Shon Schaffer and his Bradford softball team were ready to make a run at the state title in D-IV a year ago.
As it turned out, the season was postponed because of COVID-19.
While the Railroaders have many of those players back, it has been two years since they have worn a Bradford softball uniform.
The Railroaders were 18-5 two years ago when star pitcher Skipp Miller missed the season with an ACL injury after pitching them to the state championship game her freshman year in 2018.
Miller, a senior, is back along with seniors Maggie Manuel, Emma Canan, Courtney Monnin and Buzz Brewer and juniors Austy Miller, Abby Fike, Nylani Beireis and Rylee Canan.
Skipp Miller will be back on the mound with Beireis and sophomore Izzy Hamilton, while Austy Miller will handle the catching duties.
Leading the infield will be Fike, Manuel, Beireis and Emma Canan, while Brewer, Hamilton and Rylee Canan will handle the outfield duties.
“We hope to contend for the league title this year,” Schaffer said. “We are working together to become a team that plays for one another. We have a long way to go, but I am confident we can get there.”
Dan Cain returns as Covington coach.
Cain is returning where he started, after stops at Newton, Troy, Miami East, Northridge, Troy Christian and Edison State.
The top pitchers will be Meg Rogers, Erika Gostomsky, Nigella Reck and Karyan Turner.
The top infielders will include Reck at shortstop, Alli Garman at second base and Rogers seeing action at second base and shortstop when she is not pitching.
The top outfielers include Emma Naff, Kierra Hinnigen, Karyann Turner and Rai’shell Reed.
Cain sees the league as being strong.
“Bradford will be the team to beat, with Skipp (Miller) coming back after not playing high school ball for two years,” Cain said. “I know she’ll be on a mission. Arcanum now has Mike Morris running the show which makes them a contender also. Newton returns coach 9Kirk) Kadel, so you know they will also be solid.
“National Trail returns some quality players. Brian Kadel has a young and talented group of girls at Miami East that will be fundamentally sound as well. Overall a strong league that you better be ready to play every night or you will struggle.”
Cain hopes to be competitive in the CCC.
“I feel like we are young but will compete with anyone on our schedule,” Cain said. “I don’t have one pitcher that has thrown an inning of high school softball, but I expect big things from them. This will be our last go around in this league so we want to finish strong.
“Tournament play will be a whole nether group of challenges with Russia, Minster and a very strong Mechanicsburg team.. Also a lot of unknowns beacause nobody played last year, should make for an exciting season of softball, we are like everyone else just happy to be playing again. We want to play this season for last year’s seniors as well as this year’s.”
Bill Booth returns for his 33rd season as Lehman coach.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Liann Trahey and Anna Cianciolo and juniors Heidi Toner, Annie Stiver and Megan Chamberlin.
Stiver and Emilee VanSkiver will be the top pitchers.
The catchers will include Chamberlin and Toner, while Toner, Tori Lachey, Caroline Wesner, Kate Stewart and Cianciolo will all see action in the infield.
The outfield will include Stewart, Trahey, Molly Greene, Ryan Fitchpatrick, Elaina Young, Lily Peltier and Pear Sangcharoen.
“This is our final year in the NWCC,” Booth said. “This year the league will be veru competitive with Riverside, Elgin, Ridgemont and Lehman being the top teams. This will be one of the best teams I have had at Lehman.”
Brian Kadel rerturns for his 11th season as coach.
Returning letterwinners include senior Abigail Covault and juniors Kyleigh Kirby, Kalli Teeters, Braven Mills, Kenzie Noble and Kayly Fetters.
Kirby was an All-CCC selection as a sophomore, hitting .405 with five home runs.
Teeters batted .400 her freshman season.
Kirby is the top pitcher but suffered a knee injury at the state wrestling tournament. Kadel hopes to have her back by the middle of April.
Rounding out the pitching staff will be Teeters, sophomore Annabelle Penny and junior Kaitlyn Ropp.
Mills will miss the season with an injury, so battling for the catching position are Nobel, sophomore Keira Kirby and freshman Madison Maxson and Reagan Howell.
Covault will move to shortstop, Fetters will play first base and Howell, freshman Abigail Kadel, sophomore Rachel Haak and Maxson will compete for playing time in the infield.
Teeters will be in centerfield when not pitching and Penny, Haak, Keira Kirby and Kadel could all see time in the outfield as well.
“We will be young with the potential to start three freshmen and three sophomores,” Kadel said. “They all have good experience and we expect them to play like older players. Consistent pitching and solid defense will be keys for us to win games.”
Kadel hopes to compete with the best teams in the CCC.
“There are a lot of unknowns in the league this year not seeing conference teams last year and we do not get the chance to see everyone over the summer,” he said. “We would expect teams like Bradford, Covington, National Trail and Arcanum to continue to be good teams. There could be several unknowns though. We think we have the ability to play with and beat any team on any night.”
Softball coaching legend Kirk Kadel is back at the helm for the Indians.
The Newton seniors include Ashlyn Deeter, Haley Abrams, Addison Peters, Marissa Deeter and Grace Williams.
The roster also includes juniors Molly Norman, Lacy Miller and Ashley Evans and freshman Brooklynne Hines, Kylie Velkof, Laci Miller and Isabella Hall.
Greg Campbell returns as Piqua softball coach.
Returning letterwinners include senior Paige Hinkle and junios Kenzi Anderson, Reagan Toopes and Chaia Sowers.
Also senior Kennedy Fashner, who played for Piqua as a freshman and Greenville as a sophomore, is back playing for Piqua.
Piqua was 17-9 two years ago.
Fashner, who had a 10-3 record and 1.81 ERA two years ago for Greenville, while batting .300 with six doubles and three home runs, will share the pitching duties with freshman Julia Coppess.
Sophomore Olivia Anthony and freshman Brooklyn Larck should also see some innings.
Sophomores Caylee Roe and Tarika Sutter will split time behind the plate.
The infield will be led by third baseman Hinkle and shortstop Toopes.
Toopes batted .373 with eight doubles and two home runs two years ago, while Hinkle batted .351 with seven doubles and a home run.
Anderson will lead a young group of outfielders.
She batted .423 as a freshman with 10 doubles, two triples and two home runs.
“As usual, the MVL will be very competitive this season,” Campbell said. “All programs are well coached and have some outstanding athletes. Piqua is young this season and will look to the veteran leadership of Hinkle and Fashner to help pull them along. We will see sees ix or 7 freshman and sophomores get some key playing time this season.”
Campbell expects to be competitive this season and look to mesh and grow as the season goes along.
Scott Sutton returns for his sixth season as coach.
The Red Devils were 20-6 in 2019.
Returning letter winners include seniors Mackenzie Foster, Kaitlyn Husic, Corinn Siefring, Sidney Unger and Savannah Wead and juniors Ashley Aselage, Kaelay May, Emma McCormick and Marissa Jennings.
The top pitchers will be Wead and junior Anna Quinn, while the catchers will include sophomore Ally Broering, junior Maddie Carner and senior Sam Thieman.
May and sophomore Emma Davis will be at first base, McCormick and sophomore Kailey Brysen will be at second base, May and Foster will be a third base and Husic will be at shortstop.
The top outfielders will be seniors Siefring and Unger and juniors Aselage and Jennings.
“It will be our first season competing in the MVL due to COVID, but all the teams know eachother from GWOC,” Sutton said. “It should be another competitive season within the league. Everybody wants to beat Greenville because they are historically the best in our league.”
Tipp has set their goals high.
“Our goal, of course, is to win the league and to go deep in the OHSAA tournament,” Sutton said. “We have a talented group of young ladies again this year, lead by nine that return from last year. One thing different this year is that we are just going to be more appreciative of getting to play.
“When the 2020 season was cancelled it was very disappointing to our team. Especially the seniors from last year. This year we are grateful to have the chance to compete on the field and to play the game that we all love. Of course, we want to win and have a good record and make our school and our city proud, but we will do it this year with a bit more gratitude than usual.”