Very few softball teams in Central Ohio have lost as much talent as the Jonathan Alder Lady Pioneers have in the last couple of seasons.
And despite stocking a number of college rosters with standout athletes in that time, Alder once again figures to be strong thanks in large part to an influx of young talent.
Pioneers coach Dave McGrew knows how much he’s lost, but is excited about what he has on the roster this season.
“We lost seven starters, that’s a lot,” the coach said. “If you look at the 190 runs we scored last year only 38 of those runs are back. But this freshman class we have is the real deal. A number of those kids are going to start or play right away.”
While there are a number of youngsters ready to step in and contribute, the team will still be driven by the veterans including senior catcher Kayla Fredendall. The standout was an all-district and All-Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference selection and has committed to play in college at Division I Appalachian State University.
Senior Chloe Grove will see an increased role this season in the outfield as well as in the infield. Also back for the Pioneers is junior pitcher Katelyn Perkins. She played the role as the team’s No. 2 the last two seasons but will assume the reins as the staff ace this spring.
“She’s gotten a lot better and is throwing really well right now,” McGrew said.
The team welcomes the return of Rachel Dembek (OF/IF) a player who was expected to play a big role last year before a season-ending injury.
And while there are still varsity vets who were around when the Lady Pioneers lost in the D-II state championship game in the spring of 2014 as well as the last two district championship game losses, it’s the new faces on the field which are getting a lot of the attention.
The freshman class includes Jillian Jakse (1B/3B/C) and Emily Walker (SS/C/OF), a pair of players expected to step in and start from day one.
Having a total of 10 freshmen in the program has helped infuse new life into the program. McGrew is excited about what that means in terms of once again getting a chance to develop players.
“It’s fun because we are back into teaching the game again,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of depth but we do have a lot of really good pieces.”
The mix of solid veterans and talented newcomers could make a lot of noise this year in the MOAC as well as the Central District.
“I think by the end of the season we will be right there,” McGrew said. “I think this team has a chance of being really good. We’re going to continue to play a challenging schedule and I think we’re only going to get better and better.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.