New coach wants league title for Nordonia softball

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

Getting last season wiped out due to COVID-19 broke the hearts of the Nordonia softball squad.

The Knights players have taken that anguish and turned it into positive energy heading into this season.

Nordonia Knights

“The girls are just real excited to play,” Nordonia first-year head coach Marissa Rizzo said. “They’re more focused and dedicated than ever.”

Rizzo, a 2014 Nordonia graduate who played center field for the Knights, would have been the team’s varsity assistant last year if not for the pandemic.

“This year, we definitely have a goal to win the [Suburban League] National Conference, especially with not having a season last year," Rizzo said. "I think we have what it takes to win the conference and make some noise in the postseason as long as the girls keep their heads on straight and stay focused. The skill is there.”

Three pitchers will toe the rubber for Nordonia this season – sophomore Laney Wilhelm and juniors Jenna Cornett and Grace Daniels.

“This is Laney’s first time on varsity,” said Rizzo. “She has a lot of good speed and she has very good movement. She’s a very strong pitcher. We’re expecting big things from her. She’s a very strong hitter as well and hits for power.

“Jenna also has some good speed and movement on her balls," she added. "She definitely has a lot of change in her speed on her pitches, too. She hits for power and is very quick on the base paths. Grace is definitely not as quick as Laney and Jenna, but she has very good movement on her balls. She hits for power at the plate.”

Leading off in the everyday lineup will be senior center fielder Riley Monroe.

“Riley is very scrappy, she’s very quick and she’s very smart,” Rizzo said. “She’s very speedy on the base paths, too.”

The left fielder will be sophomore Jensen Stehlik, while sophomore Grace Whapham will man right field.

“Jensen definitely gets the ball in play and is going to be safe a lot of the time,” the coach said. “Grace has great power even though she’s small. She has a great arm and is very, very fast on the base paths.”

Junior Morgan Gallagher will be the catcher.

“Morgan is very strong and is very quick behind the plate,” said Rizzo. “She’s a very powerful hitter, too.”

The first baseman will be senior Kaley Meadows

“Kaley, a former catcher, is a power hitter and also hits for average,” Rizzo said. “She’s definitely one of our hardest hitters. Defensively, she’s strong."

Nordonia's shortstop will be junior Carmella Hack.

“Carmella is very strong defensively, very sound. Hitting-wise, she’s also very strong and is quick. She has a very good arm," Rizzo said.

At third base will be junior Elizabeth Schubert.

“Elizabeth is a power hitter," Rizzo said. "She has a great arm. She and Morgan have the ability to switch between third base and catcher. They’re both very talkative on the field.”

Second base is still up for grabs between some younger girls.

Other team members are senior Bri Morgenstern, sophomore Alyssa Smigel and freshman Jillian Yakovic.

Rizzo's assistant coaches are Ally Hajnosz and Sydney Mosby

“They have a really good chemistry already,” Rizzo said. “We have a lot of really positive girls.”

The Knights are scheduled to open the season at National Conference rival Twinsburg March 29 at 4:30 p.m.