The spring sports season has arrived and several baseball and softball dugouts look different this year.
Seven new coaches are set to lead their teams as they take the field for the first time since 2019. The entire 2020 season was canceled by the PIAA due to COVID-19.
• David Herr, Conneaut: Herr became the second head coach in CASH baseball history when he took over for Todd Greenawalt in December 2019. Herr inherits a young team and says the freshmen and sophomores will see a lot of playing time.
“These young players are going to gain a lot of experience this year. The junior and senior boys are showing them the ropes because the older ones came up with Todd and have an excellent work ethic and fantastic attitude,” Herr said. “My expectation for this year is to compete and win while developing and building this team.”
Herr did not get a chance to coach the team last year due to the pandemic, but got to know the team in open gyms leading up to what would have been the 2020 season.
“When we shut down because of COVID-19, it was heartbreaking for the senior players who never got a chance to take the field one last time. COVID has made me take a little different approach to the game,” Herr said. “That is, enjoy every game, every practice and every chance you get to teach the boys the game and most of all let the kids play as if this could be the final game. I believe if you’re not having fun playing ball at any level then you shouldn’t be wasting your time doing it.”
• Ken Smock, Maplewood: Smock is back as head coach for the Tigers. He has been coaching in the Maplewood area for 36 years including six years as head coach from 1997-2003.
Smock was supposed to make his return last season but was unable to. Last year, seven seniors missed out on their final season.
“2020 was very frustrating. We’re currently in a rebuild and have no seniors but several underclassmen that missed out getting playing experience last year,” Smock said. “I love the game and the life lessons it teaches on and off the field to our youth in the community. We have a great bunch of players eager to learn and compete.”
• Meadville - Tony Tartaglione
Tartaglione takes over for Bruce Stewart, who Tartaglione served as assistant coach under for two seasons. He also spent eight years coaching little league baseball in Meadville.
“I applied for the position because it’s something I always wanted to do,” Tartaglione said. “I’ve coached a lot of the younger generation of kids that are coming up and I enjoy doing it. I think we can really do some good things here in Meadville and thats why I wanted the job.”
Tartaglione has been around much of his roster because he started coaching when his son, Rocco, started playing T-ball. Tartaglione has followed Rocco up through the years and is now at the varsity level.
The team is fairly young with only six upperclassmen and Tartaglione feels the program can win now and over the next several years.
“My expectations are for us to win our region because I think we can,” Tartaglione said. “We are a very young team that will compete and I think we can build the program from here.”
• CASH - Jason Onderko
Onderko has been coaching baseball in some aspect since 2001. He was an assistant or volunteer coach for Conneaut Valley or Conneaut Area for several years and had a stint as head coach at Conneaut Valley from 2009 to 2012. Last year was supposed to be his first season coaching softball as a volunteer for CASH, but because the season was cancelled, this season will be Onderko’s debut into softball.
“I was sad we didn’t get to have our season last year and I couldn’t get my feet wet with softball as a volunteer. Even though I’m new to the sport of Softball I was able to put a great coaching staff together with a lot of softball coaching experience and that makes my job of running this program a lot easier,” Onderko said. “When the opportunity for the head coaching position came open I had a good discussion with my wife about wanting to get back into coaching full time and I knew I had a strong program coming.”
In 2019, CASH went 11-8 and was eliminated from the District 10 playoffs in the first round.
“I’m extremely excited for this season because our team and coaching staff have been working hard to get ready for the upcoming season,” Onderko said. “’One’ is a big talking point with our team this year, one ball, one pitch, one play, one team, and one goal. We should be very competitive this year if we play as one.”
• Maplewood - Brad Crawford
Crawford has been an assistant for the Tigers for three seasons and was supposed to make his coaching debut last season. He’s also coached T-ball and little league softball.
“I applied for the position because I have two daughters on the team and another one in seventh grade. I’ve been around a lot of these girls in volleyball and softball,” Crawford said. “I just enjoy the sport and all the kids.”
Crawford hopes to get the team to play together as one.
“Some of these girls play travel ball together, but a lot of them have had two years off cause of COVID. Most of the team is new so I need them all to start meshing together,” Crawford said. “I just wanna bring this group together and be competitive. I want to get them to play ball like they know how.”
• Meadville - Renee Ashton
Ashton has over 14 years of coaching experience and was a pitcher at UNC at Wilmington. She gave pitching lessons for 12 years in the Wilmington, N.C., area before moving to Meadville. Last season was supposed to be her first year.
“Unfortunately we missed our 2020 season. It was frustrating because the players were just getting used to the new coaching staff and what we were expecting from them. I was also disappointed because I had two seniors that didn’t get their last season in,” Ashton said. “All of the teams are now dealing with having freshman and sophomores who are playing their first high school games. Despite the current situation, we are confident in our team and the hard work the girls are putting in to make this season great.”
Ashton and assistant coach Darren Mealy hope to establish interest at lower levels and teach a high level of varsity softball. She has a passion for softball and wants the Meadville program to grow and succeed.
“My expectation for my first year is to ultimately win, but my goal is to develop players and to get the sport of softball more recognition in the Meadville area. Individually, I want the girls to realize their full potential and to play up to that potential with confidence and intensity. As a team, I would like for us to be a vocal team that gives 100% effort in all that we do,” Ashton said. “We do not have a large squad, but I want the twelve unique players I have to play as one unit.”
• Saegertown - Jennifer Krider
Krider has been coaching local travel teams, coaching at showcase events and instructing at college recruiting seminars. This will be her first season with the Panthers and she is excited to get started.
“I love helping athletes learn the game, master their craft, and develop skills to be successful both on and off the field,” Krider said. “I am very eager to watch the girls’ hard work pay off as they enter into region play.”
Krider is inheriting a team that went 18-2 and lost in the District 10 final in 2019. Though this year’s squad is much different than two years ago. Krider aims to improve throughout the season.
“We have been diligently working in our off-season and the weeks leading up to our home opener. We have a relatively young team who didn’t have a season last year. I look forward to watching them develop into an experienced and competitive team as the season progresses.”