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Sports

Green softball team looking forward to successful season

4/3/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

GREEN — Brian Tharp was head coach of the Green softball team for 17 years, but he took the past two years off to spend more time with his family. Now that he is back with the team, Tharp said he is having “a lot of fun.”

“I’ve been rejuvenated,” he said. “I’m really excited to be back. I’m having fun coaching this team.”

Tharp’s return got off to a winning start when Green beat Massillon 7-1 in the season opener March 31.

“We hit the ball well and we executed pretty well,” he said. “We only struck out once or twice, which is really good. That’s something we’ve been working hard on in practice, so I was happy with that. And I was also happy with our pitching and our defense. We’re trying to have good, strong defense and good, strong pitching, and both of those worked well for us.”

Sophomore April Bennett pitched the first game for Green, and Tharp said he was pleased with the results.

“She pitched very well,” the coach said. “She only gave up two hits — a single and a double — and had nine strikeouts.”

According to Tharp, Bennett looks ready to take another step in her development in her second season.

“She started last year as a freshman and has gained experience since last year,” he stated. “Last year was an eye-opener for her, and it was maybe a little bit overwhelming at that time. But I think it will make her a better pitcher this year because she knows more about what to expect. With a year of high school under her belt, I think she’s a smarter pitcher and she understands the game a lot better. The education of the game will benefit her this year.”

Last year, Green finished 9-20 overall and 3-11 in the Suburban League. The keys to improving, Tharp said, will be better pitching and defense.

“We’ve been working so, so hard on defense and pitching,” he said. “We really need our defense to step up and make plays. They’re starting to trust in their own talents and in the abilities of each other. That’s what we’re trying to stress.”

On offense, Tharp said he likes the way his hitters look this season.

“Our hitting is shaping up well. We are very confident in this area. We work hard at it every day. Still some things to learn, though,” the coach said. “I think we will hit the ball well against most teams. We just need to limit our strikeouts, because strikeouts don’t help anybody.”

There are four seniors on this year’s squad, and Tharp said they are “all great kids.”

“It’s a pretty strong group,” he said. “Two of them start and the other two fill vital roles for us.”

The starting seniors this year are Paige Darnell-Smith (first base and catcher) and Megan Ragland (outfielder).

“Paige is a three-year starter, so we are expecting big things out of her leadership-wise. She bats in the cleanup spot for us,” the coach said. “Ragland had a great night [against Massillon]. She ended up with a single, two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. I’m not expecting those kind of numbers every game, but she has a lot of experience under her belt. She’s a three-year starter.”

Darnell-Smith has signed to play for Walsh University, Ragland has signed with Cleveland State University and senior Maria Pappano has signed with the University of Findlay.

Tharp said Green also has “a strong group” of juniors this year, led by: Abbie Mowrer, a three-year starter who won all-league honors last year and is starting at third base this season; Madison Summers, who is starting at second base; Allie Tice, who is in her second year as a starter in right field; and Julia Guyton, a three-year starter in centerfield who the coach called “one of the best defensive center-fielders in area.” The juniors this season also include shortstop Delilah Smart and outfielders Cheyenne Miller and Olivia Mooney.

“The juniors have a lot of softball under their belts in high school and in the summer,” the coach said. “They have a lot of enthusiasm, and they are a talented group of kids. They work hard and they want to win. Last year and the year before were a little tough for them record-wise, and they want to see the team turn the corner. And they don’t want to wait until they are seniors for it to happen.”

Tharp said the team’s primary goals this season include winning the Suburban League and advancing to the districts.

“I think winning the Suburban League is a realistic goal,” he said. “I think we are a different team this year, and I think we can compete with the best teams in the league. We just need to continue to get better every inning of every game.”

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