As the softball spins.
Coming into the 2014 girls' high school softball season, many observers that follow the sport on a daily basis predicted a pretty balanced campaign.
And they seem to be on the mark as just two of the 50 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference teams are undefeated to this point - St. John Central and Wheeling Central.
Although Mother Nature hasn't cooperated to her fullest thus far, several squads are nearing the 10-game plateau, which, to me, is pretty amazing for the harsh winter that the Ohio Valley endured.
On the Ohio side, the 'small' schools have fared the best so as the aforementioned Irish have rode the stellar pitching of senior Hannah Absalom and the red-hot hitting of junior Morgan DeLuca.
The Green Machine of veteran head coach Jerry Magistro has already taken down Division IV rival Shadyside and 4-A power Steubenville when it was undefeated.
Fresh off winning the Magnolia Tournament late Saturday night, SJC travels to Beallsville today before hosting Weir Tuesday.
River has compiled 11 wins in 12 outings under long-time head coach Dave Wright, the lone blemish coming to Magnolia.
Included in those victories is a nod over Division IV sectional rival Shadyside and two over perennial 3-A powerhouse Fort Frye. The Pilots will be looking for a regular-season sweep of Shadyside today when the two collide in Tiger Town.
Senior Gabby Goudy and junior Monica Curtis have excelled while sharing duties inside the circle, while hard-hitting shortstop Haylee Bowers has supplied the offense. Bowers and Mackenzie Marshall hit back-to-back home runs in a game last week.
Shadyside is 4-2, losing to River and St. John Central. The Tigers, however, own a win over Magnolia.
Junior Megan Heagney has been a terror so far for head coach Jillian Ongley, both in the middle of the diamond and at the plate. Against Monroe Central last week, the Alderson-Broaddus University recruit smashed a grand slam and added a two-run shot later, which was followed by a Lindsey Dunn shot for back-to-back dingers.
Another D-IV squad, Bridgeport, is not to be overlooked as head coach Tom Joseph has a very young, but talented, squad at 5-2. The Lady Dogs' losses have come to Martins Ferry and Bellaire, but they do own a victory over Union Local, which was coming off a huge come-from-behind win over previously unbeaten Harrison Central the night before in eight innings.
Freshman hurler Miranda Bowers picked up her first career no-hitter in a win over Bishop Donahue.
The race for the Buckeye 8 Conference title really got whacky last week as several teams received some outstanding performances.
Bellaire, coach by Melissa Lahna, continued to roll along at 7-2 behind freshman pitcher Sarah McAninch and a veteran cast of Big Reds, including Dallas Messenger, Mackenzie Conroy and Elisha Gillespie.
The Big Reds, due to Mother Nature's early-season temper tantrum, open league play today by visiting St. Clairsville.
The aforementioned Jets (5-3), of head coach Roger Herbert, might have the weirdest of weeks. On Wednesday, UL posted one of biggest victories in recent memory when it took down Harrison Central in an 8-inning thriller in Morristown. Trailing 4-0, the Jets won 5-4 on Devin Earliwine's RBI double.
However, with four straight triumphs under their belts, the Jets went to Bridgeport Thursday and were beaten, 6-5. They rebounded with a 4-0 win over the Huskies Friday in Cadiz behind freshman pitcher Bailey Lohr, who won her first career game.
UL treks to Connorville today to meet Buckeye Local.
The Panthers, of head coach Joe Soos, lost to Harrison Central, beat Indian Creek and dropped a toughie to Martins Ferry. Sandra Gardner hurled a gem against the Redskins, while also collecting three hits and a like number of runs batted in.
In between losses to Union Local, Harrison Central squeaked by Oak Glen behind Katie Ellzy's 10 strikeouts.
The Huskies visit Wintersville today to play Indian Creek.
Martins Ferry had an up-and-down week that featured losses in Wheeling to Central and Park and a defeat at Steubenville. However, the win over Buckeye Local (3-2) and a doubleheader sweep of visiting Brooke Saturday have the Purple Riders at 5-3 entering today's home game against Big Red. This is a big week for the Purple Gang as it hosts UL Tuesday, Wheeling Central Wednesday and travels to Shadyside Thursday.
Head coach Rachel Duncan's 4-4 St. Clairsville squad has lost to Indian Creek in its lone Buckeye 8 contest thus far. The Red Devils do have two wins over Magnolia, however.
While most of the area teams have enjoyed good starts, a few teams have struggled out of the gate. They include Barnesville, Beallsville and Monroe Central.
All three teams lost a ton of experience to graduation, and the Shamrocks and Blue Devils are under the leadership of first-year head coaches in Bryce Allen and Kelly Meade, respectively.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org