So, another softball season fades into history. Now we have to endure roughly 191 days before high school pitchers and catchers report to their gyms for the first day of practice, most likely on Feb. 18.
It seemed back in June as though 2007 had been an unusually unremarkable season. Elyria was drilled in the Division I state championship game. Keystone failed to win a regional game. Wellington didn’t get out of the district.
But now, with the summer OGSO and travel-ball seasons also behind us, maybe it wasn’t so unremarkable after all.
Think back. Here are some memorable moments, in no particular order.
• Elyria was the Associated Press state poll champion and the No. 1 team in the state academically, according to the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association.
• Wellington knocked off Keystone twice to win the Patriot Athletic Conference title.
• Nevertheless, the Wildcats won their 19th district championship, their seventh in a row.
• Coach Norm Frindt’s North Ridgeville team won the West Shore Conference title for the second year in a row.
• Avon Lake won its first Southwestern Conference crown in 12 years under the direction of coach Kevin Atkins.
• The Shoregals, Amherst and Westlake staged an exciting three-way battle for the SWC title.
• Amherst coach Bill Matthews was inducted into the OHSFSCA Hall of Fame in January. He is the second Lorain Countian to be so honored. The other is former Keystone coach Dave Leffew.
• Two Pioneers players — pitcher-third baseman Megan Bashak and third baseman-pitcher Tess Sito — were Division I first-team All-Ohio selections.
• Oberlin senior Hayley Reeves was named the Division IV first-team All-Ohio shortstop for the third straight year.
• Keystone sophomore infielder-pitcher Kara Dill earned first-team All-Ohio honors for the second year in a row.
• Coach Mike Conrad’s 12-and-under TidalWaves finished second in the country at the NSA Class B nationals in Indiana.
• And (see below) manager Duane Sunagel’s Elyria SunDogs finished third in the 75-team NSA World Series in Rock Hill, S.C.
• Two teams from North Ridgeville coached by Mike Mytnick and Lori Andrews won OGSO state championships.
• An Oberlin team — coach Rick Twining’s Ohio Action Images — won a second straight OGSO state title.
• Brookside won nearly 20 games under first-year coach Bob Eis.
• Elyria’s 29 victories set a school single-season record. The Pioneers won 28 last year. Coach Ken Fenik will carry a 297-56 career record into his 14th season.
• Lorain County Community College coach Dave Moore learned his team has earned varsity status for next spring. Softball had been a club sport.
SunDogs 3rd in U.S.
Elyria’s SunDogs (45-11) finished third among 75 teams in the NSA’s 16-and-under Class A World Series. The Ohio Classics won the age group and the Tampa Mustangs finished second. The ’Dogs, who went 8-2 in the tourney, were featured as the “team of the day” in a local newspaper along the way.
Elyria star Tess Sito earned all 10 pitching decisions with relief help from Wellington’s Brittany Gow. Sito hit an even .500 (15-for-30), with three fence-clearing home runs, including a grand slam.
Nicole Lavelle of Avon (6-for-18) and Gow (3-9) both batted .333. Keystone’s Clare Sullivan and Aleecia Sunagel of Amherst also hit over-the-fence home runs. Other members of the team were Jen Bower, Sarah Bracey, Kristin Fyffe, Jessica Mandula, Alesha Mahone, all of Elyria, and Midview’s Erin Sunagel and Megan Show.
Keystone’s Dill and her Lady Lasers 16-and-under club advanced to the ASA Class A nationals. When she took the field in Sioux Falls, S.D., Dill learned there was a well-known spectator in the crowd.
It was Lisa Fernandez, one of the most recognizable figures in the history of women’s softball. Fernandez, currently an assistant coach at UCLA, played on three consecutive U.S. Olympic teams, 1996, 2000 and ’04. In 1999, she was the ASA female athlete of the year.
Former Wildcat coach Leffew writes that he and his daughter Amie worked with Fernandez several times.
“She always finished with these words, ‘Never, ever be satisfied,’” Leffew said.
He also said that Amie Leffew, who pitched Keystone to its first state championship in 1999, credits Fernandez for developing her best pitch, the backhand change-up. Leffew’s remains the best change-up many of us have ever seen. Batters would nearly twist themselves into the ground trying to hit it.
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