CAMERON - Cameron lost a pair of the most productive players history in Kelsey Allen and Shelby Wood to graduation, but coach Mark Witzberger welcomes back a four-year starter at the game's most important position.
Tara Paczewski is finally a senior.
Paczewski, a star from Day 1 of her freshman season at the school, is coming off a season in which she went 13-5 with an ERA of 0.50 with 184 strikeouts in 98 innings pitched. Included in that was a stretch of three straight no-hitters, including a perfect game where she whiffed 14 of 15 batters. At the plate, she hit .344 with 18 singles, a double, and two home runs.
''The key to fastpitch softball starts in the circle,'' Witzberger said. ''We have been fortunate to have three-time first team all-state pitcher Tara Paczewski back one more time for her encore.''
Also getting some time pitching this year will be freshman Linda Hall.
Audrey Bryan, a junior who broke out with three homers and 15 RBI last season while hitting .382, will move from first base to behind the plate with senior Taylor Whipkey taking her spot at first to start the season. Whipkey hit .333 in 52 at-bats last season.
Cassidi Richmond, a two-year starter at second base, was expected to take over for Allen at shortstop. Richmond hit .451 last season with 23 hits in 51 ABs.
Junior Ashley Berardi, senior Kayla Fitzgerald, and sophomores Kristen McDowell and Natalie Trowbridge were all battling for the second base job.
Sophomore Lexi Benline started every game at third last year, where she hit .419 with 10 doubles, may return there this year, but she most likely will start the season in center field, according to Witzberger. Hall, who can also play shortstop, may well take over at third.
The stiffest competition is for starting spots is in the outfield, according to Witzberger.
Players returning who started some games last year include two-year starter senior Shenai Wade (.260 average, 13 hits), junior Emily Johnson, and sophomores Trowbridge and McDowell. Crowding the competition are Lexi Benline, as well as senior Jessie Fletcher and freshman Bailey Wood.
Senior Ashley Cain is injured and her return date is undecided at this point. She is looking for a backup role at either first or third.
''We have a good core of returning veterans, many of whom are going to be asked to take on different roles,'' Witzberger said. ''We are also challenging some other players to step up like veterans. Our freshmen class has been a pleasant surprise. As long as we are patient and believe in each other we look forward to another exciting season.''
Others, who were competing hard for varsity time, are juniors Darby Brown (INF), Jenna Murray (INF-OF), and Janis Williamson (C); sophomores Lexi Aston (INF-OF), Taylor Newman (OF) and Taylor Wise (INF); freshmen Amber Aston (C, INF), Caitley Berardi (INF-OF), Molly Clark (INF, P, OF), and Sarah Doty (OF).
Assisting for her fourth year is Lisa Leichliter and for his second year Roger Cain.
''They are both invaluable,'' said Witzberger, whose career record at the school is 118-72.
CAMERON 2012 SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
March 24: at JM Tourney12:45 p.m.
March 24: at JM Tourney2:30 p.m.
March 26: Wheeling Central5 p.m.
March 27: Bishop Donahue5 p.m.
March 29: at Beallsville5 p.m.
March 30: Bridgeport (2)5 p.m.
March 31: Steub. CatholicNoon
April 2: at Madonna5 p.m.
April 4: Valley5:30 p.m.
April 5: at Wheeling Central5 p.m.
April 6: at N.M. Tourney4:30 p.m.
April 7: at N.M. TourneyNoon
April 7: at N.M. Tourney4 p.m.
April 9: Paden City5:30 p.m.
April 10: at Hundred5 p.m.
April 11: Clay-Battelle5 p.m.
April 12: at Magnolia5 p.m.
April 13: Madonna5 p.m.
April 14: Con. Valley (2)Noon
April 17: Beallsville5 p.m.
April 18: at Clay-Battelle5 p.m.
April 20: at St. John4 p.m.
April 23: West Greene5 p.m.
April 25,28: OVACTBA