After a record-setting season, fourth-year coach Jeff Wilson and the Northridge High School baseball team expect more success this spring.
The Vikings return six starters from a team that finished 20-11 overall and won the program's first district championship. Northridge defeated Heath 10-9 in a Division III district final and Cincinnati Summit Country Day 1-0 in a regional semifinal before losing to Hamilton Badin 9-6 in eight innings in a regional final.
Northridge also won its first league title since 2001, tying Fredericktown at 13-1 in the MBC to finish ahead of third-place Utica (8-6). The Vikings have moved to the LCL.
"We're used to being a team with a target on our back," said Wilson, whose team opened March 29 with a doubleheader against Groveport. "It was that way for us in the last half of last season and it will be like that again. Even though we're relatively young, we have a lot of experience to carry over and hopefully help us to go further this year."
All six returning starters are juniors in Ethan Chalfant (3B), Daniel McNamara (OF), Clay Nicks (1B/OF/P; first-team all-league), Matt Simmons (C/P; second-team all-league), Brad Wilson (P/SS; first-team all-league) and Greg Wilson (OF/SS/P; first-team all-district and all-league).
Also back are senior Morgan Wright (P) and juniors Gavin Shank (OF) and Tate VanFossen (1B/2B).
Northridge also has five transfers from Johnstown-Monroe, but they cannot play in the first 13 games because of OHSAA rules. They are seniors Jakob Cramer (2B; first-team all-league) and Nic Walker (P) and juniors Trent Baughman (3B/P/C), Andrew Hollis (SS/P/C) and Anthony Hollis (1B/P).
Rounding out the roster are juniors Tyler Freese (3B), Nick McConnell (P) and Dustin Shenberger (2B/P), sophomores Nathan Hiser (OF/P) and Peyton Miller (OF/P) and freshman Drew Cella (2B).
"One of the big things is that we're deep in pitching, which will be important because of our schedule," said coach Wilson, whose team opens LCL play Monday, March 31, against visiting Johnstown. "The teams in the LCL are a lot tougher than in the MBC and we also made sure we had a tough non-league schedule as well. Every game we play will be against a high-level team."
Softball team returns six starters
The softball team has six starters back from a team that finished 21-6 overall last season, losing to eventual district champion Ready 4-0 in the second round of the Division III district tournament.
The Vikings also won their third MBC title in four seasons, going 13-1 to finish ahead of runner-up Loudonville (9-5).
"(We have) seven returning varsity players who will bring experience and leadership to the team," said first-year coach Michael Pankuch, who was an assistant the past three seasons, including the last two under former coach Bobbi Jones. "We also have solid pitching and strong defense to back it up."
The six returning starters are senior outfielder Courtney Legg (second-team all-league), senior catcher Courtney Mann (second-team all-league), junior third baseman/pitcher Megan Hatfield (.371, 4 home runs; first-team-all-league), sophomore first baseman/pitcher Tori Hart (.447, 5 homers; first-team all-league), junior second baseman/pitcher Mikaela Pankuch (honorable mention all-league) and sophomore shortstop Savannah Legg.
Senior outfielder Heidi Wolfe also is a returning varsity player.
Hart, Hatfield and Mikaela Pankuch are "good pitchers who can control the game," coach Pankuch said. "They have three different styles of pitching and they can all start or relieve. I can pick the right situations to put them in."
Rounding out the roster are senior outfielder Taylor Esty, junior utility player Hunter Adkins, sophomore outfielder Emily Wilson and freshman catcher/outfielder Kayla Mickey.
"We move to the LCL, which is probably one of the best leagues in the state," said coach Pankuch, whose team opens Monday, March 31, in a league game at home against Johnstown. "Being one of the few teams in the LCL that are not Division II should help us come tournament time."