The city of Mason, Ohio is known for being the home of Kings Island amusement park and a number of indoor and outdoor water parks. The northern Cincinnati suburb is genuinely regarded as a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon.
If the Jonathan Alder softball team (25-1) wants to have a good time in Mason on Saturday, May 31, playing for a Division II regional championship and a spot in the state Final Four, it’s going to have to find a way to win the regional semifinal on Thursday, May 29, against Springfield Northwestern at Mason High School.
Northwestern (27-3) earned its spot in the regional with an 11-2 triumph over Wilmington in the district final. The Warriors have won 22 of their past 23 games and 11 straight since dropping a 5-2 decision to D-I state powerhouse and Lebanon (30-0).
Alder coach Dave McGrew is expecting his team to be tested from a Warriors team that he doesn’t know a whole lot about.
“In the one game we saw of them they were pretty patient at the plate,” McGrew said. “I do like our chances though. I’ve got to imagine on paper that we may be the favorite, but we’ve still got to go out and play well if we want to win.”
Alder has been on a roll of its own, winning 25 straight games since a season-opening 7-6 loss to Bishop Hartley. The Pioneers have found different ways to win games this season, but the blueprint has been centered around solid pitching from Mady Watson and Andi Blankenship, strong defense and the team’s trademark speed.
The speedy Pioneers feature a lineup filled with fleet-footed athletes, including leadoff hitter and team leader Brooke Foster.
Alder will attempt to make Northwestern senior Brittany Hart uncomfortable inside the pitching circle. Hart is 15-2 this season and brings a 1.79 ERA and 126 strikeouts through 105.1 innings. But for as strong as she’s been Hart isn’t an overpowering pitcher and the Pioneers will look to exploit that.
“She’s good and brings it at a medium speed,” McGrew said. “We’re going to have someone who throws around that speed come in and throw to our girls.”
Northwestern has won 22 of its past 23 games and 11 straight since dropping a 5-2 decision to D-I powerhouse and regional semifinalist Lebanon (30-0).
The Warriors pounded the ball this season and were the top hitting team in the Central Buckeye Conference. They are led by a collection of six seniors who are all in the starting lineup.
“They play in a good league but I don’t think their side of the league is all that tough,” McGrew said.
The Pioneers coaching staff has watched the team excel offensively at times this season, but lately the runs haven’t come at near the pace they did in the middle of the season. A lot of that is the fact the pitching and defense they’ve faced has steadily increased, but also because Alder has struggled a bit to adjust to different pitching styles.
“I thought we would’ve made adjustments better against Granville (in district final),” he said. “We started to hit the ball better later in that game. Our defense has been rock solid and Mady (Watson) has pitched really well.
“I’m still looking for that game where we get the hitting going like we had earlier.”
The winner of the Alder-Northwestern game will advance to a D-II regional final at noon on Saturday, May 31, against either Springfield Shawnee or Franklin.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.