Strong arms, big bats
Regardless of who the Region 3 teams throw in the circle, the bats in Region 3 will put them to the test.
The region is, again, loaded with offense. In fact, there are at least 13 players back who batted over .300 and combined for 16 home runs.
Among that group is Union City’s Wienczkowski, who returns with the region’s best batting average at .548. Palmer hit .435 with four homers for Saegertown a year ago. Cochranton’s Abby Clulow also topped .400 with a .439.
Palmer, who also knocked in 25 runs in 2013, is one of four Panthers back with .300 or better averages last season, joining Jaricka Simmerman (.338, 20 RBIs), Tori Eckart (.333) and Mackenzie Garris (.333).
Parkin hit .352 for the Blue Devils last season. Cambridge also returns McKayla Zilhaver, who was below .300 at .266, but hit three home runs.
Also back are, Union City’s Courtney Brumagin (.392) and Meghan Mongera (.388), Maplewood’s Nicols (.347) and Ruth Fultz (.345), and Cochranton’s Sam Kinter (.349) and Ariel Smith (.314).
Union City, with Wienczkowski back on the mound and its lineup, could be a real contender this season.
“I do have three big hitters back and I am expecting big years from them again,” said Union City second-year coach Frank Snyder. “I feel good about my offense 1 through 9 this year and I have some very good hitters coming off the bench competing for spots as well.”
The Bears also return Tori Migliaccio and Autumn Kinney, who were just below the .300 mark at .295 and .288, respectively. Wienczkowski, Brumagin, Kinney, Mongera and Migliaccio combined for 50 of the Bears’ 67 runs batted in and 20 of its 26 extra-base hits, including all three home runs.
MASH, CASH ready to take on Region 6
Last year was a year of firsts for both Crawford County members of the Region 6 softball league.
For Conneaut, it was the program’s first season ever following the consoladation of the Conneaut School District’s previous three high schools — Conneaut Lake, Conneaut Valley and Linesville. It was also the first head coaching job for Cambridge Springs graduate Stephanie Baer.
The Meadville team also had a first with its new head varsity coach Jim Moats.
Now, with a first-year foundation laid for both programs, they’re ready to get back into the race in a competitive Class AAA region.
Conneaut, which was 10-8 last season and 6-4 in Region 6, finished out the year strong and wound up being a contender for a District 10 Class AAA playoff berth. The goal this year is to start strong and continue to improve. The tools are in place.
The Eagles did graduate a bit of talent, but also return quite a bit, including pitcher Sahara Blair and the likes of shortstop Kristen Baker and first baseman Rebecca Hazen, both of whom batted over .300 a year ago.
Baker led the Eagles with a .439 average, 27 runs scored and 19 RBIs. Hazen hit .317. Blair also had a solid bat, carrying a .327 average with a team-best six doubles.
The Eagles are already off to a hot start offensively, slugging a dozen base hits in Wednesday’s 12-6 win over region foe Grove City. Outfielder Emily Baum was 4-for-4. Hazen also had a pair of hits.
For Meadville, Moats said the start of the season was a challenge as far as numbers are concerned. That situation appears to be resolved and the Bulldogs — looking to improve on last year’s 3-12 campaign — have an abundance of talent back to make a go at the Region 6 crown. They, too, have experience on the mound in Alexis Rhoades.
At the dish, the Bulldogs will rely on outfielder Megan Alexander and infielders Taylor Nottingham, Alex Smith and Jordan Boca-Wimer.
Nottingham has already gotten off to a strong start offensively, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to non-region opponent Rocky Grove. Smith, freshman catcher Ariana Hoffman, sophomore shortstop Kaycee Keas and junior outfielder Emilee Clayton have also logged base hits to start the season.