HIGH SCHOOL PREVIEW Regional softball
Where: Massillon Genshaft Park.
Teams: South Range (15-11) vs. LaGrange Keystone (19-4).
When: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Teams: Champion (23-2) vs. Chagrin Falls (12-7).
When: 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Championship game: Saturday, 1 p.m. The winner will meet the Lancaster regional winner in next week's state semifinals.
South Range scouting report: The Raiders are making their second consecutive regional appearance, losing last year to eventual state champion Jeromesville Hillsdale, 3-0. Six of manager Ray Thomas' starters played in the regional last year: Junior pitcher Jenn Toth, senior shortstop Niki Knopp, first baseman Amy Algeo, senior third baseman Ashley Basista, senior centerfielder Kristen Powers and catcher Jen Ridgeway.
The newcomers are freshman second baseman Jessie Clayton (the leadoff hitter), right fielder Sam Hoover and leftfielder Kelly James. Thomas said Andraea Hazeo will be the designated hitter for James. Toth led the Raiders with her pitching and batting, leading the team with a .390 batting average.
The manager says: "Our girls are excited; they want to go further into the tournament than last year. We started to come on at the end of the season." Thomas called Keystone sophomore pitcher Brittney Robinson "strong, but we think she can be hit." Robinson pitched her fourth consecutive shutout Sunday as Keystone won the district title over Oberlin, 2-0. Robinson allowed three hits, struck out five and walked one.
Champion scouting report: The batting order: Leadoff will be Jessica Rowland playing second, then Jessica Carpenter at third and pitcher Molly Barnes (11-2 record). Cleanup will be catcher Christie Novotny, followed by Beth Rowland (shortstop), Amy Kennedy (DH), Michelle Canatsey (center), Beth Stoian (left), Meghan Packman (right) and Stephanie Weaver (first).
Champion (23-3, 14-2 in the TAC) is coached by Cheryl Weaver, in her second year. The Golden Flashes won the state championship in 1994 behind junior pitcher Jackie Beavers but lost in the regional the next year. This is their first trip to the regional since then.
"We have to play with clear heads and relax," Weaver said of the regional battle with Chagrin Falls.
"Relax, that's when we play our best. The girls will have a lot of pressure on them. This will be tough for them. It should be a good matchup."
Where: Kent State University
Teams: Western Reserve/Loudonville vs. North Robinson Colonel Crawford (23-3).
When: Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
Teams: Bedford St. Peter Chanel (11-9) vs. Southington (18-4).
When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
Championship game: Saturday, 1 p.m. The winner will meet the Pickerington regional winner in next week's state semifinals.
Southington scouting report: Stephanie Hudak will lead off and play shortstop, followed by Lindsay Byer, who will hit second and pitch. Third will be catcher Becca Derr, and Jennifer Brunstetter will hit cleanup and play first. The fifth hitter will be Kristy Sabo (right field), followed by Katie Fiest (center), Melissa Smith (second), Haylie Meyers (third base), Holly Garland (left field) and designated hitter Cynda Miller.
The current crop of Southington senior players won a state title as freshmen but fell in the district championship as sophomores. As juniors they reached the regionals.
The coach is Kelly Nelson, who has a five-year record of 193-70 and is a Southington graduate. She played two years at Heidelberg.
Current Wildcat pitcher Byer, a junior, was the bat girl on the state championship team when she was in eighth grade.
"I had to replace five starters who graduated," Nelson said. "That says a lot about my kids."
Brittany Campana, the starting shortstop, is injured and done for the season.
"We're young, but we have some experience," Nelson said. "If we play the way we have been playing, we should be all right. We've been hitting the ball real well. We got 12 hits off Ashley Ault [Mineral Ridge]."