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March 31, 2013

H.S. SOFTBALL: Local softball teams go through makeover

MEADVILLE — Like every year, players have come and gone. New champions have been crowned and long-time droughts ended.

Then there is the Conneaut merger where three arch rivals have come together.

In short, the 2012-13 school year, so far, has been all about change. And this softball season is certainly no different.

Not only will players originally hailing from Linesville, Conneaut Lake and Conneaut Valley prepare to suit up in new colors and take new positions together on the same team, they will do so under the direction of one of the area’s four new head coaches.

Former Cambridge Springs standout Stephanie Baer has taken the reigns as the head coach at Conneaut. At Union City, former longtime assistant coach Frank Snyder is at the helm.

Meadville hired recreation softball star and former Mercyhurst Prep and Girard head coach Jim Moats to coach its softball team. And at Maplewood, another former standout Hannah Parker will make the calls.

Up for a challenge

Baer isn’t too many years removed from playing high school softball herself, but when the opportunity came to coach the Conneaut Eagles, she had to give it a shot.

“I have always wanted to coach,” Baer said. “I didn’t expect my first head coaching job to be a high school head coach, I figured maybe Little League or travel ball. But the opportunity came and I just couldn’t pass it up.”

Baer inherits a team that hasn’t played a single inning of softball together. Ever. But Baer has never really backed down from a challenge.

Local softball fans probably remember Baer from her playing days at Cambridge Springs where she earned three Meadville Tribune Softball Player of the Year honors in her four-year career as the Blue Devils’ ace.

She finished her career with a 71-13 record. She also set the school record for career strikeouts with 792 in 567 innings of work. She threw 35 shutouts and ended with a career ERA of .76. And of the 7,496 pitches she threw, 5,494 of them (73.3 percent) were strikes.

She led the Devils to back-to-back District 10 titles and a state quarterfinal and semifinal appearance.

“This has been a lot more than I expected,” Baer said, “dealing with the school for buses, uniforms, equipment and that sort of stuff. But as far as working with the girls it is pretty much what I expected. They are working really hard.”

Baer brought her dad, Steve, with her to Conneaut. Steve was an assistant for several years at Cambridge Springs. He is working with the outfield. Lane Baker is also on staff and works with the hitters. That gives the youngest Baer to teach what she knows best … pitching.

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