The Graham Falcons have been in this position before. The next several days might determine if they will stay there.
Graham has finished second in the Central Buckeye Conference’s Mad River Division the past three seasons. Coach Ralph Foster and his Falcons are determined to end that streak. And it starts with a key two-game set with defending division champ Northwestern on Monday and Tuesday.
Seven seniors lead the way with Madison Bryant (P, OF), Ashton Curnutte (SS, 1B), Skylar Doroda (C, P), Adrianna Hicks (LF), Lissie Massengill (OF), Delila Meyers (CF) and Alyssa Theodor (2B).
“I expect them to lead these other girls and push us forward. They’re staying focused,” Foster said. “We keep chasing after that and keep working hard. We want to send the seniors out with another great season.”
Bryant led the Falcons in both hitting and pitching last season. Offensively she finished second in the CBC in hitting (.600), home runs (10), doubles (12) and runs batted in (44). Off the rubber she went 14-6 with a 2.14 earned-run average and a league-high 206 strikeouts. She’s again the Falcons ace on the mound leading them to a 4-0 start overall and 3-0 record in the CBC.
“I think she’s going to be even better this year. If she can stay healthy I think she’s going to continue to improve,” Foster said of Bryant, who signed to play her college ball at Urbana University. “She just has a relentless work ethic. She is one of the hardest working young ladies and the most coachable girl, I believe, that I have ever coached myself.”
Curnutte (.456 average last season), Hicks (.361) and Doroda (.297) will be counted on as key offensive players again. Theodor returns after missing last season recovering from an ACL tear suffered during basketball season. And Doroda moves from third base to catcher to replace a four-year starter.
“She’s picking up the pieces there and working hard,” Foster said. “It’s a position she’s never played before but she’s doing really well. She’s working hard.”
Junior right fielder Sarah Masters and sophomore first baseman Lexi Mullen, both first-year varsity players, are also expected to contribute.
“What we’re shooting for is getting better every game,” Foster said. “Having a mix with the returning varsity players and the newcomers, we’re relying on the experience of the varsity girls who have been there. They’re geling really well. They’re working hard in practice.”
Northwestern is again the team to beat in the Mad River division going 12-1 last season. Graham and Indian Lake tied for second last season at 8-5.
“(Northwestern is) pretty solid themselves. With them and Indian Lake, both are tough competitors,” Foster said. “And with Jonathan Alder coming into the league, the CBC in my opinion is one of the best softball conferences around. Being in the CBC there is no team to be taken lightly. Most of the games we play – Kenton Ridge, Northwestern, Indian Lake – they’re normally one or two run ball games. It’s just a solid conference.”
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