Continued improvement could pay dividends for the Northridge High School softball team.

Continued improvement could pay dividends for the Northridge High School softball team.

The Vikings finished 10-13 overall last season after losing to Fairbanks 3-2 in eight innings in the opening round of the Division III district tournament. But they return several key components, including two strong-armed sophomore pitchers, and have added a third.

Sophomore Kimber Hazlett was 6-7 last season with one save, 136 strikeouts, seven walks and a 1.67 ERA in 99 innings. Classmate Kayla Davison was 4-5 with one save, 44 strikeouts, 21 walks and a 3.52 ERA in 55.2 innings. They are joined by Kassi Davison, Kayla's freshman sister.

"A lot of times you're lucky to have one good pitcher, but I feel we have three very strong pitchers," said first-year coach Ralph Taylor, who coached the Northridge girls basketball program from 1998-2002 and coached girls basketball and softball at Logan in the early 1990s. "I think our strength right now is pitching, and I think we're going to have some speed. If the hitting comes around -- if we can scores three or four runs -- I feel like we have the opportunity to win a lot of ballgames."

Other returnees are seniors Sarah Heiman (SS; .280, 8 RBI last season), Sarah Verhovec (OF; .264, 9 runs) and juniors Kelly King (OF/INF), Jessica Simmons (OF; 12 SB, 8 runs) and Chelsea Tietz (C; 11 runs, 7 doubles).

New to varsity are junior Emily Scott (1B), sophomore Kara Barclay (3B/2B) and freshman Taylor Mann (utility).

"We have 11 on varsity, and I think we can be pretty strong defensively in both the infield and outfield," said Taylor, whose team opens Monday at home against Millersport and Tuesday at home against Westland. "I think the girls need to get a little confidence in their hitting and they have been working hard to improve in that area. They have shown some bright spots hitting (in the preseason) and I think they can surprise a few people."

The Vikings play at Logan on Wednesday and in a doubleheader Saturday at Hamilton Township before opening MBC play April 5 at home against Fredericktown.

Last season, Northridge tied for third in the MBC with Danville at 6-6 behind champion Loudonville at 12-0. The league schedule only had 12 games because Centerburg did not field a team.

•The baseball team will try to improve on last season when it finished 11-10 overall after losing to host East Knox 7-6 in eight innings in the second round of the Division III district tournament.

The Vikings return nine letterwinners, including senior Zak Harrod, a right-handed pitcher, third baseman and shortstop. Harrod hit .367 with 22 hits, 17 RBI, 10 doubles, nine runs and two homers. He was 3-1 on the mound with a 4.94 ERA in 36 innings with 37 strikeouts and 32 walks.

Another key returnee is sophomore outfielder Brandon Hull, who batted .317 with 20 hits, 15 runs and eight stolen bases. Junior Cody King returns after being outfielder, second baseman and catcher last year.

"We look for Harrod to have a good year and give us some good leadership as well," said Chris Hatten, who begins his second season leading the program.

"But we only have three upperclassmen with significant varsity time -- Harrod, King and Hull."

Other senior letterwinners are Matt Herbst (C/1B), Luke Schnars (2B/OF) and Tim Doran (OF). Seniors new to the program are Sam Bullock (3B), Kolt McDaniel (OF) and Justin White (3B/RHP/1B).

Junior Tim Sullivan (3B) and sophomores Stephen Peters (C/RHP) and Cody Sparks (1B/LHP) are also letterwinners.

Sophomores Josh Harbaugh (SS/2B), Hank McCormick (1B/RHP) and Ricky Cella (C/2B) fill out the roster along with freshmen Gavin Kyle (OF), Storm Strout (OF/RHP) and Ross Wilson (3B/RHP).

"We should be a better defensive team than we were last year, but I'm not sure how deep we are pitching-wise," said Hatten, whose team opens Tuesday at Mount Vernon and plays Friday at home against Columbus Academy. "We have some good quality pitchers, but they are just young."

The Vikings were 9-4 in the MBC last season to finish second behind Utica at 14-0. They did not play a second game against Loudonville because the game did not have a bearing on the final standings.

"Utica will be good, of course, because they have good pitching," said Hatten, whose team plays a doubleheader Saturday at Licking Valley before opening league play April 5 at home against Fredericktown. "East Knox should be tough because they have some good arms coming back and Fredericktown was young last year, but should be pretty good."

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 30 at Mount Vernon

April 2 vs. Columbus Academy

April 3 at Licking Valley (DH)

*April 5 vs. Fredericktown

*April 6 at East Knox

*April 9 vs. Centerburg

April 10 at Big Walnut (DH)

*April 12 at Johnstown-Monroe

*April 13 vs. Danville

*April 15 vs. Loudonville

April 17 vs. Mount Gilead (DH)

*April 19 at Utica

*April 20 at Fredericktown

*April 23 vs. East Knox

April 24 at Newark vs. Newark and Zanesville West Muskingum

*April 26 at Centerburg

*April 27 vs. Johnstown

*April 30 at Danville

May 1 vs. Heath (DH)

*May 3 at Loudonville

*May 4 vs. Utica

*MBC game

SOFTBALL

March 29 vs. Millersport

March 30 vs. Westland

April 1 at Logan

April 3 at Hamilton Township (DH)

*April 5 vs. Fredericktown

*April 6 at East Knox

April 8 at Heath

*April 9 vs. Centerburg

*April 12 at Johnstown-Monroe

*April 13 vs. Danville

*April 15 vs. Loudonville

April 16-17 at Lancaster Classic

*April 19 at Utica

*April 20 at Fredericktown

April 21 at Newark Catholic

April 22 at Highland

*April 23 vs. East Knox

April 24 at Newark vs. Newark and Zanesville West Muskingum

*April 26 at Centerburg

*April 27 vs. Johnstown

*April 30 at Danville

*May 3 at Loudonville

*May 4 vs. Utica

*MBC game