One of the phrases Ready High School softball coach Nick Joseph uses at his team's annual postseason banquet to help his players prepare for the offseason is in regards to getting "bigger, stronger and faster."

One of the phrases Ready High School softball coach Nick Joseph uses at his team's annual postseason banquet to help his players prepare for the offseason is in regards to getting "bigger, stronger and faster."

The athleticism he's seen from his team during the preseason is enough to make Joseph believe his players have taken the talk to heart.

"I can tell in the practices already that it'll be a lot better than last year," said Joseph, whose team opens Tuesday, March 29, at Grandview. "With the extra (speed) we have, I expect us not to go four games looking for a run like we did last year. We've already been hitting better inside than we did last year."

A more experienced lineup than a year ago, when the Silver Knights had a string of consecutive appearances in a Division III district final snapped at nine, also should help.

Ready had three players sign last November to play with college programs, and that trio should lead the way.

Senior Katie Ardrey signed with Division II Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich., after going 14-10 with a 1.51 ERA and 203 strikeouts in 172 innings. She is back as the No. 1 pitcher and also hit .413 with three home runs, 20 RBI and seven stolen bases last year.

Senior Dani Pugh has signed with Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and is back at shortstop after hitting .387 with two home runs and 20 RBI.

Senior Haley Widner signed with James Madison and again should bat leadoff and play center field after posting team-bests in runs (21) and batting average (.419).

Sophomore Alexis Mayle led Ready in home runs (5) and RBI (22) and is expected to start at third base. Senior Lindsey Kusan returns at first base.

Junior Taylor Inks or freshman Haley Patel will play second base, with junior Mara Waldo at catcher.

Joining Widner in the outfield should be senior Sam Curry, the coach's granddaughter, and junior Erin Bennett. Curry finished with 19 RBI a year ago.

Also on the team are senior Allison Lichwa and sophomore Emily Finchum, each of whom could spend time at catcher and third base.

Curry likely will follow Widner in the batting order, with Ardrey, Pugh and Mayle rounding out the top five.

"(Ardrey's) so much stronger than she was last year," Joseph said. "It just took a long time to bring those kids along after we lost all of those kids from the state (semifinalist) team (in 2009)."

Joseph has won 395 games since taking over at Ready in 1992 and has led the program to 11 CCL championships, nine district titles and one state championship.

Last season, the Silver Knights were 15-10 overall and had a string of five consecutive CCL titles snapped as they went 5-3 to finish behind DeSales (8-0) and ahead of Watterson (4-4), Hartley (3-5) and Worthington Christian (0-8).

Worthington Christian is no longer competing in the CCL.

•The baseball team is hoping to build on a postseason in which it reached a Division III district semifinal for the seventh time in nine seasons.

The Silver Knights, who finished 8-21 overall last season, lost eight players to graduation, but they return six seniors and three juniors who saw playing time a year ago.

Senior Erik Dubiel is expected to be the No. 1 pitcher. He saw key innings in a 4-3 win over top-seeded Fredericktown in the second round of the district tournament.

The other seniors are Jacob Chapman (C), Jeff Johnson (P), William Marting (1B), Ryan Moore (OF) and Landon Wolfe (P).

Junior Brian Horn likely will be in the pitching rotation and also should see time at third base. The other juniors are Brian Hasenkamp (P) and Alex Kopczyk (P).

Sophomores Ross Etgen, Mitch McNabb and Sean Mogan all could see action in the outfield, with Etgen and McNabb also being candidates to pitch. Also competing for playing time are sophomore Matthew Sweet (OF) and freshman Zach Jarrett (C).

"There's always a lot of anticipation for the season," said third-year coach Harry Caruso, whose team opens Tuesday, March 29, at Utica. "We're really young. We lost a lot of seniors, so we've gone in a direction where we're playing a little bit more youth."

Last season, Ready beat Caledonia River Valley 7-5 in the first round of the district tournament before beating Fredericktown. The Silver Knights then fell to seventh-seeded Columbus Academy 2-1 in a district semifinal.

Tyler Davis, who pitched complete games against River Valley and Academy, led a 2010 senior class that also included Jordan Carnes, Chase Chapman, Andrew Clarke, Dwight Etgen, Matt Feeney, Jeremy Finchum and Matt Magni. Magni was the winning pitcher against Fredericktown.

Ready finished last in the CCL at 0-10 last year, behind DeSales (8-2), St. Charles (7-3), Watterson (6-4), Hartley (5-5) and Worthington Christian (4-6).

"Two years in a row we got to basically the same place (in the postseason)," Caruso said. "We're expecting bigger and better things this year. We're going to be young, but I think we've got a good base of knowledge to work from."