2-13, 2-9) program in 1992, also returns four starters, including seniors Cayla Wooley (SS-P), Keisha Wilcox (1B-LF) and Sierra Avila (CF), and sophomore Julie Bitter (C).
They re just learning, Smith said of the bulk of his team. We re going to take our lumps, but we ve got teams on all three levels [freshman, junior varsity and varsity]. If we can keep them together we should be OK down the road.
Scott (2-11, 1-10) brings back five starters on its 11-player roster for third-year coach Deb Jones, a group that includes seniors Ashayla Yancey (P), Skyler Gregory (SS) and Revelon Wyse (LF), and juniors Whitaker Greer (C) and Shekina Alexander (CF).
A lot of them haven t played before, Jones said. We re just trying to be competitive and have fun.
Fifth-year coach Dawn Cousino also brings back five starters atLibbey (0-13, 0-11) in senior Dionna Rose (1B) and juniors Marsaydies Coleman (P), Bianca Lofton (C), Jane Ramirez (3B) and Cassie McGlothlin (utility).
They come to practice and work hard and they re being productive and trying to learn, Cousino said. We re just looking for them to learn the game and try to be competitive.