Figuring out how to jell might be the biggest issue facing the Ready High School softball team this spring.

Figuring out how to jell might be the biggest issue facing the Ready High School softball team this spring.

Of the five returning key players from the team which advanced to a Division III state semifinal, only junior center fielder Haley Widner will be at the same position as she spent most of last season.

Helping matters are that juniors Katie Ardrey and Dani Pugh are moving back to the positions they excelled at two seasons ago when the Silver Knights were district runners-up.

Ready, which opens Tuesday against visiting Liberty Union, certainly has history on its side: In addition to winning the last five CCL championships, it has competed in a district final each of the past nine seasons.

"My five juniors that played in the state semifinal last year I expect to show the others how to do things," said Nick Joseph, who is 380-112 in 18 seasons as coach. "I trust Katie and Haley and Dani, and I really trust all of them."

Ardrey went 18-4 with a 1.01 ERA and 126 strikeouts while making second-team all-district two seasons ago. After pitcher Gabby Gillilan transferred in for her senior season last spring, Ardrey went 7-3 with a 2.33 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 60 innings in the circle and hit .356 with 22 RBI while also starting at second base.

Widner batted .354 with 35 hits. Pugh was expected to start at catcher last year but missed most of the season with injuries and has moved to shortstop.

The other key returnees are junior Lindsey Kusan (1B) and Sam Curry (3B).

Senior Shelby Hawk, sophomore Taylor Inks and freshman Alexis Mayle all could see time at second base and sophomore Mara Waldo will take over at catcher.

Freshman Emily Finchum should start in left field and be the backup catcher. Sophomore Erin Bennett will be the No. 2 pitcher and also should see time in right field, along with junior Amber Nickell.

Last season, Ready went 23-7 overall, including 8-0 in the CCL. It beat North Union 9-5 to win a district title and Carlisle 7-0 and West Liberty-Salem 11-8 in 11 innings at the regional level.

The Silver Knights lost 4-1 in a state semifinal to Lakewood, which went on to win its second consecutive state title.

Sarah Gabel (SS), Brianna Gatley (1B), Kayla Goodberlet (3B), Justine Hutton (LF), Sam Macioce (RF), Emily Helber (C) and Caiti Waldo (OF) joined Gillilan as seniors last year.

Gillilan went 16-4 with a 1.04 ERA and is playing at Cleveland State. Gabel hit .424 with seven home runs and 42 RBI and is playing for Youngstown State. Goodberlet had 26 RBI. Macioce scored 34 runs, a figure that was the sixth-best in program history.

"Our schedule is a little testy, and we're going to get beat up a little this year," Joseph said. "I promise you that at the end we're going to play for a league championship and a district championship, and what we do will be up to them."

•The boys basketball team made its first appearance at the Division III state tournament since 2002 last Thursday when it played Orrville in a semifinal in Ohio State's Schottenstein Center.

The state final was last Saturday at Ohio State. The other teams in the final four were Chesapeake and Lima Central Catholic.

Ready won state titles in 1972 and '73 and was the 2002 runner-up.

The Silver Knights emerged from the Kettering Alter regional with victories over Anna (60-52 on March 17) and Cincinnati Taft (66-57 in overtime March 20) and was 19-6 before meeting Orrville.

"It's been just a terrific journey for our guys," coach Don Worstell said. "We've tried to be successful in a number of styles and pride ourselves in being very efficient on the offensive end. Every player understands their role."

Ready got a 37-point performance from senior guard Joe Graessle against Taft and 15 points from senior guard Cody Culbertson. While Graessle scored six of his team's 16 overtime points, Culbertson shot 5-for-5 from the free-throw line during the fourth quarter and added four overtime points.

Taft's Adolphus Washington, a 6-8 post player, finished with 16 points, but was held in check most of the game by 6-0 senior forward Matt Feeney.

"It definitely means a lot to us," said Culbertson, who also dressed in 2007 when the football team made it to a Division V state semifinal. "Nobody really expected this much from us, but we knew that if we played our best we could beat anybody. As a sophomore, (the football team) seemed really close, so both of these teams have that in common."

•The baseball team opens Monday at Big Walnut and plays Wednesday at Hamilton Township.

•The boys tennis team opens Monday against visiting Bloom-Carroll and plays Tuesday at home against Centennial.

•The boys and girls track and field teams open Saturday at the Red Raider Invitational at London.

Schedule

SOFTBALL

March 30 vs. Liberty Union

April 6 vs. Jonathan Alder

April 7 at Fairbanks

April 10 vs. Dublin Scioto with Berne Union

*April 12 at DeSales

*April 14 vs. Hartley

April 16 at Lancaster Classic

April 17 at Lancaster Classic

*April 19 at Worthington Christian

*April 21 vs. Watterson

April 23 at Ohio State vs. New Riegel in Stellar Classic

April 24 at Ohio State vs. Licking Valley and Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in Stellar Classic

*April 26 at Hartley

*April 28 at Watterson

*April 30 vs. Worthington Christian

May 3 at Jonathan Alder

*May 5 vs. DeSales

May 6 at New Albany

May 7 vs. West Jefferson

May 8 at London with Springfield Shawnee

May 12 at Hilliard Bradley

*CCL game