GLEN DALE - Two years ago the John Marshall softball team was eliminated in the semifinals of the West Virginia state tournament. Then last year, the Monarchs made it all the way to the title game before being bounced.
There's a natural progression involved there, and Coach Ed West hopes that continues in 2012.
"The girls and the coaching staff have high expectations," West said. "Obviously we want to get back to the state tournament and hopefully make some noise.
"If you look at our graduation, some think we're rebuilding, but we've got some good players and everyone is looking good."
It all starts in the circle where the Monarchs are blessed with an embarrassment of riches once again. Junior left-hander Amy Rotriga will combine with senior right-hander Meghan Garcia to form what figures to be one of the Ohio Valley's most dominant tandems.
West said what makes it difficult on the opponents, is that each is a completely different pitcher, and not just because they throw with opposite arms.
"Rotriga is more of a power pitcher," the coach said. "Meghan is more finesse, she moves it around, has a good change of speed. She threw a no-hitter in the state tournament against Musselman.
"We have been fortunate (in the circle), especially the last few years."
Kristin Lewicki returns as one of the area's elite catchers. The team's leading hitter last season, she will be charged with handling that twosome.
Sophomore Emily Winters will be the first baseman, with Rotriga playing there when not pitching. Garcia is also capable of filling in at the position.
Garcia will primarily hold down second base if she isn't pitching, with junior Alexa Jones, who spent most of her time on jayvee last season, also seeing duty.
Junior Kylie Howard, a two-time all-stater, is back at shortstop. West said "she's excellent and can beat you a number of different ways."
Sophomore Hannah Rogerson takes over at third base. She was called up from junior varsity last season and and played well down the stretch.
Morgan Watson, who carried a big bat during the postseason, will play left field. She'll be joined by Sissy George, a Wheeling Park transfer who will patrol center field.
The tandem of junior Kayla Snyder and freshman Jackie Gellner will split time in right field. Snyder is said to be a whiz with the glove, and her bat is coming along.
"We lost a few seniors, but we have a lot of kids back at key positions," West said. "We've got a couple freshmen looking good who could move up and see some varsity time, also."
JOHN MARSHALL 2012 SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
March 24: East Fairmont Noon
March 26: Edison 5 p.m.
March 27: at Brooke 5 p.m.
March 29: at Meadowbrook 4:30 p.m.
March 30: at Steubenville 5 p.m.
March 31: Hedgesville (2) Noon
April 2: Steubenville 5 p.m.
April 3: Wheeling Park 5 p.m.
April 4: at Indian Creek 5 p.m.
April 5: at Morgantown 4:30 p.m.
April 6: at Hedgesville Tourney 9 a.m.
April 7: at Hedgesville Tourney 9 a.m.
April 8: Brooke 5 p.m.
April 10: at Pksbg. South (2) 4:30 p.m.
April 12: at University (2) 5 p.m.
April 13: at Magnolia Tourney 4 p.m.
April 14: at Magnolia Tourney 9 a.m.
April 16: at Wheeling Park 5 p.m.
April 17: at Steub. Catholic 5 p.m.
April 18: at Edison 5 p.m.
April 20: St. Clairsville 5 p.m.
April 24: OVAC Tourney 5 p.m.
April 28: OVAC Tourney Noon