Forgive Union Local head softball coach Roger Herbert and his Lady Jets if they seem to have a chip on their shoulders.
Although they have had two pretty decent seasons the last two springs, they haven't accomplished one of their main goals.
"We have to get over the hump, so to say," Herbert stressed. "We've missed the OVAC Class 4A playoffs by one game the past two seasons."
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
PICTURED ARE the key returnees for the Union Local softball team. Kneeling, from left, are Madie Schafer and Alli Delaney. Standing, from left, are Amanda Swallie, Abby Collins, Cori Medley and Shayna McGary. Absent was Devin Earliwine.
In order to attain that goal this season, the Jets, which finished at 15-12 last year, will have to battle through a rugged Buckeye 8 schedule, along with some other tough games on their slate.
"The Buckeye 8 is going to be brutal this year," Herbert assessed. "There are so many good teams with very good pitchers."
As for his own squad, "we have to replace four starters, but our freshman class is very strong," he offered. "I could have as many as four freshmen playing several innings a game.
"I think our program is becoming stable," he added. "Players coming up from the junior high are now playing in the same system as the varsity. We've got quite a bit of experience returning, so we'll see how things progress."
One area Union Local seems to be solid in is pitching where junior Maddie Schafer returns. A 2-year letterwinner, Schafer was 3-3 with a 3.67 ERA last year in limited action.
"Maddie should be okay this year since she's gotten some varsity experience under her belt," Herbert noted.
She will be backed up by freshman Bailey Lohr.
Another area that should be a help is six returnees with a better than .320 batting average.
"We return a lot of offensive firepower," Herbert continued. "That should be one area that is strong for us all season."
Leading the way is second baseman Ali Delaney who had a breakout freshman campaign. The athletic sophomore hit .454 with two home runs and 20 RBI. She was named all-OVAC, all-Buckeye 8 and all-Eastern District.
Also hitting .400 last season was junior Amanda Swallie, but that came in only four games as she was injured. Already a 2-year letterwinner, Swallie injured her other knee midway through basketball season, but is ready to go, according to Herbert.
Another junior, outfielder Shayla McGary is back after hitting .357 and stealing 15 bases.
She was an all-Eastern District honoree.
Senior Cori Medley, the Jets' outstanding basketball player, is back for her second season.
She hit .320 and also swiped 15 bases last spring. A versatile athlete, she can play both middle infield positions.
Senior Abby Collins is a 2-year letterwinner and will man first base. The other senior is outfielder Taylor Gorby.
Junior Devin Earliwine lettered last year and can play either second base or any outfield position. First baseman Jaycee Butler is the other junior.
In addition to Delaney, sophomores on the squad include outfielders Ivory McCammon and Baylee Wiseman, along with catcher Kori Kechner.
The roster is completed by freshmen Danielle Merritt (3B, utility); Morgan Edwards (C); Katelynn Clark-Patterson (1B, OF); Hannah Shepard (OF); Jenn Paynter (utility); and Riley Bethel (utility).
Union Local lost four quality seniors in Olivia Minamyer, Ali Bethel, Kaylie Cole and Brittany Stack. Between them, they combined for 14 varsity letters.
The only new team on the Jets schedule is Coshocton.
Herbert is assisted by Garry White and Jason Duvall.
The Lady Jets open the season Saturday with a home doubleheader against Cambridge. The entire schedule is as follows:
March 29 - Cambridge (DH), Noon; March 31 - St. Clairsville; April 1 - Barnesville; April 2 - at St. Clairsville; April 4 - Martins Ferry; April 5 - Buckeye Trail (DH), Noon; April 7 - at Bellaire; April 8 - Meadowbrook; April 9 - Harrison Central; April 10 - at Bridgeport; April 11 - at Harrison Central; April 14 - at Buckeye Local; April 15 - at Martins Ferry; April 16 - Monroe Central; April 17 - at Barnesville; April 19 - Coshocton (DH), 11 a.m.; April 23 - at Indian Creek; April 24 - Edison; April 26 - at Shenandoah (DH), Noon; April 28 - at Weir; April 30 - OVAC Semifinals; May 3 - OVAC Championship; May 6 - Steubenville Catholic Central.