Beechcroft High School softball coach Bruce Ward knew he likely would lean on the experience of seniors Victoria Merz and Megan Reed, particularly through the first round of City League-North Division play.

Beechcroft High School softball coach Bruce Ward knew he likely would lean on the experience of seniors Victoria Merz and Megan Reed, particularly through the first round of City League-North Division play.

He just never knew how much.

After catcher Valentina Holt -- a starter since her freshman year -- did not return for her senior season, the Cougars had to turn to junior newcomer Rikki Martin behind the plate. Then they lost senior pitcher Jessica O'Connor -- also a key player since her freshman year -- just before the season to ineligibility. Martin's sister, sophomore Kirsten, has taken over in the circle.

Considering Merz and Reed also began the season playing new positions, their contributions offensively were among the biggest reasons Beechcroft went 5-2 in the first round of league play.

"Megan is a fourth-year starter, our leadoff batter and is hitting about .670," Ward said. "Victoria Merz is also having a good year. She's hitting about .480 and has only had two errors."

Merz started her first three seasons at first base before being moved to second. She since has been moved back to her original position. Reed started at third base last year but has settled in at shortstop.

"The one thing about Megan is that she's coachable," Reed said. "If she doesn't field it cleanly, she's got a good arm and she's just a team leader. We don't really make somebody a captain, but she's the one that steps up and has kind of done it on her own."

The Cougars, who were fifth at 6-8 in the City-North last year, lost to Whetstone 15-5 on April 14 and Centennial 17-2 on April 18. They were third behind the Stars (7-0) and Braves (6-1) before playing Mifflin last Wednesday.

Beechcroft plays host to Whetstone today.

"We just need to stay more focused," Reed said. "We gave them a lot of runs off of a lot of errors the first time we played them. If we play better defensively, it should be a better game."

Reed attended a camp at Ohio State last summer and has received college interest from Wheeling Jesuit.

"I think we're coming together and improving more as a team," Reed said. "We lost our pitcher and we've got a new catcher, plus we've got a lot of people in different positions. I'm playing a different position. I actually played third base before, even though I'm left-handed. (Shortstop) is different. I was kind of struggling at first, but I'm getting used to it.

"I went to Ohio State's softball camp this past summer and it was actually a lot of fun. I learned some stuff I can bring to this team batting wise."

•The baseball team will look for a better result in its rematch against Whetstone when it meets the Braves on Friday.

The Cougars, who lost to Whetstone 18-0 on April 14, were fourth at 4-3 in the City-North before opening the second round of league play last Wednesday against Mifflin.

Through nine games, Zach Davis was leading the way offensively with a .579 average and 10 RBI. Jacob Way was hitting .481 and Mike Estep was batting .444. Deion King led in runs with 11 and also had seven RBI.

"A pleasant surprise has been senior outfielder Jon Smith," coach Matt Bell said. "He has never played baseball before this year. He even pitched (one game) and struck out three."

Smith was hitting .368 through nine games.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Beechcroft softball and boys tennis teams:

SOFTBALL

*April 16 -- Def. Linden 21-6

April 17 -- Lost Wellington 9-6

*April 18 -- Lost to Centennial 17-2

April 19 -- Lost to Franklin Heights 5-2

*April 21 -- Def. Northland 10-8

*April 23 -- Def. Brookhaven 11-5

*April 24 -- Def. East 19-2

Last Saturday -- Def. Wellington 17-6 and 5-3

Last Tuesday -- Played Independence

*Last Wednesday -- Played Mifflin

*Today -- Home vs. Whetstone

Saturday -- At Tree of Life (doubleheader)

*Monday -- Home vs. Linden

*Wednesday -- At Centennial

Of note: The Cougars were 8-4 overall before last Tuesday and 6-2 in the City-North before last Wednesday.

TENNIS

*April 15 -- Lost to Whetstone 3-2

*April 17 -- Def. Brookhaven 4-1

*April 21 -- Lost to Centennial 3-2

*Last Monday -- Lost to East 4-1

*Last Wednesday -- Played Northland

Monday, Wednesday -- At City Coaches Tournament at Westgate Park and Whetstone Park of Roses

*City-North game