Jonathan Alder softball coach Dave McGrew has never been afraid to put a challenging schedule in front of his team.
He and his coaching staff’s willingness to play top-ranked opponents during the regular season has proven to pay off in the postseason. That could be happening again this year as the squad appears to be rounding into form just as the Central District tournament draw is about to take place.
The Lady Pioneers (9-4) have four losses but all four have come against state-ranked teams, including a couple last weekend at the Wendy’s Spring Classic in Ashland. The squad fell 8-0 to Mount St. Dominic (N.J.) and then came up just short in a 1-0 loss to Akron Hoban, before finishing seventh in their bracket with a 10-5 win over Cicero North (N.Y.).
McGrew said playing those type of high-level teams is always a benefit, even when his team is short-handed like it has been this year. An ankle injury to perhaps his best player, sophomore first baseman Jillian Jakse, and a knee injury to starter Rachel Dembeck has expedited development of McGrew’s bench.
“We liked our team at the beginning of the year,” McGrew said. “But when we lose two kids like we did. It forces some others to have to step up. The experience of playing the type of team’s we’ve played has been huge. We’ve had to have some of our younger kids step up.
“So now that we’re about to get a kid like Jakse back. We’re going to be deeper and have the experience of having played so many state-caliber teams.”
Alder will receive it’s district seeding Sunday and the Pioneer coaches will have to decide which district path they’ll take. Whether it be through the East bracket or the one that could take it West for the regional if it were to win the district crown.
“I like where we are as a team,” McGrew said. “Everybody wants to go East, but we know where we want to go. We’re close to being where we want to be. We’ve got plenty of chances to see good teams before the tournament starts.”
Alder took care of business Wednesday as it knocked off Springfield Shawnee 7-1.
The Pioneers (10-4, 6-2 in CBC Kenton Trail Division) find themselves a half game out of first place in the Central Buckeye Conference with just a week left to go in the regular season.
Alder’s 6-2 CBC Kenton Trail Division record trails only Kenton Ridge (10-3, 7-2).
Coach Craig Kyle’s team stayed right in the mix for a league crown by topping host Springfield Shawnee 10-1 Wednesday evening.
Alder scored four runs in the second inning and built on the advantage in the later innings, it scored a pair in the fifth, another in the sixth and three more in top of the seventh frame.
Zayvier Beachy went the distance on the mound for the Pioneers, allowing just one run on four hits.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.