GENOA The Genoa softball team has goals, as do most good softball teams.
But the Comets primary goal this season is a simple one: they want to hang a banner.
Genoa has never claimed a Suburban Lakes League softball championship, and this year s club has a terrific chance to do just that. The 19-1 Comets, ranked No. 3 in Division III in Ohio, are tied for first with Elmwood in the SLL standings with a 10-1 league record, including a 12-inning, 1-0 victory over the No. 2-ranked Royals.
Chances are good that tomorrow s contest between the two teams at Genoa will determine whether or not the Comets claim that first-ever crown. A win would also give Genoa its fourth straight 20-win season.
I wouldn t say that I m surprised that we re where we re at, because that would suggest it was unexpected, Genoa coach Tom Kontak said. Collectively we expected to have a very good team. A lot of preparation this past offseason went into making this a good team.
One important factor in the Comets success has been the pitching of Shana Szypka. The junior is 17-1 with a 0.35 ERA this season, having struck out 254 while walking only 15 in 120 innings that s an average of 2.1 strikeouts per inning and a whiffs-to-walks ratio of 16.9-to-1.
Szypka already has thrown 11 shutouts and five no-hitters this year.
Clearly our success starts with good pitching, and we ve had that with Shana, Kontak said. But we ve had good production on offense, and that s been important, too. We have eight players who have scored in double figures, and we have six players in double figures in RBIs.
Our success has been because of our balance throughout the lineup; in fact, the bottom third of our batting order has carried us quite a bit this season.
Genoa s top hitter is junior center fielder Abbey Kontak, the coach s daughter, who is batting .462 with a home run, 19 runs scored and 10 RBIs. But Abbey Kontak is one of four Comets who consistently has ranked among the SLL s top hitters all season.
Senior Leslie Scheanwald is batting .429 with 10 runs scored and 19 RBIs; senior second baseman Christina Baker is hitting .391 with 15 runs and nine RBIs; and senior shortstop Kelly Traver has a .367 batting average with 15 runs and 13 RBIs.
I ve always had confidence in our team, Traver said. As the season has gone on, that confidence has grown.
That confidence got its stiffest test when Genoa met Elmwood for the first time. That contest went 12 innings, with Szypka striking out 28 of the 36 Royals she retired, before the Comets scored a run in the last inning for a 1-0 win. Szypka had the game-winning RBI.
The first time we played it was a great game, Traver said. It was just one of those games where you have to scrounge for a run. And Shana pitched a great game. I don t think we re going to change anything.
Tomorrow s game may not mark the last meeting of these two team. Barring upsets, they would meet May 18 in the district final.
To beat Elmwood, you have to get pitching that s just as good as theirs, and theirs is so strong, Tom Kontak said. This team has had two goals this season: the second was to get to regionals, because we ve been to districts the past three years and gotten beat there every time.
But we re just taking things one game at a time. And right now hanging our first SLL championship banner is clearly the priority.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.