Kenton Ridge’s Lexee Trainer rounds first after a hit against Northwestern in a Division II sectional final on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, at Shawnee High School in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff

Prep Softball: Cougars gunning for 7th straight CBC Kenton Trail title

The Kenton Ridge High School softball team just keeps winning.

In the last six seasons, the Cougars have averaged 24 wins, claiming the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division every year.

With several starters back from last year’s 23-2 regional finalist squad, the Cougars have high expectations again in 2019.

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“The older kids, the more experienced players, they know what it takes,” said Kenton Ridge coach Sarah Schalnat. “It’s finding that mix and being able to have those older kids help out those new young kids.”

Kenton Ridge graduated its starting pitcher in CBC Kenton Trail Player of the Year Carly Turner, who went 21-2 last season with a 1.76 earned run average and 193 strikeouts. She also hit .500 with 32 RBIs and five home runs.

The Cougars will go with “pitching by committee” this season, Schalnat said. Maddy Hall, last year’s left fielder, will move to the mound, along with freshman Chloe Patton and sophomore

Three-year starter Lexee Trainer (.435 batting average) is back at shortstop this season. She was a first-time All-CBC Kenton Trail Division first team selection last year.

“She’s a great captain, a great leader for us,” Schalnat said.

Senior outfielder Jordan Rucker was also a first team selection last season, hitting .416 with 14 stolen bases. First baseman Paige Williams (.324 BA) also returns for the Cougars.

Kenton Ridge will also see the return of sophomore second baseman Bree Trainer. She missed most of season with a torn ACL.

“We have a lot of good core players, it’s just trying to find that good mix (of younger players),” Schalnat said.

The Cougars have already faced adversity early in the season. Kenton Ridge junior Jade Espinosa — an All-CBC Kenton Trail Division third baseman who hit .487 with 30 RBIs and four HRs as a sophomore — had foot surgery earlier this year and will miss the season.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” Schalnat said. “The doctor said she needed to do it now so she could be ready for her senior year. It was just one of those things that kept getting worse and getting worse, so the best thing for her was to have surgery. It’s tough.”

Both sides of the league will be tough again this season, Schalnat said. The Cougars beat division rival Jonathan Alder twice during the regular season to earn the league title, but fell to the Pioneers in the regional semifinals.

This year, the league will play division games on Monday and Wednesday and crossover games on Friday. It will also see the addition of London to the CBC Kenton Trail and North Union to the CBC Mad River Division. North Union advanced to the D-III regionals last year.

“There are so many good teams on both sides,” Schalnat said. “You can’t afford to lose one of those (crossover games).”

Here are five things to know about area softball:

1. Tecumseh senior Ashley Fite, a D-I All-Ohio Honorable Mention selection last year, returns for the Arrows. She hit .708 with 7 HRs, 35 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.The Arrows return nine upperclassmen this season.

2. Northwestern is gunning for its seventh straight CBC Mad River Division title. The Warriors graduated four seniors, including senior All-Ohio pitcher Jenna Robbins, from last year’s team that fell to Kenton Ridge 3-2 in the sectional finals. Northwestern returns four seniors, including infielder Miranda Gillman (.366 BA) and outfielder Hannah Weymouth (.363 BA).

3. Springfield finished 8-15 last season, but return five seniors and seven juniors from a team that fell to Centerville in the D-I sectional finals. Senior Kirsten McCleary (.426 BA, 7 HRs, 28 RBIs) was named All-GWOC National League second team and junior Taryn Freer (.365 BA) was named National League Honorable Mention last season.

4. West Liberty-Salem returns its top pitcher, Kelsey Day, a D-III All-Ohio first teamer who hit .537 with 47 RBIs last season. The Tigers went 21-3 last season, advancing to the regional semifinals where they fell to North Union.

5. Mechanicsburg also returns its top pitcher, junior Francys King. The Indians went 19-4 a year ago, advancing to the D-IV regional semifinals before falling to eventual state semifinalist Bradford.

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