Regional Tournament with a host of key performers returning,
expectations are high for the Cambridge High softball team this spring. Coach Bob Shepard — set to begin his sixth year — knows his team
will have the proverbial “bulls-eye” on its back this year with a
veteran team on hand, but he says his girls are ready for the challenge
CAMBRIDGE — Coming off a 19-win season and a trip to the OHSAA Division II Regional Tournament with a host of key performers returning, expectations are high for the Cambridge High softball team this spring.
Coach Bob Shepard — set to begin his sixth year — knows his team will have the proverbial “bulls-eye” on its back this year with a veteran team on hand, but he says his girls are ready for the challenge ahead.
“The girls really enjoyed getting to the regional last year,” Shepard related, “and it’s always our goal to get to the district championship and regional level. We have a good mix of kids, with a lot of them returning from last season, and we’re getting good leadership from our seniors who know what is expected. We had some significant losses, but we’ve got people to step in and take over.
“Pitching-wise, we’ve never been more prepared going into a season,” Shepard offered, “but our defense still has to make plays and we have to score more runs.”
CHS finished 19-11 last season, winning the D-II sectional and district crowns; claiming the OVAC Class 4-A regular season title and finishing as the runner-up in the OVAC Tournament.
“It’s definitely a goal to make it back to the OVAC championship game,” conceded Shepard, who is 79-62 in his first five years. “We felt that we were the best team last year; we just hit a bump in the road against Wheeling Park. We also want to improve our ECOL record this year, but as always, the competition in that league will be tough.”
Heading the Lady Bobcats’ returnees are a trio of seniors who will be seeking their fourth varsity letter — shortstop Sarah Starr, centerfielder Janelle Givens and third baseman Alexa Kafury.
Starr, already signed with Kent State University, hit .318 last season and earned first team all-OVAC Class 4-A and all-ECOL honors along with second team all-Eastern District Division II.
“She’s probably the most talented player I’ve ever coached,” Shepard praised. “She hits for average, can hit for power, has excellent speed and defensively, it would be hard to find a better shortstop than her.”
Givens, headed for Morehead State University, gives CHS a power-hitting threat. She batted .282 last spring and earned second team all-Eastern District accolades.
Kafury, one of the team’s most versatile players, played second base last season but will move to the hot corner. She can also catch or play in the outfield if needed.
A trio of experienced juniors also return — first baseman Lacie Mahley, rightfielder Megan Tharp and leftfielder Taryn Payton.
Mahley, a two-year letterwinner, tailed off to a .242 average last year after leading the team as a freshman with a .374 average while Tharp checked in with a .312 average and Payton hit .250.
Returning to the circle as the Lady Bobcats’ No. 1 pitcher is sophomore letterwinner Paige Young. The talented southpaw made an immediate impact, posting a 1.22 E.R.A. with 116 strikeouts and 32 walks in 223 innings of work.
“We threw Paige in there as a freshman and she did a great job with our defense backing her up,” said Shepard. “Now that she’s got a year under her belt, she has a better understanding of what she needs to do.”
A key piece of the puzzle fell into Shepard’s hands when sophomore Carly Kehn transferred from Ridgewood after lettering there as a freshman.
“We asked for a catcher for Christmas and we got one,” Shepard smiled. “She’s very athletic and has a good knowledge of the game, and she’ll step right in to a key position for us.”
Three promising freshmen round out the varsity squad — outfielder Chanel Ford and pitchers Summer Allen and Kristina Cosgrave.
Those three will also see action with the junior varsity squad where they’ll be joined by six sophomores — third baseman Alysa Rice, pitcher-outfielder Kristin Black, outfielder Brittany Hazinakis, outfielder Stephanie Jones, outfielder Lindsey Furbee and infielder Casey Crooks — and four freshmen — third baseman-first baseman Nicole Bott, shortstop-catcher Abby Marlin, second baseman Jessica Secrest and outfielder Amanda Shreve.
Three key members of last year’s team were lost to graduation — third baseman Danielle Shepard, leftfielder Samantha Roller and catcher Devaney Daugherty — all four-year letterwinners.
Roller was first team all-OVAC and Eastern District and second team all-ECOL while Shepard earned first team all-OVAC Class 4-A and all-Eastern District D-II and honorable mention all-ECOL. All three participated in the Eastern District All-Star Game.
Shepard’s coaching staff includes Bill Starr and Mike Young with the varsity while Bob Mascolino and Lisha Stocker are the junior varsity coaches.
Zanesville returns to the Lady Bobcats’ schedule this season for two games.
Cambridge will open the season at home Tuesday against Shenandoah.