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Different offensive approach in the Cards this season

March 27, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

One season ago the Canfield softball team was able to capture a district championship.

That title was aided by an offense that hit for power and scored a ton of runs. If the Lady Cardinals are to repeat in the districts this spring, they will have to do it in a totally different way.

"Our batting order was stronger last year," said head coach Ray Melewski recently, "but this year we have better all-around athletes. We may have to use our speed more this year."

Another thing Melewski may have to use is a pencil to make out his lineup. A few days prior to the scheduled season opener against Lakeview, the longtime leader still wasn't quite sure how his batting order would shake out.

"We need to buckle down and go with our starting nine or ten girls," said Melewski. "We have four returning senior letter winners, but we'll need to replace our starting catcher, first baseman, second baseman and right fielder. We need to get into a rhythm (offensively)."

Right now, the plan is to use seniors Amber Rose and Jenna Troxil in right field and at first base respectively. The second baseman should be smooth sophomore Lauren Fitzgerald. The backstop position is being filled by sophomore Sarrah Ferraro, who Melewski is very excited to watch play.

"(Ferraro) is a little inexperienced, but she is eager to learn," said the coach. "We expect her to do a good job."

The one Cardinal who has the greatest expectations attached to her is junior starting pitcher Kaili Gross. She has been sensational in the pitching circle ever since stepping foot on the Canfield campus and will be counted upon to exceed expectations.

"(Kaili) has everything you need," said Melewski. "She should be even stronger this year."

Another junior will be following Gross in the rotation. Left handed hurler Madi Kelly should keep the Cardinals in games when her terrific teammate needs a break from the bump. Senior Brook Crissman will follow Kelly in the pitching cycle. Fitzgerald is the fourth arm that Canfield will carry on its roster. No doubt the Cardinals plan on having one of the best pitching staffs in the area.

"We'll keep those four pitchers at the varsity level," said Melewski. "Gross is a strong number one. It'll be a nice change from Kelly to Brook (Crissman) because they are two different type pitchers."

Whoever is slinging the softball will have the luxury of having a marvelous defense behind them. The infield is air tight and the Cardinals have super speedy outfielders to chase down anything that goes in the air.

"Defense may be our biggest strength," said Melewski. "With Brook at shortstop, (senior) Mallory (Vaclav) at third base and Fitzgerald at second base we'll have a very good infield defense."

With defense and pitching on the positive side of the ledger, it goes back to offense as the one obstacle that the Cardinal ladies must overcome to climb back on top. Senior center fielder Mary Gomez, senior left fielder Kalin Kovach and Vaclav will all be needed to strengthen the starting order. Junior outfielder Aiden Orlovsky has been impressive so far in training camp. Three rookies, Madison Angelo, Bayaan Jadalah and Jackie Kinnick have all looked good as well and may get a few at bats.

"We have a nice freshmen class that may have a chance to contribute," Melewski said.

After opening at home against the Lady Bulldogs, the Canfield kids were scheduled to jump right into All American Conference action against Boardman. The defending Red Tier champions were to play at Boardman on March 25 and then host the Lady Spartans one day later. Another highlight on Canfield's slate is a return trip to the Wendy's Classic in Ashland, Ohio. The Cards have done well there in the past and plan on measuring themselves against colossal competition once more.

"That's always a very strong tournament," said Melewski about the Classic.

Of course, the only tournament that really matters is the one that begins in early May. By the time the sectionals commence, the Cardinals should know if their new offensive approach is enough to support their outstanding pitching and defense.



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