offensive form for Panthers

offensive form for Panthers

First-year coach Tabitha Furlong remained calm, even after the Pickerington High School North softball team had won just three times through nine games.

"We're not giving up, we're still fighting," she said. "We've lost to some good teams. We're working on getting better every game and not stressing too much on one thing. So far this season our pitching has been strong but our hitting is not there consistently."

That appeared to be changing for the better as the bats came around in an 8-7 loss in eight innings to Upper Arlington on April 17. Ris McDaniel hit a two-run home run.

It was significant since McDaniel was North's leading hitter last season. She batted .438 with 30 RBI in her first season on varsity.

"(The varsity level) was a lot different," she said. "The competition is a lot better and pitching is tougher to hit. I just worked hard in practice. The coaches helped us and told us what we were doing wrong if we were in a slump."

What seemed like her ability to avoid a slump last season caught up to her at times earlier this season.

"She's now found her zone and is more consistent now," Furlong said.

"I'm finally getting to pick it back up," McDaniel said. "Once I fix all the little things, I'll really get it going. I've been hitting the ball more solid, something I didn't earlier this season."

Defensively, McDaniel is the catcher -- and a good one.

"She's an outstanding blocker," Furlong said.

That's a perfect trait for one of North's top two pitchers in Colleen Wentz. A dropball pitcher, Wentz needs to have confidence in her catcher to stop everything in the dirt.

"I like catching a lot," McDaniel said. "I'm in charge and I feel I'm involved in every play."

McDaniel's pitchers, Wentz and Jess Widener, have been a pleasant surprise for Furlong.

"Coming into the season we thought our go-to areas would be defense and hitting," she said. "So far it's been our pitching. Colleen and Jess have pitched all the innings for us and they're a good one-two punch. They complement each other as Jess is more of a riseball pitcher and little faster and Colleen throws changeups and dropballs."

McDaniel's abilities and off--field personality led to her nomination as a co-captain.

According to Furlong, her leadership has been valuable to the development of the younger players on the team.

"She's been very responsible," Furlong said. "We have three freshmen and four sophomores and Ris has been there for all of them and taking the role an upperclassmen should."

As with most leaders, the other players can look to McDaniel for optimism as the Panthers try to improve on their slow start.

"We need to work as a team," she said. "We need to get the little things fixed and our hitting back up to par. Our defense is already strong. We just need to have confidence in our hitting. People get down when they have one bad at-bat, but they have to keep going. When I have one bad at-bat, I just think about the next at-bat."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Central and North softball teams:

CENTRAL

*April 14 -- Defeated Olentangy 12-0

*April 16 -- Lost to Westerville South 6-5

Last Saturday -- Lost to Uniontown Lake 4-0; def. Dover 9-4 at Tigertown Tournament

*Last Monday -- Def. Mount Vernon 2-1

*Last Wednesday -- Played Worthington Kilbourne

Today -- Home vs. Lancaster. Central won 7-2 last season.

*Monday -- At Dublin Jerome. Central won 5-3 on April 8.

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Olentangy

Of note: The Tigers were 9-5 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Cardinal game

NORTH

*April 15 -- Lost to Delaware 1-0. The Panthers had two hits.

*April 16 -- Lost to Central Crossing 4-1

April 17 -- Lost to Upper Arlington 8-7 in eight innings

*Last Monday -- Lost to Thomas Worthington 4-1

*Last Wednesday -- Played Marysville

Friday -- At Centennial Stellar Classic at Beekman Park. North will play Gates Mills Hawken on Friday and Strasburg-Franklin and Canal Winchester on Saturday.

*Monday -- Home vs. Westerville Central. North won 5-3 on April 9.

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Delaware

Of note: The Panthers were 3-7 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Central before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Central game