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Lebanon loaded for another run at state

As the team’s No. 3 hitter and an all-league selection at designated hitter, Lebanon High School senior Casie Hutchinson isn’t one to hesitate or hold back with her powerful swing.

But when asked if she and No. 4 hitter and best friend Vanessa Lay try to outdo each other, say for the team lead in runs batted in, she uncharacteristically backs away.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Hutchinson said of their desire to out-do one another in a good way.

Then from down the hall she heard Lay loudly correct her.

“She’s yelling at me,” Hutchinson said, laughing. “Yeah, we’re a lot competitive.”

It’s that drive and determination Warriors coach Brian Kindell hopes results in a repeat trip to the Division I state finals in June. Lebanon made school history with its first state appearance last season that ended in a 2-0 loss to North Canton Hoover in the championship game. The Warriors are approaching this season as though they have unfinished business at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.

“Any time you end your season with a loss there better be a lot of hunger the next season to take that next step,” Kindell said.

The Warriors return big hitters in Lay, junior catcher Kaitlyn Bergman and Hutchinson. The trio finished 1-2-3 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference in RBIs with 57, 49 and 42, respectively. Bergman also led the GWOC with 12 home runs, double the next closest hitter. Junior outfielder Kayla Frank led the Warriors with a .562 average and 21 stolen bases in 2012.

The only question entering the season, which officially starts Saturday, is the pitching. Sophomore Tara Trainer is working her way back from injuries suffered in a car accident last summer but could be close to completing her comeback. Sophomore Sadie Creech gave Lebanon quality innings in 2012, going 7-0 with a 1.96 ERA and striking out 41 in 39.1 innings.

“We still have plenty of pitching available to us to overcome (Trainer’s injury),” Kindell said. “The plan is for Tara to be back, yes.”

And for Lebanon to be back at state. The Warriors open their season by hosting Glen Este on Monday.

“Last year (the potential to make state) was out there and I love the fact we proved it,” Lay said. “A lot of people thought it was just high hopes. … It’s an amazing feeling to know you’re part of something that really hasn’t happened before. It felt great.”

Added Hutchinson: “It’s a great honor representing Lebanon at the state finals. It’d be even better if we can win it this year and do something we haven’t done again.”

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