By Brian Dzenis
Sierra Pierce found her place at Jackson-Milton High School and in a short amount of time, she made quite the impression.
On Wednesday, she signed her National Letter of Intent with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She’s the BlueJays’ second Division I college softball player in program history. Pierce went to Jackson-Milton as an open-enrollment student from Austintown Fitch last year.
“I like how it’s a family there and how close everyone is. We all know each other and we all hang out all the time,” Pierce said Thursday of her current school. “For such a small school, I wanted to do well.”
Pierce said missing the first 13 games of the season because of her transfer didn’t have an impact on her recruiting because she was scouted in the summer. Last spring, she set a state record for consecutive games with a home run with seven. She hit .567 and eight home runs in 12 games while throwing 98 strikeouts in 80 innings.
Her coach, Kelly Abe, is excited to have Pierce for a full season this spring. She couldn’t pick between her hitting or pitching as the best part of her game.
“Oh boy, I don’t know. It’s like asking if I like pizza or ice cream better,” Abe said. “I would say she’s a dominant hitter and a patient pitcher so I would say they’re equal.”
The Tigers’ Sara Price will play Division I basketball for Ball State next winter. Price was one of the area’s top three-point shooters last year.
“I’ve been to a few of their practices and I’ve seen them in games and I really liked how they move the ball,” Price said of Ball State. “I can see myself in their offense.”
She comes from a family more known for exploits on the diamond than the court. Her mother, Jane, played softball at Miami and her father, Sean, played baseball at Youngstown State University.
Price, who also plays on the softball team, credits her late grandfather for steering her toward basketball.
“He was all about it,” Price said. “It was his favorite sport.”
Howland is also sending two athletes to Walsh.
Michael Massucci is heading there for baseball and carries a 4.0 grade-point average.
Reece Bogan, who attended Howland and Ursuline, signed with Walsh to play basketball out of High Point Christian Academy in North Carolina.
Massucci said he wanted to pursue a career in nursing after spending time as a volunteer at Trumbull Memorial Hospital. He’ll play for the Tigers’ basketball team this winter.
“I’ve always loved baseball since I was little. I played basketball for fun, but baseball — specifically pitching — has always been my talent and I’ve enjoyed that the most,” Massucci said.
Caragyn Yanek, The Vindicator’s reigning Softball Pitcher of the Year, will continue her softball career at Findlay.
Yanek set three school records last spring: most strikeouts in a season, most wins in a season and most innings pitched in a season, becoming a well-known name in area softball.
“We’re working on scheduling for the season and I called Nordonia — a Division I school we played last year,” Raiders coach Jeff DeRose said. “Their coach’s first question is ‘is your pitcher back?’”
Yanek eyes a return to the Division III state championship after finishing the season as state runner-up and knows the work involved.
“I learned that you get what you put in at the beginning of the season and the offseason,” Yanek said. “We didn’t get that far slacking.”
Derek Culver, the area’s most coveted boys basketball player in years, signed with West Virginia this week. He verbally committed to the Mountaineers in August.
The 6-foot-9 Culver averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Raiders last year.
Jensen Silbaugh can add signing with California University (Pa.) to her list of achievements.
After helping the Bulldogs win their first district title in 15 years in basketball last winter, she was the All-American Conference Red Tier’s Player of the Year in volleyball this fall. She led Lakeview to a 21-3 record, including a trip to the district semifinals and 15-0 mark in AAC play.
“It’s kind of hitting me hard that volleyball is over, it’s sad,” Silbaugh said. “[I’m proud of] knowing that you were a part of big things that happened at Lakeview and that’s a great feeling.”
Football player Hayden Lazzari is heading to the United States Coast Guard Academy, where he’s expected to play center for the Bears. Lazzari was a three-year starter with the Bulldogs.
Chloe Cheresne signed her Letter of Intent with the University of Charleston in West Virginia, where the Quakers’ stretch-four will continue her basketball career.