Winning a third straight Southwestern Conference title and second district crown in three years won’t be easy for Amherst Steele softball, but fifth-year coach Lacey Reichert thinks her girls are up to the task.
In 2016, the program won its first district title since 1999 before falling in extra innings in the Division I state semifinal.
The Comets came up short last year against Elyria in the district final, a 6-4 comeback win for the Pioneers after Amherst had jumped on top 4-0.
Reichert said she will look to first team All-County pitcher Madison O’Berg, 2017 SWC player of the year Lauren Kachure, and shortstop Kasey McGraw, who also earned first team county and SWC nods in 2017, as the linchpins in helping Amherst break through those late playoff barriers this season.
“Madison has already pitched well for us early on,” said Reichert on Friday after a 1-1 start to the season. “What I keep stressing to the girls is after what we’ve done the past few seasons, we’re going to be getting everybody’s best effort, every game, no matter if it’s Avon, Westlake, or Avon Lake. They’re going to play against us like it’s their Super Bowl.”
Going 34-2 in conference play over the course of two seasons tends to have that effect. The team finished 20-8 last year and was 17-1 in the SWC.
Other returning letter winners for the Comets include seniors Kate Iliff, Amanda Crisler, and Adrianna Marcano.
A quartet of newcomers are also set to make an impact this year, Reichert said: sophomore Madison Wormsley and freshmen Lindsey Reavis, Mckenzie Cornwell, and Kylee McGraw.
“It’d be easy for me to call counting on so many freshmen a weakness, but I don’t think it’s a weakness at all,” said the coach. “So far all three of them have stepped up in practice and done good things for us in the first couple of games. We’re very comfortable putting them out there.”
Reichert thinks the SWC could again come down to her squad and Midview, which split the SWC crown with the Comets last year.
“We’ve got to be able to knock (Midview) off at least once,” she said. “Then, hopefully, play really good softball in our 16 other conference games. We want to play and beat the best teams around, just like everyone else. That’s how you find out where you truly stack up.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.