‘Starts with confidence’ for Dragons softball team
The Warren girls softball team grew by leaps and bounds last season; some of that growth came in a 12-inning District 10 Class 4A quarterfinal playoff loss to General McLane that ended the Dragons’ season.
Head coach Carissa Stuart thinks this group can continue to grow, overcoming the loss of three leaders to graduation.
“It’s always hard to lose seniors,” said Stuart, whose Dragons finished 12-5 a season ago. “I don’t think they realize how important they are sometimes. Alix (Lytle), Katie (Madigan), and Ellee (Irwin) were great ballplayers and teammates. The biggest things we lost with them were their big voices during practices and games. They were motivators and communicators and that we need to fill.
“The three seniors and captains this year — Lexi Hoffman, Carly Beers, and Miken Beers — are probably the most humble players I have ever coached,” said Stuart. “They truly play because they love to and I know they are going to want their last season of their high school career to be their best season. All the newcomers have come in with great attitudes and they are definitely up to the challenge of showing what they can bring to the team. Between both the returning players and the newcomers, there is no reason why we won’t be a contender for a D-10 championship.
“The goal every season is to be D-10 champs,” added Stuart. “However, we aren’t going to reach that goal unless we focus on small goals. Working hard for each other and playing for each other is what will get us there.”
It’s a balanced roster of the three senior captains, four juniors, five sophomores, and three freshmen.
“We are doing some moving around this year since losing three infield positions to graduation last year,” said Stuart. “Lexi Hoffman (returning all-region outfielder) will be taking the leap from outfield to shortstop. I fully trust in her ability to make big plays for us in that position. Carly Beers (returning all-region) will continue on at first base. She’s just a tremendous player and I need her there. Completing the infield will be Emily Davidson and Alanna Warrior.
“The battery will be (sophomore) pitcher Alana Stuart (all-region pitcher as a freshman) from last year and (junior) Halle Kuzminski will be moving from second base to behind the plate,” said coach Stuart. “Those two have a lot of great chemistry together. They’ve played together for so long; it will be fun to watch them this year.
“In the outfield will be Miken Beers; she’s going to make the switch to right field,” said Stuart. “She’s our only veteran player out there; she came up with some big plays for us last year so it’s definitely nice to still have her. Emma Gray will more than likely be in centerfield, she’s quick and can read the ball well. She could also see time in the infield. Rounding out the other outfield position at any given time could be Lilly Devore, Madison Cornman, and Danika Abbey. Natasha Ferry, Ivy Moore, Arianna Fuller-Curtis, and Layla Mohr round out our team.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with the three incoming freshmen,” added Stuart. “Emma Gray and Alanna Warrior have played softball for many years, including travel ball, so they are seasoned players that are ready to get after their first high school season. Danika Abbey also comes in having played softball. She’s also a workhorse.
“Layla Mohr, a sophomore, is a newcomer,” said Stuart. “She also comes in with softball experience. I’m also very excited to have Natasha Ferry this year. Having never played softball, she’s already elevated her game. She just has a super great attitude and I can’t wait to see how much more she develops this year.
“The best part about coaching is the girls,” she said. “Just watching them grow as individuals and as a team. Listening to them hoot and holler for their teammates, that’s the best thing to hear as a coach. Teaching them how to be confident by pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and succeeding; that’s probably the second best.”
That doesn’t mean they don’t want to win it all.
“Every year, it’s all about finding what works for us; what is it that’s going to get us to the D10 game,” said Stuart. “To me, it all starts with confidence and that’s what we’re going to build on throughout the season.”
Assistant coaches are Jeff Irwin, Kristy Kuzminski, Connie Copley, and Taylor Mineweaser, and team manager is Alexis Stec.
Region 5 includes Class 6A McDowell and Erie and 4A Warren, Meadville Conneaut, Cathedral Prep, and McLane. Villa Maria — now Prep — is the defending District 10 Class 4A champion.
Warren hosts Conneaut on Tuesday in its region opener.