Aurora -- Learning by example will be a big part of this season's promising outlook for the Aurora High varsity softball team.
The program's recent success, coupled with the return of one of the area's top pitchers in Nicole Doyle, should help offset the graduation losses of three first-team all-Chagrin Valley Conference players.
Doyle and a strong returning nucleus will help Jenna Micale ease into the head coaching position. She replaces Jessica McDermitt, who guided the varsity for one year. The Mayfield product was an assistant coach last year.
"This team is made up of a great group of girls who are willing to put in the necessary work to continue the success in recent years," said Micale, who has coached several levels of softball and has an education degree from Ohio State University.
Last year, the Lady Greenmen went 22-2 overall (10-0 in the CVC), including a 14-game winning streak. That followed a 23-6 campaign in 2012.
"I got into coaching softball when I was no longer able to play travel softball because of my age," said Micale, who has also coached youth teams. "I began coaching my old travel softball tournament team with the coaches who coached me."
THE PITCHING STAFF
Things begin with pitching as a superb Greenmen staff was led last year by Doyle, the returning CVC most valuable player. She went 10-0 as a sophomore and posted a 0.40 earned run average, coming back after two stress fractures in her back in her freshman year.
Possessing a devastating rise pitch, Doyle had more than 170 strikeouts in 2013, with fewer than a dozen walks. She had two saves and also flourished as a hitter (.408 average, tops on the team with nine doubles, a home run, 24 runs batted in and 19 runs scored).
Sophomore Liz Kinson is a backup pitcher this year.
The other half of last spring's standout pitching staff -- Sarah Petrash -- has graduated. She was a first-team all-CVC player who was 12-2 with 105 strikeouts and an ERA under 1.00, allowing only 10 walks.
AHS will miss the offense of Petrash (.329, two homers, seven doubles, and 16 RBI) and infielder Erin McNamara (.450). The latter led the team with 16 extra base hits, and had 34 hits, six home runs, seven doubles, three triples and scored 26 runs.
Another first-team all-CVC graduate was first baseman Lauren Bowen (.300, 20 hits, 14 runs).
THE OTHER PLAYERS
CVC first-team outfielder Devan Ternai, a senior, is back after hitting over .360 with a team high 32 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. She also will see action at first base and is one of the CVC's best players. In 2013, she had 34 hits, four home runs, eight doubles and 16 RBI.
Other seniors are shortstop Julie Zidones, catcher-third baseman Hannah Vitz, second baseman-outfielder Sam Arslanian and outfielder Abby Nicolas.
Zidones, who can also play second base, was a solid two-hole hitter who made honorable mention all-league. Batting .375 last year, she led the team with four triples, and also had 20 runs, 19 RBI, and four stolen bases.
Vitz came on strong in her first season. An honorable mention catcher, she hit almost .350 in her debut campaign. She was solid behind the plate and showed defensive skills. She had 16 runs, 13 RBI, seven extra base hits and two homers.
Sam Arslanian (.209 with 11 runs) is a multiple letter winner who plays sound defense and has good speed, while Nicholas hit .321 with five RBI.
"Our team has depth and experience, which will allow us to compete at our highest potential," said Micale. "Newcomers have learned through great upperclassman the dedication it takes to be talented team players.
"We have versatility, both offensive and defensively, which should play a great factor in our season. We have many players who are able to play multiple positions and have options at the plate.
"Our pitchers, who are young, are dedicated to their roles. They appear poised to make tremendous impact this season."
Top newcomers include junior Elise Altobelli (second base-OF), who saw limited time last year on the varsity, plus juniors Hayley Cash (catcher), Madi Task (third base), Becca Mannion (third base) and Allison Crasi (first base-OF) and sophomore Brittany Schambach (catcher-OF).
Although the weather dictates the softball schedule, AHS is supposed to open with an extended road trip -- April 3 at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, April 7 at West Geauga, April 9 at Perry, April 10 at Southeast and April 12 at Lake.
"I'm confident with our preseason training and scrimmages that this group of girls are ready to hit the dirt and play to their potential, producing in all aspects of the game to get victories," said Micale.
"We need to defend our title in the CVC, and I'd like to make a run in the regional tournament. We also need to prepare for the conferencetransition [to the Suburban League] in the future."