Greenmen softball has pitching, experience as they finally get back to play
Ready to move on and play ball this spring, the Aurora softball squad is excited about this season.
Fourth-year coach Sam Petrash is looking forward to this year as adjusting to COVID-19 has been quite a task after not playing in 2020.
“It definitely had an impact on our roster and our practices thus far,” said Petrash. “We’ve canceled our spring trip and did not have a full team practice prior to our first scrimmage, but we have committed to handling the things that we can control to make ourselves stronger as a team.”
Aurora had its season opener Saturday with a successful doubleheader against Parma Padua at the Cedar Point Sports Center in Sandusky.
In 2019 Aurora went 15-8 overall, shined in league play and reached the district semifinals.
Fortunately, the Greenmen have a solid group of athletes back who saw action in 2019.
Returnees, according to Petrash, include senior Kennedy Nietert along with juniors Mackenzie Krafcik, Shannon Morris, Kayla Ring, Ava Ryncarz, Maeve Russell, and sophomore Maddie Zdanowicz.
Krafcik is a hard-throwing pitcher who can change speeds. She will also play first base. She logged 80⅓ innings as a freshman hurler two years ago.
Against a solid schedule, Krafcik went 6-4 on the hill, struck out 79 batters and posted a 3.13 earned run average. The 5-foot-11 Krafcik can also help on offense as she hit .256 with one home run and 11 RBI.
Morris is a middle infielder who will likely play second base and shortstop. As a freshman, Morris hit .240 in 27 plate appearances and had four stolen bases.
Ring also has solid experience and is an who will see loads of action at third base and can also be used at shortstop. She hit one homer in 31 at bats as a freshman.
Another solid athlete with experience is Ryncarz, who will play in the outfield.
Russell will be used as a catcher and can play third base as well.
“The team will be young with inspirational leader Kennedy Nietert returning as the only senior on the team,” said Petrash.
Nietert has great program experience and adds depth to the outfield. She can also catch in a pinch too.
Having plenty of potential, Zdanowicz is a middle infielder that who will play shortstop and second base. She also can help in the outfield.
“Russell and Zdanowicz lettered as sophomores last year,” said Petrash, who is assisted by daughter Sarah Petrash, Curtis Barker, and Gregg Unverferth. Sarah Petrash is a 2013 AHS grad and was a standout hurler.
Blessed with returning underclassmen talent, Aurora also has a nice mix of newcomers that also supports a strong youth movement in the program.
“We are in the process of determining roles, but we really like the strength and balance of our roster,” said Petrash. “Four juniors lettered as freshmen. We have strong sophomores we expect to contribute along with two strong incoming freshmen.”
Newcomers to watch include sophomore Maggie McVicker (utility player and pitcher), sophomore Kennedy Austin (outfield and pitcher), sophomore Alley DeSapri (outfielder), freshman McKenna Metzger (pitcher and first base), and freshman Madeline Dalessandro (catcher, utility player, OF).
The pitching rotation, as of now, will feature Krafcik and Metzger, who has good velocity on the mound and will also help at the plate.
Petrash indicated that the primary relief pitchers will be McVicker and Austin.
Showing the program’s strength in the past few years, the Greenmen have had a slew of athletes play in college. Julia Mazanec (SS/3B), a rare three-time first-team all-league performer at AHS, is a sophomore at Kent State University and she recently collected her first collegiate hit against SEC power Alabama, ranked third in the country at the time.
Becca Crawford (CF) is playing at Furman, Rachael Dudziak (P) is playing at Wooster, and Aleese Angelo (C) hit her first collegiate home run recently for Millersville (Pa.) University.
Aurora hopes to continue its winning ways in the challenging Suburban League American Division. The Greenmen were 10-2 in 2019.
“The Suburban League American Division is always tough,” said Petrash, whose troops open league action March 31 at Tallmadge at 4:30 p.m.
“Tallmadge and Highland are perennial favorites to win the league,” Petrash added. “Revere is always tough and we thought Kent Roosevelt would sneak up on teams last year. Copley and Barberton are well-coached as can beat anyone. It all depends on what teams have lost and picked up after the lost season last year.”
With a nice road trip to highlight the season opener, Aurora won the first game over Padua 7-4 as Krafcik collected the win on the mound with a complete-game victory, striking out 13 batters. She also hit a double. The Greenman held on to win 17-10 in the second game.
“I thought it was a good team-building trip since our spring trip had to be canceled,” said Petrash. “It was nice to get these games under our belt before league play and suddenly have to face teams like Tallmadge and Highland.”
Aurora had a big 12-0 lead in the second outing through two innings and Padua got back into the game, but Metzger earned the win on the hill, fanned nine batters and had four hits in the process.
“Krafcik came out in the opener and executed — she knows how to make adjustments, and did a nice job,” said Petrash. “Metzger was cruising along and then things got a little tight, but she battled back and the pitch count got high, and Krafcik threw the last half-inning.
“Both pitchers do a nice job of changing speeds well and they move the ball around,” added Petrash. “They make it easy to call pitches.”
In the opener, Russell hit a double and a triple as the catcher showed some pop. Ryncarz and McVicker each had two hits. Metzger also had a double in her varsity debut. Aurora amassed 22 hits in the second game led by Metzger’s four, including a double and a triple. Zdanowicz had three hits, including a double and a triple.
Dalessandro had her first varsity start behind the dish. Austin, Ryncarz and Krafcik each had three hits and DeSapri had one of the club’s five triples. Russell and Ryncarz also had a triple.
“Our hitting is coming around,” said Petrash. “We are young and have been working to help the kids to cut down on strikeouts.”
The Greenmen had non-league games against visiting Garrettsville Garfield and at Hudson March 29 and 30. Aurora plays at Nordonia Wednesday and hosts Boardman in a doubleheader Saturday starting at 11 a.m.
Here is the Aurora Greenmen 2021 varsity softball roster:
Kennedy Austin, sophomore, OF/P
Madeline Dalessandro, freshman, C/OF
Alexandria DeSapri, sophomore, OF
Isabella Galloway, junior, OF
Mackenzie Krafcik, junior, P/IB
McKennah Metzger, freshman, P/1B
Shannon Morris, junior, 2B/SS
Kennedy Nietert, senior, OF
Kayla Ring, junior, 3B
Maeve Russell, junior, C/3B
Ava Ryncarz, junior, OF
Grace Wilson, sophomore, OF
Madison Zdanowicz, sophomore, SS/2B