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Conference player of year to lead Lady Falcons

March 27, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

The Fitch softball team was escorted out of the 2018 Division I state tournament by rival Canfield in the district semifinals.

In 2019, the Lady Falcons have higher aspirations than being booted in the third round so to help change that, the coaching staff has assembled a grueling regular season slate of games.

"We have one of the strongest schedules in the state," said longtime Fitch head coach Steve Ward. "We plan on being battle tested (come tournament time)."

Ward also plans on having one of the best conditioned squads in the All American Conference. The Falcons have done tons of offseason work in the weight room. They have also been doing spinning programs and work with jump stretch bands. It was that kind of hard labor that makes Ward believe his bunch will be tougher both physically and mentally.

"We have an extremely dedicated team," Ward said. "We are stronger and faster than before. Our message is to have heart, hustle and attitude and get 1 percent better every day. These young ladies have accepted the challenge from the coaching staff."

Speaking of challenges, that is exactly what each of Fitch's opponents will be facing whenever they go up against ace pitcher Lydia Spalding. Spalding sprung on the scene a season ago as a freshman and took the Red Tier by storm. She was so dominant as a hurler that she was awarded the All American Conference's Player of the Year.

One of the reasons why Spalding was so spectacular in the pitching circle was that she had a veteran presence behind the plate to catch her. Senior Lainie Simons was an All-AAC selection due to her defensive prowess and power in the batting order. Ward feels that the dynamic duo of Spalding and Simons is as good as any other battery in the area.

"This is one of the best pitching/catching combos around," said Ward. "They'll be a strong 1-2 punch for us."

Fitch also has a terrific twosome roaming the outfield. Senior All-AAC returnees Kayla Kelty and Ashley Fuller make sure that any ball that goes up in the air gets secured in one of their gloves.

"They'll provide dynamic defense in the outfield," said Ward about his two seniors.

Two other seniors, Kaitlyn Sciortino and Abby Brown, will also be battling for outfield starting roles. A sixth senior, Ryleigh Morgan, will get the call at third base.

Returning junior Ashley Mickey will make her way at shortstop for the Falcons. Fellow junior Jenna Chmelik will see time at first base.

The Falcons also have a solid group of underclassmen led by sophomore outfielder Haley Tarr, sophomore second baseman Elyssa Molody and freshman first baseman/outfielder Maddy Taylor.

"Tarr is making a name for herself on defense," Ward said. "We expect her to contribute. Molody is a newcomer who is ready for a breakout. Taylor had a monster preseason and will play a big role in our success."

Juniors Kaitlyn Evanko and Courtney Schwind and sophomore Anna Skarbinski will be a trio that will be working to earn some varsity innings too according to Ward.

The Fitch kids were supposed to start the season this past Monday. If Mother Nature permitted, they were to jump right into Red Tier action at Ashtabula Lakeside. The Dragons were to visit Austintown the following day. Back-to-back games with Boardman are scheduled to begin next week's play. There are also huge non-league tests at North Canton Hoover, Massillon Perry and Louisville. Fitch will also take its third ever trip to Myrtle Beach over spring break to play in the prestigious Grand Strand Tournament. Another tournament will be played in Ashland, Ohio at the annual Wendy's Classic. Perennial state tournament contender Ursuline will also play the Falcons on Fitch's home turf.

"We have little time to get ready (for these games), but we have shown toughness in scrimmages," said Ward on the weekend prior to the season opener.

It's that toughness that the veteran bench boss believes will possibly get his group over the hump and into the tournament's regional round.

"If we have the growth mindset and keep improving daily, this team can go far," Ward said.



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