WHEELING - Veteran Wheeling Park softball coach Dee Davis believes another promising season is in store for the Patriots as a number of talented players return to the diamond.
Park finished a solid 18-8 last spring, with three of those losses to eventual West Virginia Class AAA champion John Marshall. One of those was a 12-inning, 5-4 loss in the Region One, Section One Tournament at JM.
Stung by the way the season ended, Davis said her team is ready to make another run for Vienna and the state tournament.
''The kids are excited and I think they'll be ready,'' she said. ''I think they're more than up for it.''
Lost to graduation were Allie Dailer, Kayla Kimmins and Brittany Prager.
Emily Puskarich, a mainstay for the past three seasons at shortstop, didn't come out this season to focus on her basketball career. The senior has signed to play collegiately at Robert Morris.
Kelly Albers and Kristin Slater are this year's seniors.
Juniors on the roster include Marissa Tucker, Carly Greer, Samantha Criswell, Keleigh Sidon, Ashleigh Sidon and Kelsi Johnson.
Skylar Carrington, Anna Figaretti, Kendra Johnson and Morgan Karnell are the sophomores.
Colleen Tracy is the squad's lone freshman.
With the weather not cooperating fully, as it usually does this time of year, the Patriots have staged many practices on the turf at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Davis said those workouts have been very productive.
''Pitching and defense will be our strengths this season,'' she said. ''We really have a good group.''
Davis said Greer will be her top choice in the circle, with Carrington and Tracy next in the rotation.
''They're all pretty good,'' Davis said. ''I wouldn't hesitate to put anyone of them in.''
The other part of the battery will be Ashleigh Sidon.
''She's been back there for three years,'' Davis said. ''She's like a rock.''
The infield lead by Tucker, who returns to second base.
''She's been there for three years now, and no one's beaten her out yet,'' Davis said.
Kelsi Johnson also returns for her third season at third.
Carrington will play first, with Tracy also seeing time there when Carrington is pitching.
Slater takes over for Puskarich at short.
''She's been behind Emily for like four years so she's finally getting her chance to shine there,'' Davis said.
Playing in the outfield will be Keleigh Sidon, Karnell, Criswell and Albers.
Davis is assisted by Donnie Newland and Darryl Ruth.