Boardman returns deep infield, pitching rotation for season

Staff file photo / Neel Madhavan. Boardman’s Gabi Sferra pitches during the Spartans’ game against Brookfield last season.

BOARDMAN — With plenty of experienced players returning in the infield and in the circle, Boardman will be a battle-tested team this season.

Having a defending state champion and a state runner up in your league, along with a strong out-of-conference slate will test the Spartans this spring.

“I feel very good about this group I’m bringing back. We have six returners, mostly in the infield. I have two great pitchers in sophomore Gabi Sferra and junior Tori Strines,” Boardman coach Fred Mootz said. “Our outfield is going to look a little new this year, but I feel very optimistic with what I have returning.

“I have seven seniors on the team, a lot of leadership. Some of them will have different roles, some of them will be role players. I’m very optimistic with what we’re bringing back to the table.”

Strines (4-5, 52 Ks, 3.19 ERA) and Sferra (4-5, 85 Ks, 3.83 ERA) carried the bulk of the innings last spring, and look to give Boardman quality pitching in the circle.

“Sferra pitched well last year as a freshman; Strines is an all-around good player. Tori plays the outfield for us and Tori is a pretty solid hitter for us too — she leads off for us. We really lean on both of them,” Mootz said. “Last year we didn’t particularly hit the ball well at times, but our pitchers kept us in the game. We have a really solid catcher too in (senior) Olivia LaCivita.

“Tori is more of a spin over the ball — a lot of girls pound balls into the ground when they’re up against Tori. Gabi is more of a strikeout-type power pitcher. Even though they’re different in their styles, they’re both very effective.”

Senior outfielder Maddie Wymer (.396 BA, 13 RBI) returns with the highest batting average. Also, junior second basemen Ava Freeborough (.290 BA, 6 RBI, 17 runs), junior third baseman Alex Ward (.328 BA, 15 RBI, 13 runs), and Strines (.338 BA, 11 RBI, 16 runs) will be major pieces in the Spartans’ batting order.

Adding into the mix are seniors Maddie Burke (outfield), Gabriella Bagdassarian (third base), Katie Pellin (outfield), Sophie LaCivita (outfield) and Sophia Rivera (utility) and juniors Leah Habeger (first base) and Laci Jurus (shortstop).

“Those girls really anchor our infield, whereas last year we were raw in the infield,” Mootz said. “We struggled, I know there was going to be some growing pains, but from what we’ve seen so far, when we’ve been able to go up against some other teams, our infield has looked very sharp.”

As part of its non-conference slate, Boardman is heading to Cocoa Beach, Florida during spring break to duel against other schools from the Buckeye state, such as Oak Harbor, St. Ursula Academy and Springfield.

Circling back to their local foes once the Spartans fly home, it’s going to be a difficult road with league matchups against Austintown Fitch, Canfield, Howland and Warren G. Harding, alongside the likes of Poland, Cardinal Mooney and Mathews on the schedule.

It’s a reality that Mootz feels like his team is built for.

“Two years ago, we were one hit away from winning a district. We had many opportunities against a very talented Walsh Jesuit team with a girl going Division I to NC State. We beat New Philadelphia the game before with a girl going to Ohio State. We were very battle tested and that year started with our trip to Florida,” Mootz said. “Our girls saw so much talent down there. We’ve seen nationally ranked teams and players down there (and) there was no intimidation factor for them.

“That’s what I want to put them through — I want to put them through that adversity. Even if you lose games, if you compete, when you get the tournament, we know when we get to tournament time, this is where we’re at. How did we fare against them during the regular season? How much improvement do we have to do to be able to make that run in the tournament?”

Through the first week of the season, Boardman is 2-0, with victories over Howland and Archbishop Hoban.

Have an interesting story? Contact the Sports Department, at sports@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribChronSports.


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