The Jonathan Alder and West Jefferson high school softball teams opened their seasons against each other under the lights Saturday night, March 26 at Pastime Park in Plain City.
The Lady Pioneers (1-0) unlike the younger Roughriders (0-1) have a larger collection of seniors who have been in the program for years and those players led the way to an easier than expected 8-0 Alder victory.
“I really didn’t know what to expect from West Jeff,” Alder coach Dave McGrew said. “I knew they had four or five freshman out there. I think they’ll be a good team, they’re just young right now.
“As for us I thought we were efficient offensively and Mady (Watson) was fantastic striking out 12 and allowing just two hits. It was a really good way to start the season. Our older kids played really well and our younger ones were able to gain a little experience.”
The Pioneers scored a run in the first inning, tacked on another in the third and then scored three in the fourth to break things open. Alder finished the game with 12 hits and were led by seniors Maddie Johnston (2 for 3, 2 RBI) and Taylor Gaerke (2 for 4).
The biggest joy for both teams was playing in front of a standing-room only crowd at Pastime Park on a field that many of the players from both teams played on as youth softball players.
“The environment was electric,” McGrew said. “The venue just added to the excitement. They put a lot of work into that field getting it ready for us. The energy level was off the charts. You could tell both teams really enjoyed themselves.”
West Jeff coach Jim Stevens knew his young team would be going up against one of the better D-II teams not only in Central Ohio but the entire state and was happy with their effort.
“I think our girls played very well,” Stevens said. “We made a couple mistakes and they capitalized on them scoring a few runs. They are a good team with good pitching, you can’t make little mistakes against a team like that.”
Stevens said his team will use the opening season loss as a building block for the rest of the season. Playing against a good team and coming up short will help his team gain confidence going forward.
“We are a young team with young players in starting positions, a game like that can only help build us into a better team,” he said. “The girls never gave up and that says something about them. They kept fighting until the last out and as coaches that’s all you can ask for. We will only get more sound and stronger as the season goes and we will be at our best at tournament time.”
McGrew was encouraged by a lot of what his team was able to do and was pleasantly surprised by the play of Haley Wagner. The newcomer was 2 for 2 at the plate including a double. She had played well in the team’s three scrimmages so her production wasn’t totally unexpected.
“She’s an interesting kid,” McGrew said. “She hasn’t played a lot but has worked hard this spring and hit the ball pretty well in our scrimmages. You could tell she was nervous in her first at-bat. She got hit by a pitch and she seemed to settle down after that. She hit a double her next time up.
“We’re excited about what we saw Saturday night.”
The week is scheduled to be a tough one for the Pioneers. They will host Bishop Hartley Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. and will welcome in Marion Harding Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. The team will have a critical Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game at North Union Friday at 5:15 p.m. and will then host the Der Dutchman Classic Saturday.
Alder will host Dublin Jerome at 10 a.m. and will clash with state powerhouse Lakewood at 2 p.m.
West Jefferson will travel to Bishop Ready Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. and will also play at Thomas Worthington Friday at 5:15 p.m.
The Red Raiders (0-2) opened the season with a pair of losses Saturday.
London committed six errors which helped turn a competitive game with Carlisle into a lopsided defeat. The Raiders led 4-3 heading into the top of the fifth, but the Indians scored five runs in the fifth, added another in the sixth and tacked on four more in the seventh.
Alli Farley hit a pair of home runs and had a single to go along with four RBI in the loss. Baylee Semler had three hits and Taylor Riegel had four hits.
London had just two hits in the loss to Northeastern Saturday. They came off of the bats of Farley and Taylor Narewski.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.