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Firestone softball team mixing youth, experience

3/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

WEST AKRON — Firestone High School softball head coach Bruce Clough said he will be looking for some young players to step up and perform alongside his returning players this season.

Last year, Firestone finished 14-13 overall and 11-1 in the City Series. Clough said the team lost three players to graduation and one player transferred to a school in another state.

“We lost our starting pitchers and we lost our first baseman and our catcher,” he said. “We have five returning starters, so we needed to fill four key positions. We’ve been working hard with all of the new kids to see what we could work out.”

Clough said there are only 14 players on the team this year — five of whom have never played softball before.

“We didn’t have enough kids try out for the team to make a junior varsity [JV] team and a varsity team both,” he said. “So, we’ve had to keep some kids who normally would be on JV up to varsity and try to bring them up to speed as quickly as we can.”

The only senior on this year’s squad is third baseman/first baseman Quinn Lentz.

“Quinn is a consistent, hard-working player,” the coach said. “She’s a very smart player and she’s done a great job at both third and first base. She batted around .345 last year.”

Returning junior Kristin Skeans is scheduled to be the team’s ace this season.

“Kristen is our starting pitcher and will fill in at second base,” Clough said. “She’s improved her pitching — she has more than just a changeup and a fastball now. She’s probably one of our biggest hustlers. She works really hard. She wants to play at the next level, and she’s working to do that.”

Another returning junior for the team is shortstop Meredith Eichenlaub.

“She’s versatile and fast,” Clough said. “She’s a good bunter and a good contact hitter. She’s a real good player.”

The team also features a pair of returning sophomores in catcher Madi Wellendorf and outfielder Montana Hollis.

“Madi was our leading hitter last year, batting over .400. She’s a good, consistent hitter and is good under pressure. As a catcher, she’s improving every year,” the coach said. “Montana does a good job in the outfield and she’s a good hitter. She’s been playing third, catcher and outfield. She’s definitely working hard to get where she wants to go.”

Clough said the bulk of the team’s pitching this season will be handled by Skeans and sophomore Alexis Lee.

“Alexis pitched with my JV team last year. I’m hoping to get her strong enough to where she can move up and take half of the share or more, if necessary,” the coach said. “Of the two, Kristen is stronger and more powerful. She’s going to come at you as hard as she can. Lee is a good thrower, but she’s going to try to finesse you.”

Clough said his batting lineup will be a work in progress to start the season.

“The five returners are all pretty consistent and should be fine, but with so many new, young players, my hitting may not be what I want to see to start the season,” he said. “It will be a quick learning experience for some of them.”

Firestone’s season is scheduled to begin April 1 at 4:30 p.m., when the team hosts Smithville High School.

“I would like to see us be the best in the City Series and be competitive with the Division I teams that we’re scheduled to play against,” said Clough, who is in his eighth season as the team’s head coach. “And I’d like to advance to sectionals.”

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