Led by a veteran cast of seniors, the Twinsburg softball team is looking to be healthy and more competitive to improve on last season.
Pitching and defense are huge components for the Tigers on the field while the team also has to shake the injury bug.
Last year's team went 4-16 and head coach Chris Shaffer is expecting bigger and better things.
Shaffer (31-35) enters his fourth year as head coach and fifth overall. He is assisted by Ron Fruscella and Katie Hurst.
Twinsburg does return six senior starters in Gabrielle Grumbos (second base), Paige Pleta (shortstop), Jordan Kinford (DP/first base), Mary Leskovec (catcher), Hana Hayes (pitcher) and Daniella Engelmann (outfielder).
"We are counting on our seniors to be the strength of the team," said Shaffer.
"Grumbos and Pleta will be four-year letter winners, plus Leskovec and Hayes are three-year letter winners," added the coach.
For much of last season, Leskovec and Kinford had battling averages that swelled over the .350 upwards toward .380.
Pleta and Grumbos will look to keep the defense steady, which can always be a challenge.
Two other athletes are back and they are starters as well — senior letterman Brett Grosel (second base/outfield) and junior letter winner Kelsey Boron, who will start in center field.
"Pitching and defense will once again be the key for us as a team," said Shaffer.
"Our number one and number two pitchers are both coming off of injuries, so we will have to count on newcomers until they are ready to go."
Hayes headlines the pitching staff, but is injured along with the number two starter, promising junior newcomers Kaley Klominek.
Junior Ally Schank and sophomore Emily Riggi are the other two pitchers. For now, they will get the softball from Shaffer and get some work in, and some experience.
Shaffer is hoping some hot bats on offense will help aid the Tiger hurlers on the mound.
"Hopefully, we will come out of the gate with our offense clicking to support a relatively inexperienced pitching staff," he said.
Other top newcomers for the Tigers are junior third baseman Maria Delegram, junior outfielder Caitlyn Wimsett, freshman first baseman Gabbi Bonnizzio, junior Amanda Delegram (center field), junior Abby St. Andrassy (first base), and sophomore Leah Bova (catcher).
The Tigers look to improve on last year's 2-12 showing in the loaded Suburban League National Conference.
"We play in one of the strongest leagues in Ohio," stated Shaffer, whose club was set to open March 30 against visiting Akron Garfield, but final results weren't available as of this writing.
Twinsburg opens league play April 1 at home against Cuyahoga Falls at 4:30 p.m.
"Once again, Brecksville, Wadsworth and North Royalton look to lead the way," added the skipper. "Nordonia, Hudson and Stow are always strong, and Cuyahoga Falls are a scrappy bunch as well."
The Lady Tigers also have league games April 2 at North Royalton and April 4 at Brecksville. First pitch is 4:30.
Graduated seniors who will be missed include Alexis Lopez, Marissa Thirion, Jessica Katrine, Sarah Thompson, Emily Adams, McKenna Backo, and Ashley Voytek.