Firestone softball team made strides throughout season
WEST AKRON — Firestone High School softball head coach Bruce Clough said his team “accomplished a lot this season.”
“We’ve moved a big step forward to overcome some of the shortcomings we’ve had over the past several seasons,” the coach said.
Firestone finished with a 14-12 record overall and an 11-1 mark in the Suburban League during the regular season. The team lost the league championship game to Ellet High School by a 10-6 score.
Clough said he intentionally sets up a difficult out-of-league schedule for his team each season.
“Normally, I try to set it up where we can get prepared for the sectionals, and that can help us to play well in league games,” he said. “I’m looking for us to push ourselves.”
One change to the team’s schedule this season, Clough said, was made due to the makeup of the roster.
“Because our pitching was not as strong as last year, in terms of experience, we didn’t play as many double-headers this season,” he stated. “I eliminated the back-to-back games. That way, that day’s pitcher could put everything she had into it.”
The team’s pitching staff this season was comprised primarily of senior Heather Pinter and sophomore Kristin Skeans.
“Heather was on [junior varsity] for three years and finally got to move up to varsity this year. She exceeded the expectations of just about everybody in terms of how competitive she was and how hard she worked. She did a nice job. She was 8-8 overall and 7-2 in the City Series,” Clough said. “Kristin worked hard this year and she stepped up. In her freshman year, we played her almost exclusively at second base and we hardly ever had her pitching. For as much experience as she had, she did a great job.”
In addition to Pinter, the team’s only other seniors were first baseman Sidney Laubscher and catcher Cassie Linger.
“Sidney’s good with her speed and her first step. She did a really nice job. In her senior year, she stepped up at first base. She can pretty much snap throw to any base on a moment’s notice with no problem,” he said. “Cassie was our field general. She knew every play and she knew how to run the plays. She called every game. I expect her to end up as a coach someday, because she is really comfortable doing that.”
Clough said the team’s overall youth this year will pay off next season.
“Next year, we’re only losing three seniors and I expect us to come back and be pretty competitive,” he said. “They are key positions we are losing, but I think we have people waiting in the wings who can fill those spots very easily.”
One of the team’s top younger players this season, Clough said, was sophomore shortstop Meredith Eichenlaub.
“She played awesome defense — I mean it was unbelievable,” the coach stated. “She was our leadoff hitter and her on-base percentage was .480. I mean, this kid did a super job at the plate and on defense. She’s going to be someone who can definitely play at the next level.”
Two juniors Clough said to keep an eye on are third baseman Quinn Lentz and centerfielder Paige Grabenstein.
“Quinn’s a steady batter. She batted .378 the whole season. She didn’t miss a game for any reason. She’s the kind of player you’d love to have nine of,” the coach said. “Paige also does a fabulous job. She has great speed and a really powerful bat. She’s one of the best athletes at the school.”
Clough has coached for 10 years total, including the last seven years as head coach of the Firestone softball team.
“The program, in the long term, has made some great strides in terms of improving and being able to compete in the upper echelon of softball teams — particularly in the Suburban League. That’s really important to us,” he said. “The seniors led well this year, but I think with the young ladies coming up, we have something that the rest of the teams are going to have to worry about.”
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