Maroon Knights Softball Hungry for More
By KYLE LUTZ
WHEELING — If one could describe the Wheeling Central softball team’s 2016 campaign in one word, it should be pretty easy come up with it. Perfect. The Maroon Knights have their rings and are ready to get back on the diamond. Wheeling Central secured a 33-0 season and a Class A West Virginia state championship to go along with other accommodations.
“It was pretty amazing,” Maroon Knights coach Rick Magruder said about last season. “You just had to have a lot of luck with it. The girls played pretty exceptional last year. And all the breaks went our way and we were lucky enough to win it.”
Luck may have some way of getting wins. However, no team can lose if the opposing team cannot score runs. And one of the main factors of last year’s success was the pitching.
Sorry. Two main factors.
Juniors Riley Bennington and Marissa Garlitz put fear in the batter’s box every time one of them stepped in the circle. Two of the best pitchers in Class A, they were named first team all-state. Bennington, who burst out on the scene when she was a freshman, returns for her third season. Last year she compiled a .50 ERA struck out 157 batters in 98 and tallied a record of 17-0. She also had success at bat recording a .433 batting average with 42 hits, 30 RBI, 12 doubles, six triples and two home runs.
Garlitz was just as successful. With an ERA of .81 last year, the junior accumulated 107 strikeouts in an impressive 89 innings of work and had a 15-0 record. She also was dangerous at the plate hitting .448 including 39 hits and three home runs.
“What’s nice about them is that they don’t care which one pitchers,” Magruder said. “They’re supportive of each other and they both work very hard. They’re only juniors, but they’re pretty good leaders on the team too. The girls look up to them. They work really hard in the off season.”
With the Maroon Knights returning a plethora of talent, there are some key contributors who graduated from last year’s squad including Allie Cook, Baily Rehm, JaiEhir Jackson and Jordyn Smith.
Hannah Mozingo is the only returning senior. She will see time in the outfield or behind the plate. Last year, she caught for the Maroon Knights when Allie Cook was hurt.
Junior Olivia Carpenter will return to first base along with classmate Julia Padden (SS). Junior Emilee Ondrik and sophomore Kaitlyn Angalich are both applying for the second base position.
Coming off a stellar freshman campaign, sophomore Kaitlyn Ferns will see time in the outfield. Ferns was second team all-state. According to Magruder, right field is wide open and juniors Maria Murphy and Abigail Davidson could play there. Also back from last year’s team is junior Alexis Saunders and sophomores Sara Palmer and Bailey Nixon.
According to Magruder there also may be a third person that could be spotted in the circle in freshman Allison Davidson.
“She may throw a few games,” Magruder said. “And actually this may be the first time in five or six years that we actually going to have a JV team. So she’ll play some down there and we’ll probably bring her up and we let her throw a few games at the varsity level. It’s nice when you can throw somebody else and not wear your pitchers out.”
Rounding out the roster is junior Brianna Downs and freshmen Kelsey Kociban, Peyton Knight, Jaden Thomas, Maggie Fahey, Abby Doerr and Madison Dobkin.
The Maroon Knights will begin their road to repeat as they travel to Cameron on March 20. The Maroon Knights will also be making the trip to Myrtle Beach and will play two games a day for three days.
“We want to take this a step at a time,” Magruder said. “Our first goal is to win the OVAC and definitely you want to win your sectional and then hopefully make another run at states. That’s always on the list and we want to do that.
“We told the girls, ‘We had a great season last year, but you can’t ride on that this year. You have to go out and you have to play every game. Anybody can knock you off. We just have to take it a little at a time and see how it goes.”
Magruder is assisted by Ed Cihy, Ambrose Bober and John Kabala.
March 20: at Cameron 5 p.m.
March 21: at Magnolia 5 p.m.
March 22: Madonna 6 p.m.
March 23: BishoDonahue (2) 4 p.m.
March 27: Morgantown 5 p.m.
March 29: Valley (2) 5 p.m.
March 30: Bridgeport 5 p.m.
March 31: Bridgeport 5 p.m.
April 1: Williamstown (2) 11 a.m.
April 3: University 5 p.m.
April 5: Magnolia 5 p.m.
April 6: University 5 p.m.
April 8: Waccamaw, S. C. 2 p.m.
April 10-12: at Myrtle Beach TBA
April 17: at Linsly (2) 1 p.m.
April 18: at Morgantown 5 p.m.
April 19: at Park. South (2) 5 p.m.
April 21: at Robert C. Byrd (2) 5 p.m.
April 22: Monroe Central (2) 11 a.m.
April 24: OVAC Tournament TBA
April 29: OVAC Tournament TBA