Cutline 1: Mechanicsburg junior pitcher Francys King throws a pitch during the their game against Madison Plains on Friday, April 12. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

High School Softball: Mechanicsburg young guns ‘a special group’

That’s the motto for the Mechanicsburg High School girls softball team this season, said Indians coach Abbey DeLong. While the Indians have big goals, focusing on the present will help them achieve long-term success, she said.

“If we can go out there and (win the day), then we’ve done our job,” DeLong said.

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A year after finishing 19-4 and winning a Division IV district title, the Indians return nearly its entire lineup. Mechanicsburg is off to a 6-1 start this season, including six straight wins after a season-opening loss to another district champion Kenton Ridge.

“We always expect to win,” DeLong said. “I knew I had a good core group coming back.”

The Indians fell 2-0 to Bradford in a D-IV regional semifinal last season. The loss fueled her team’s desire to get even better in the offseason.

“They weren’t satisfied,” DeLong said. “We started six freshmen. They expect to be back where they were. They’re definitely not finished.”

They lifted twice a week and several girls worked out with hitting coaches, DeLong said.

“They’re very strong right now,” she said. “Our hitting has definitely improved from last year.”

The team includes two juniors, seven sophomores and a freshman. A majority of the team has played together since they were 10 years old, DeLong said.

“They’re a pretty tight knit group,” she said. “They’ve got each other’s back and they get along.”

The Indians are led by junior pitcher Francys King, a D-IV All-Ohio honorable mention selection last year. She’s 5-0 this season with four shutouts, 43 strikeouts and a 1.71 earned run average. At the plate, she’s hitting .476.

“She’s just that natural leader for me,” DeLong said. “She’s worked a lot in the offseason to perfect some things and she’s also gotten stronger. I look to her to lead on the field. She does exactly what I need her to do.”

The Indians have four players hitting .500 or better: second baseman Hanna DeLong (.591, 10 RBIs), shortstop Audrey Ayars (.556, 10 RBIs), first baseman Taylor Hurst (.542, 10 RBIs) and center fielder Megan Alspaugh (.538).

The Indians finished one game back of West Liberty-Salem in the Ohio Heritage Conference North Division standings last season. Mechanicsburg has never won an OHC title. It’s last league title came back in 1998 when the Indians played in the West Central Ohio Conference.

The Indians are 6-0 this season, earning key victories against West Liberty-Salem, West Jefferson and Triad. However, they know it won’t get any easier this season.

“The (OHC) North Division is like playing a district final every time you go out,” DeLong said. “There’s no easy win, that’s for sure.”

Mechanicsburg plays a tough non-conference schedule, including upcoming games against Jonathan Alder and the Fort Loramie Redskin Invitational. They also have a tough stretch of OHC games that includes Southeastern, Greenon and a rematch with West Liberty-Salem.

“If they are going to be state champions, then they need to be challenged,” DeLong said. “They have to play people who are going to challenge them and they’re willing to do that. They’re always wanting to learn. You don’t find a group that very often. They’re a pretty special group.”

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