The Johnstown-Monroe High School softball team has a tough act to follow.
The Johnnies won their first district and regional championships last season before losing to eventual champion Wheelersburg 1-0 in a Division III state semifinal to finish with a program-best 24-8 record.
Johnstown lost to Lakewood 10-0 on April 5 to fall to 1-2 overall under interim coach Chuck McConnell, who has stepped in for coach Steve Smith, who has taken a health-related leave of absence.
“It’s going to be a challenge (to follow last season),” McConnell said. “We only lost three players from last year, so we have a lot of players back and they know what to do on the field. We don’t have to teach them a lot of fundamentals.”
Lost to graduation were catcher Erin McConnell and pitcher/shortstop Maddi Lusk, who now plays for Youngstown State. In addition, center fielder Gabby Thomas did not return for her sophomore season in order to focus on golf.
Senior Sydney Stefanick, a Western Michigan signee, is back after sharing shortstop and pitching duties with Lusk a year ago. Last season, Stefanick batted .500 with 10 home runs, 44 RBI and 28 runs scored and went 11-6 in the circle with a 2.04 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings.
Other returning starters are seniors Ali Arter (3B), Jordan Dingess (1B), Madi Layman (LF) and Abby Schaffer (2B) and sophomore Ashley McConnell (RF).
Sophomore Alisha Sloan has taken over at catcher and sophomore Haylee Frost has moved into center field, while freshman Taylor Armstrong will play at shortstop when Stefanick pitches.
Dingess and sophomore Claire Hamparian will also pitch.
Baseball team has
The baseball team had a sound start to its season defensively.
The Johnnies did not commit any errors in their first three contests before committing two in an 8-0 loss to DeSales on April 4. They then committed four in a 10-3 loss to Lakewood on April 5 to fall to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the LCL-Cardinal Division.
Johnstown opened league play April 3 against Newark Catholic and played error-free before the game was suspended in the 10th inning because of darkness with the score tied at 2. The game will resume when the teams meet April 21 at Newark Catholic.
“We have a veteran group and we return all of our pitchers from last year,” fourth-year coach Justin Richards said. “We also have made strides hitting. We lost to DeSales (5-2) in the (second round of the Division II district) tournament last year and their pitcher (Mike Gilbert) struck us out 10 times. This time we only had five (strikeouts).”
Leading the way on the mound for the Johnnies are seniors Peyton Clift, Marques Denney, Parker Calhoun and Cody Workman and sophomores Luke Myers and Jackson Peloquin. Clift has committed to play for Tiffin and Denney has committed to Sinclair Community College in Dayton.
Senior catcher Austin Metz has committed to Cuyahoga Community College.
Other returning starters are juniors Ty Helmke (2B) and Will Schmitt (1B) and sophomore Jaren Hewitt (3B).
Boys track team
returns strong nucleus
The boys track and field team has returned several key performers from last season for first-year coach Josh Bergstrom.
Bergstrom was an assistant last season under John Peters, who led both the boys and girls programs for three seasons.
“We’re going to be pretty solid across the board,” Bergstrom said. “We have good throwers, distance runners and sprinters, led by (junior) Josh Ashbrook, who won the 100 (meters) in the (LCL-Cardinal) meet last year (in 11.6 seconds).”
Senior Brenden Peloquin and sophomore Alexander Jenney should lead the hurdlers, while senior Paul Lang and juniors Ryan Bates, Daniel Clark and Nate Taylor are expected to lead the middle-distance runners and senior Lane Sidner, junior Nate Clark and sophomores Brendan Sapp and Brennan Scurlock are the team’s top distance runners.
Senior Josh Madden, juniors Corey Bias and Daniel Rose and sophomore Zach Jenney will lead the throwers, while Ashbrook and Taylor are competing in the high jump and long jump and senior Mason Work and Sidner are competing in the pole vault.
Key performers back
for girls track team
The girls track and field team also has returned several key performers from last season.
“We have a lot back from last year,” Bergstrom said. “We also picked up several new athletes who should be big contributors for us.”
Senior Alissa Rowe excelled on the soccer field for Johnstown last fall, but Bergstrom expects her to help the Johnnies in the sprints, middle distance and long jump this spring. Junior Emily Blenk is back in the long jump and hurdles.
Sophomore Hannah Vaughan also is expected to be a top performer in the middle-distance events, with juniors Taylor Anderson, Hannah Dowell and Hope Nixon and sophomore Charity Campbell leading the distance corps.
Junior Olivia Curran, sophomore Maria Moore and freshman Claire Hendren are throwers, while junior Hannah Corbi is competing in the pole vault, Anderson and senior Ashlyn Powell are competing in the high jump and junior Emily Nolen is competing in the long jump.