Johnstown Independent

Northridge Roundup

Talented baseball squad expects success

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PAUL VERNON/THISWEEKSPORTS
Ross Wilson of Northridge awaits the throw on a pickoff attempt during a game against Bexley last season. Wilson, a senior pitcher and first baseman who batted .532 last year, is among the top returnees for the Vikings.
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Last season, the Northridge High School baseball team made its first district semifinal appearance since 2005.

Now, the Vikings expect more.

Third-year coach Jeff Wilson has beefed up his team's schedule in an effort to better prepare it for the postseason.

"We have really stepped up our level of competition by adding several Division I and Division II teams to our schedule," said Wilson, whose team opened against Division I Olentangy Orange on March 30. "I want to test our kids with higher competition to better prepare them for the (district) tournament."

Last year, Northridge finished 19-10 overall after committing seven errors that led to six unearned runs in a 6-3 loss to fifth-seeded Galion Northmor in a Division III district semifinal. The Vikings, who were the third seed, defeated Amanda-Clearcreek 12-5 in the second round after an opening-round bye.

Northridge tied Loudonville for third (8-6) in the MBC, behind Utica (13-1) and Fredericktown (11-3) and ahead of Centerburg and Johnstown-Monroe (6-8), East Knox (4-10) and Danville (0-14).

The Vikings, who open MBC play April 8 at home against Danville, return their top three hitters from last season in senior pitcher/first baseman Ross Wilson (.532, honorable mention all-league), sophomore pitcher/third baseman Brad Wilson (.395, 22 RBI) and sophomore shortstop/pitcher Greg Wilson (.384, 17 stolen bases).

Senior center fielder Storm Strout (first-team all-league) also was the team's top pitcher a year ago, going 7-1 with a 1.86 ERA and two saves. Other returning starters are senior outfielder Gavin Kyle and sophomores Jerrod Carr (C, second-team all-league), Clayton Nicks (OF) and Tate VanFossen (OF).

"We have a lot back from last year," coach Wilson said. "I think the team was so young last year when we started five freshmen every game, and a couple of games we started seven. This year, they are talented and have a year of experience. They have much more confidence and they expect to raise their level of play."

The Vikings lost senior Justin Mullins (P/INF) for the season with a broken arm.

Also back are junior Morgan Wright (P/1B) and sophomores Nick McConnell (P), Daniel McNamara (OF), Gavin Shank (OF) and Matt Simmons (C/2B/P). Freshman Ethan Chalfant (2B) also hopes to contribute.

"We expect to have a strong season and compete for an MBC title," coach Wilson said. "We expect be over .500 and expect to go deeper in the tournament."

Softball team has new look, same drive

The softball team lost three four-year starters to graduation but still returns a strong nucleus as it looks to reach a third district final in four seasons.

Northridge finished 15-13 overall last year after losing to sixth-seeded Fairbanks 6-4 in a district final. The 11th-seeded Vikings defeated Centerburg 1-0 in the first round, fifth-seeded West Jefferson 5-3 in the second round and third-seeded Mount Gilead 6-1 in a district semifinal.

Last season in the MBC, Northridge went 9-5 to finish third, behind Loudonville (13-1) and Danville (11-3) and ahead of Centerburg (7-7), Johnstown (6-8), Utica (6-8), East Knox (4-10) and Fredericktown (0-14).

"This group is focused and driven," second-year coach Bobbi Jones said. "They want to succeed and they won't accept failure."

Returning are seniors Kassi Davison (1B/P, first-team all-league), Faith Hiser (LF) and Taylor Mann (CF), juniors Courtney Legg (RF), Courtney Mann (C) and Heidi Wolfe (RF) and sophomores Megan Hatfield (3B/P, honorable mention all-league) and Makaela Pankuch (2B/P).

Northridge also has two freshmen in Tori Hart (1B/P) and Savannah Legg (SS).

Lost to graduation were Kara Barclay (SS), Kayla Davison (2B/P) and Kimber Hazlett (P/1B). Hazlett was second-team all-league.

"We need to stay fundamentally sound," said Jones, whose team opened March 30 with a doubleheader against Cardington. "We played two scrimmages and played phenomenal softball."

The Vikings open league play April 8 at home against Danville.

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