By Greg Gulas
Poland head coach Matt Bobbey says his 9-10-year-old softball team features excellent defense team and solid pitching.
His players are disciplined at the plate and love to play small ball.
They’ll find out today how they stack up against the other teams that have qualified for the Little League State Tournament in Clyde. Poland opens against Avon at 3 p.m. at Clyde Community Park.
Poland earned the trip to state with a victory over Boardman on July 16. While the team has embraced a break, Bobbey said the 11-day layoff shouldn’t pose any major problems in a five-team tournament.
“We have a well-balanced team and like the other teams that have also made it this far, we’re strong up the middle,” Bobbey said. “One coach said we’re so effective because we play small ball and that really sums us up as a unit.
“In addition to timely hitting, we’ve also been able to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes.”
Bobbey added that this group of players is a very smart group.
“All you have to do is look at their school grade-point averages and you realize why they are so very coachable,” Bobbey said. “I’ve coached a lot of teams, but this group listens, wants to learn and then goes out and finds a way to win.
Camryn Lattanzio and Brooke Bobbey are the pitchers who have carried the load for Poland while center fielder Alexis Diaz, in addition to her defensive wizardry, is an added plus on the hill.
“The state tournament is your one chance to do something very special,” Diaz said. “I didn’t know many of the players that well when we first started, but now they’re like family to me.”
Brooke Bobbey, who starts at shortstop when she is not pitching, likes when the team bats first.
“We like to set the tone right from the start,” Boobey said. “We want to get an early lead.”
Rounding out the infield is first baseman Jackie Grisdale, second baseman Abigail Farber and third baseman Adeline Schweers, the team’s lead-off hitter.
Mia Dicioccio handles the catching duties with Lucy Graziano and Jordyn Olson joining Diaz in the outfield.
Adding depth to an already solid outfield are Rachel Wolfe, Julia Eich, Lauren Melillo and Erin Morell.
“You only get to do this once so you want to make it a great experience,” Grisdale said.