Manchester softball squad ends season in state semifinal
|Manchester’s Mira Radisic (No. 12) is shown taking a swing.|
|Manchester starting pitcher Jenna Williams (No. 77) is shown on the mound during the state semifinal game June 6 at Firestone Stadium.|
|Manchester second baseman Courtney Roth (No. 15), at right, defends a steal attempt by Bloom-Carroll High School’s Haley Starr during the state semifinal game.|
|Third baseman Emily Kusmits (No.6) catches a popup to end the top of the sixth inning during the state semifinal game.|
|Photos: Dale Dong|
NEW FRANKLIN — For the first time since 2001, the Manchester High School softball team made it to the state tournament this season.
And while the team came up short in its bid for a state title, head coach Jim Morehart said having a chance to play for the championship was a “great accomplishment” for this year’s squad. The Lady Panthers lost 4-0 to Bloom Carroll High School in the Division III state semifinal June 6 at Firestone Stadium.
“We’ve had some really good teams, but I think this has to be one of the most rewarding bunches of kids I’ve ever had,” said Morehart, who has been Manchester’s head softball coach for 14 years and has been with the program since 1994.
Morehart said this year’s team, which entered the season with high expectations, ranks “right up there” with the best teams he has coached.
“Did we think we could get to the state? Yeah, we did all along,” he said. “But I think you need a little luck and you need to play well to get to the state Final Four, which we did. We always knew we had the talent — it was just a matter of whether that talent was going to rise to the top.”
Overall, Manchester finished with a 20-9 record, including an 11-2 mark in the Principals Athletic Conference 7.
“I think we did real well. Anytime you get to state Final Four, it’s a great accomplishment,” Morehart said. “Early on, we were searching for the right lineup and searching for the right mix to put together. We started off the season a little rough — I think we were 4-6 at one point — and then we got up to 9-7. From that point on, the offense started to click and we finally started to come together and ended up with a pretty strong finish.”
Manchester’s “bats really came to life” during the postseason, Morehart said.
“Our offense played well and our hitting was really good through the districts and the regionals,” he said. “When we [got to state], we got shut down, but we scored a lot of runs before that — especially at the district level.”
One of the team’s top hitters this season was sophomore third baseman Emily Kusmits.
“She hit back-to-back grand slam home runs against Tusky Valley in a league game, and she hit two home runs in the Leavittsburg LeBrae game,” the coach said. “She had a real strong year. She hit just under .400 with over 30 RBIs and six home runs. She played solid defense, too.”
Morehart said the contributions made by this year’s seniors were invaluable.
“Courtney Roth, Rachel Fincham, Kate Mash and Brooke Horning were four-year players and Haylee Zwick was a three-year player,” he said. “They had strong years for us and I can’t say enough about them.”
Other key players included sophomore second baseman Tatum Christy, sophomore pitcher Jenna Williams and sophomore outfielder Mira Radisic.
“Tatum had a great year. She was hitting right around .400 for most of the year, and I believe she only had one error all year at second base,” the coach said. “Jenna played centerfield when she wasn’t pitching. She was the one who pitched us through the districts and the regionals, and she also hit over .300. And Mira was a first-year player for us. She played mostly in centerfield and in leftfield, and also did some catching. She was a very pleasant surprise. She made some tremendous catches.”
According to Morehart, the team will return five starters next season.
“With the kids we have coming back, we should be competitive again next year,” he stated. “We have a nice nucleus of kids coming back for their junior seasons. Whether we can get back to the state level, who knows? It’s a tough feat, but we’re going to give it a shot, naturally.”
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