First year coach Fred Mock inherits a team that went 9-14 a season ago and 4-8 in the Northern Ohio League. It is also a team with eight returning letterwinners and seven starters. It is a team that saw three players hit .300 or better. With a good crop of talent and the girls seeing success in other sports, Mock believes this could be a nice turn-around year for the Lady Flashes.
“Our top goal is to get better each practice and game as the season progresses,” Mock said. “We want to compete for an NOL championship and we believe we can also win some games in the tournament. With the girls’ success in bowling and basketball this winter, they have received a taste of what it is like to move on in the tournament and we want all of the girls to experience that feeling in softball.”
At the forefront of the softball roster is junior Madie Secor who earned first team All-NOL honors last season after she hit .333 with 10 RBI. She scored 21 runs and stole 20 bases while adding a home run to her stat line. Senior Kathleen Schaaf hit .318 with eight runs and a stole base while sophomore Jenna Adams put up an impressive freshman season with a .312 average, 14 runs, 15 RBI and five stolen bases. Of the nine starters, the Flashes have a combined 35 stole bases returning from last year.
“I see us having more speed this season than in the past which can make our small game an advantage in the right situations,” Mock said. “We also have some younger ladies that hit the ball hard in the cage, so hopefully that will carry over to live game action.”
The Lady Flashes also bring back senior Ashlee Tuttle who hit .214 with 15 RBI, six runs, three stolen bases and a home run. Senior Emily Nedolast hit .185 last season while scoring 15 runs and driving in six. The pair gives the Lady Flashes some clutch bats in the lineup.
“We need to be able to come up with timely hitting each game,” Mock said. “Last year it was a weakness for us and it caused some confidence issues once it started. We have talented hitters and we just have to get the girls to believe they are going to get a hit every time they step in the box.”
Sophomores Ellie White and Addie Slone take up two positions in the outfield. Slone hit .204 with five RBI, four runs and two stolen bases. While hit .182 with three RBI and four runs. Mock is hoping to fill the other outfield spot through evaluation in practice.
Defensively, the Lady Flashes look solid. With Secor at short, Tuttle at second, Schaaf at first, Nedolast at third and Adams behind the dish, Willard has a ton of experience around the infield.
“That is our biggest strength,” Mock said. “We have three seniors, a junior and a sophomore who caught just about every game last season in the infield. We just need to make sure our confidence remains high at all times. We need to be able to not let a mistake compound into more mistakes and lead to a big inning.”
The Lady Flashes will be looking for an ace pitcher for the 2017 season. They bring back two pitchers with a combined 1-8 record. Taylor Chaffins was 0-4 last year but had an impressive 3.36 earned run average. Tuttle saw the rubber in five games going 1-4. Morgan Hamons and Makayla Schiffel could be options at pitcher.
Kourtney Craft, Carlee Gibson, Kaiten Weiss, Cathern Hamons and Haylie Hamons round out the Willard roster. With his mixture of players, Mock believes the Lady Flashes can compete in a loaded NOL.
“The NOL in my opinion is one of the toughest leagues from top to bottom in softball,” Mock said. “I see Bellevue and Shelby being extremely tough this season as Bellevue had won the league for six straight years. Shelby returns almost all of their potent lineup from last season. Ontario had a strong nucleus returning from last season. Norwalk lost quite a few talented girls, but the cupboard is far from bare.”
Willard kicks off its season at 4:30 p.m. on Monday at home against Mansfield Senior.