With plenty of experience returning, things seem to be in place for Evergreen to capture the Northwest Ohio Athletic League softball title.
Vikings coach Mollie Youtzy is coming off a rather memorable first season as coach of the Vikings, who reached the Division III regional final.
Evergreen (23-3, 7-1), runner-up to Archbold last season, has eight letter winners back.
“We would like to finish in the top half of the league,” Youtzy said.
Junior Taylor Monahan, an All-Ohio first team selection, is the top returner after leading the league with a .540 batting average with 25 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.
Seniors Kenya Keller (infielder), Lesley Ducat (pitcher/infielder), Lisa Helm (utility) and Kaitlin Ruetz (utility) should provide plenty of leadership. Keller hit .449, sixth best in the NWOAL last season, and Ducat was among the top hitters at .417 with four home runs and 27 RBIs.
Archbold (23-8, 8-0) is still a top contender despite losing six players to graduation.
Senior Hanna Allison batted .348 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs last year. Juniors Becca Gerig and Cassidy Wyse earned All-NWOAL first team. Gerig batted .431 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs while Wyse batted .485 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs.
Sophomores Cassidy Williams (.358) and Hannah Kern, who owned a 3.85 ERA and 8-4 record, also return.
“We hope to improve as the season goes on and to challenge for the NWOAL title,” Archbold coach Joe Frank said. “I think we will be above average offensively, but we have a lot of unproven players we’ll be counting on to make key contributions.”
Liberty Center (12-11, 2-6) has plenty of experience to make a push for the championship, despite losing a six key players to graduation.
Seniors Katie Thomas (catcher), Kaila Sturgell (pitcher), and Haley Polsdorfer (infielder) lead the way for the Tigers. Thomas hit a team-leading .475 while Sturgell batted .373 and Polsdorfer .281.
Sturgell struck out 158 batters and owned a 3.64 ERA.
“The seniors are looking to go farther than any team has and improve on that district runner-up finish,” Liberty Center coach Brooke Perry said. “Our record from last year did not reflect the talent we had, and we hope to be more consistent this year.”
Sydney Davis (infielder), Abbie Hill (outfielder), Blair May (infielder), and Steph Busick (pitcher) are also returners with plenty of experience at LC.
Patrick Henry (12-8, 5-3) has nine returning letter winners.
Seniors Katy Hammer (infielder), Kayla Fintel (utility), and Lindsey Meyer (utility) lead the way. Hammer, an All-Ohio first team player, batted .531 in her junior season. Fintel batted .441, and Meyer .424.
“We hope to compete in all the games and compete at the top of the NWOAL,” Patrick Henry coach Mike Meyer said. “Archbold and Evergreen should be the front-runners.”
Rachel Dye, a junior, batted .423, while Kristin Bostelman hit .351. Junior Katie Kurtz went 10-8 as with a 2.71 ERA.
Montpelier (13-13, 4-4) has nine returning letter winners for coach Shawne Bonney.
The Locomotives will rely on the leadership from seniors Lauren Dye (pitcher/outfielder), Christina Prather (first baseman), and Wendy Duchene (outfielder/pitcher). Dye’s .446 batting average last season ranked eighth-best in the NWOAL. She drove in 26 runs.
Duchene (3.23 ERA) and Dye (3.39 ERA) return as two of the league’s top pitchers.
“We have a great group of core returning lettermen back with us this season and some newcomers that will make an impact on the team,” Bonney said. “I feel that we will be competitive once again this season.”
Delta (7-12, 2-6) is optimistic under first-year coach Sam Keesey.
“The team’s work habits are improving, and the girls are starting to work with a purpose,” Keesey said. “We want to move up in the standings.”
Catcher Leah Markovich batted .500 as a junior, while Kelsey Walter (pitcher/infielder) hit .480, and Melissa Hausch (infielder) hit .391. Morgan Macionsky, a junior, batted .308 last year.
Wauseon is led by seniors Abby Schroeder (infield) and Sydney Chamberlain (outfield)
Quincy Brock (utility), Samantha Norman (pitcher), Tiffany King (infielder), Faith Hicks (infielder), Lindy Mynhier (catcher), and Ashley Smith (outfield) are also key players.
“We have a great core of returnees complimented by some talented newcomers,” Wauseon coach Justine Johnson said. “We have depth in all areas and a skilled group of junior-varsity players ready and willing to step up at any time.”
Bryan (12-15, 5-3) is led by seniors Abbie Davenport (infielder), Cassie Lawson (catcher) and Stevie Paine (pitcher).
However, the Golden Bears are a team looking to plug a number of holes with inexperience due to graduation.
"We will be filling all but three of our defensive positions with new personnel," Bryan coach Craig Polter said. "We may be putting players in different roles until we find our best defensive set. Our kids will need to step up."
Swanton (5-15, 2-6) is seeking to improve under first-year coach Marissa Everitt.
"I want to bring a better knowledge to the sport and raise the passion for softball," said Everitt, a Rossford graduate, who served as an assitant pitching coach at Oakland University last year.
Seniors Courtney Barker (catcher), Courtney Eitnear (infielder), Ashton Staler (outfielder) and Kelsey Upton (outfielder) are the key returners for the Bulldogs.
"I think we have a good group of girls and we have to work on closing out and ending games," Everitt said.