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.”
ONES TO WATCH
Kaitlyn Bergman, jr., Lebanon: Catcher provides the long ball in the Warriors’ offense with GWOC-leading 12 homers; 49 RBI ranked second in league and gave Lebanon top three RBI producers. Hit .464 with seven doubles for Division I state runners-up.
Lea Buckenmeyer, sr., Lakota East: Second in GMC in wins (19-7), ERA (1.20), shutouts (8) and fourth in strikeouts (133). Got job done at plate, too, with league-leading 43 RBI and .432 average that was third in GMC.
Teddi Collins, jr., Valley View: Versatile infielder gives offense boost at top returning hitter with .453 average; also collected six doubles.
Alicia Hanson, jr., Mid. Fenwick: Won the GGCL triple crown with .628 average, 14 homers and 40 RBI for Falcons; scored 43 runs with eight doubles, seven triples and 29 stolen bases.
Nicolette Holthaus, sr., Houston: Shortstop hit .444 with 10 doubles and two triples for Wildcats, smacking 36 hits total. Threat on the base paths with 18 steals and 31 runs scored.
Paige Kiesewetter, sr., Miami East: Went 15-3 with 1.21 ERA for Vikings, striking out 197. Just as effective at plate with .517 average, 46 hits, 37 RBI and 19 runs scored.
Libby Pfeffer, sr., Northmont: Shortstop gives T-Bolts’ offense a jolt with a team-leading .539 average, 48 hits, 11 doubles, two triples, six homers and 39 RBI.
Emily McKillip, jr., Spg. Shawnee: Braves’ hurler frustrated hitters with CBC-leading 195 strikeouts, tied for league lead in wins (18-7) and shutouts (5), was third in ERA (1.71). Led team with .449 average, 40 hits, 12 doubles, added 21 RBI and 21 runs.
Chelsea Miller, sr., Franklin: SWBL pitcher of the year went 17-6 with 1.08 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 149 innings. Hit .380 with seven doubles, six homers and 36 RBI.
Kylie Mullennix, jr., Brookville: Voted the Blue Devils’ best offensive player after hitting .464 with 38 RBI, seven doubles and seven home runs.
Paige Ordean, sr., Fort Loramie: SCL player of the year went 20-6 with a 1.86 ERA and 200 strikeouts; set school records for both wins and strikeouts in a season.
Christine Scholle sr., Centerville: Second baseman led Elks in nearly every offensive category with .538 average, 56 hits, seven doubles, 32 runs and 14 stolen bases. Also added 11 RBI.
Ashley Sharpe, jr., Lakota West: Led GMC in wins (20-5), ERA (1.09), shutouts (11), and was second in strikeouts (178). Hit .295 with 21 RBI.
Casey Yingst, sr., Covington: If Buccaneers reach third straight D-IV state tournament Yingst will be one of the reasons. Went 22-3 with 1.29 ERA. Hit .435 with 25 RBI, 37 runs and 28 stolen bases.
Alexis Steffanni, senior, Dayton Christian: The shortstop dominated the MBC with a .631 average, 28 RBIs and five homers, all which led the league. Also went 10-7 on the rubber with a 0.45 ERA, also tops in the league.