RHS softball begins state championship bid this season with Myrtle Beach trip
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford High School varsity girls softball team is preparing for a unique start to the season by playing initial games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The Lady Bulldogs leave Saturday for a warmer climate and a chance to play tough competition as they prepare for a run at a Northern Buckeye Conference championship.
Last year’s team finished second in the league and compiled a 20-7 overall record.
This year’s team finds themselves in the enviable position of having both experience and talent.
Eleven players return from last year–all of whom are expected to make significant contributions to a team with lofty expectations.
“The league title is our first goal, but we also expect to compete in the state tournament,” Coach Tom Kralovic said.
He believes the girls should be a favorite to make it out of districts.
“The thing is we will need to get a key hit, or make a key play at the right time,” he added.
Talent and desire for the team will not be a question, though.
“They are very focused, and they work hard,” said Kralovic, who has nothing but praise for the Lady Dawgs.
The fact that the team is going to Myrtle Beach to begin the season is an indication that they have long been a team that has what it takes to be special.
“The girls are a good group and have been together forever,” he said. “They should be able to compete down there.”
The Myrtle Beach trip has been in consideration for the program for several years and was paid by fund-raising projects including team golf outings and casino bus trips.
Between March 29 and April 4, the team will play four games against strong teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Texas.
The games are not part of a tournament, but are considered regular season games and were scheduled by the complex hosting the games, the Ripken Experience, a facility dedicated to promoting baseball and softball for young athletes.
The Ripken Experience was founded by Cal and Billy Ripkin, two major league baseball stars with the Baltimore Orioles.
Playing in Myrtle Beach will give the team a chance to get outside in better weather than what they generally experience in northwest Ohio, but they also can prepare for the start of league play through the competition they face.
Last year’s team fell just shy of an NBC championship, but this year could be different–although several teams in the league could provide some intense competition. Elmwood, last year’s champ, is one team that will challenge the Bulldogs.
However, Rossford returns some excellent senior leadership.
Coach Kralovic indicated that pitching should be a team strength this year with veteran pitchers senior Mandi Longeway and junior Hannah Gauthier on the mound.
He also believes the team will be strong up the middle defensively and should be a much improved hitting team.
“As long as they put the ball in play, we can do some things offensively,” Kralovic said.
The seniors will shoulder the bulk of the responsibility to lead the team.
In addition to Longeway, Margo Jackson, catcher, Lindsay Skala, shortstop, Kelly Swope, first base, and Maddie York, centerfield, look to provide the leadership and skill needed to win the league and beyond.
They will receive support from a cast of talented juniors that include Gauthier, pitcher, Kirsten Keller, third base, Maggie Leahy, second base, and outfielders Claire Verbosky, Jessica Kulczak and Nicole Beyer.
Hopefully, the Myrtle Beach trip will provide a bright start to the new season for this crop of promising players, and they will return with the experience that will give them the edge in this year’s NBC race.
RHS baseball team edges toward contention
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford varsity baseball team enters this season with high hopes for improvement.
The Bulldogs return most of their players on a team that features experience at nearly every position–that includes five key seniors plus several solid leaders in the junior class.
Along with their experience, the pitching staff remains intact from last season with all capable of logging innings.
Speed also will be a strength this season as the Bulldogs will look to stretch singles into extra base hits and try to steal bases.
“We are right on the cusp of challenging for the league title,” said Head Coach Alan Barnum, in his third season at the helm. “If not this year, soon. We are right there.”
Regardless of that goal, the Bulldogs should improve upon last year’s 6-21 overall record and seventh place league finish.
They will meet resistance from teams like Genoa, Lake and Eastwood–all talented and experienced.
“How we do will depend on whether or not we can play with confidence. If we can, we will be right there,” added Barnum.
The senior letterman returning for Rossford is Offensive Player of the Year in the Northern Buckeye Conference catcher Ryan Reed, who batted .529 last year and provides stability play behind the plate.
Joining him will be Noah Asmus, who looks to improve upon his .360 batting average. Asmus will mostly see time at third base and serve in the Bulldogs’ starting pitching rotation.
“We leaned on Asmus and Reed a lot last year, and we hope that they can lead the way again this year,” Barnum said.
Other seniors on the squad are second baseman A.J. Santellana, first baseman Trey Demko and Tyler Fargo, who will contribute as both pitcher and utility player.
The Bulldogs also added senior C.J. Ball who tried out for the team for the first time but is athletic enough to play an important role.
Juniors Marty Linthicum (pitcher) and Ryan Niese (short stop) bring additional talent and leadership to their positions and will be counted on to boost the team.
Joining Linthicum, Asmus and Fargo in the pitching rotation are junior Nick Skiba, Niese and sophomore Ben Sauter.
Juniors Andrew Steer and Keaton Eppink also should log significant innings, mostly in relief.
Along with speed and experience, the Bulldogs have the luxury of depth in the program.
“We have the most varsity players on the roster in years, and we have 21 JV players on the roster,” the coach said.
Barnum believes the strength in numbers will create more competition among his players.
“The guys on the team can push each other and that could really help for the future,” the coach said.
So far, they have worked hard, and players and coaches alike are optimistic for the start of a successful campaign.
The Bulldogs began their season on March 31 at Wauseon and have seven games scheduled within the first two weeks.
The team’s first home game is Friday, April 11 against Toledo Christian.
RHS tennis serves up strong start to season
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford varsity boys tennis team kicked off the season with a strong 3-0 showing.
All three matches were played on the road as the Bulldogs defeated Archbold and Oak Harbor 5-0 and Napoleon 3-2.
First year Head Coach Stacy Jurich believes the team is off to a great start.
“Picking up early wins is a nice confidence booster, and I’ve been pleased with how the team has worked together,” she said. “Their attitude has been good, and they have been willing to make adjustments and to learn the skills of the game.”
Jurich is the Bulldog’s third coach in three years, But she has experience with Rossford tennis as she also served as the varsity girls coach last fall.
One of her biggest challenges is to find playing time for the largest roster of tennis players in years at RHS.
With 15 players, the Bulldogs have the luxury of bodies.
“It’s nice having so many players who are interchangeable,” said Jurich, who has used the early games to mix the line-up occasionally and see what kind of situations best suit the individual players.
Despite the numbers, the team only returns three letter winners from last season, in which the Bulldogs posted an 8-10 record.
Captains senior John Hotz and juniors Logan Fairbanks and Derek Krieger will be relied upon for their leadership and tennis experience to improve on last year’s mark.
Fairbanks and Krieger will mostly play singles this year as they did last season, and Hotz will anchor the first doubles team but also see time as a singles player.
With a host of inexperienced players, some of whom are just learning the game, much of the season will be focused on gaining match experience.
Still, as the team grows, the Bulldogs will look to several players to establish themselves in the line-up.
Hotz’s sister Julie, an all-district volleyball and basketball player, will bring some added competitiveness.
She is allowed to compete because of an OHSAA rule that permits females the opportunity to play boys tennis if they did not play girls tennis in the fall because they were playing another sport.
The combination of her athletic nature and the fact that she is part of a family with a long-standing tennis tradition in Rossford should help to make her an integral part of the team.
The Bulldogs also added standout soccer athlete Hector Aguirre to the mix, and he should see chances to contribute as both a third singles player and in doubles.
Freshman Logan Gauthier and newcomers Alek Wood, Evan Austin and Jacob Cowell could provide significant contributions as well.
In spite of a lack of overall tennis experience, the team brings athleticism to the court and should readily compete in every match.
“Our returning players have a lot of experience and we have athletes who understand how to handle pressure and how to approach competition,” said the coach.
Jurich acknowledged that the schedule could provide some interesting challenges, as the Bulldogs compete against several area power programs like Southview and Ottawa Hills.
“Tennis is such a mental game, and as long as we can improve on that and build some confidence, we can compete with anyone,” she said.
As a member school of the Northern Buckeye Conference, Rossford does not compete for a league tennis title since Fostoria is the only other NBC school with a tennis program.
Aside from striving for individual improvement each match, the team is not really focused on anything but earning a winning record by the season’s end.
“We have a good line-up right now, and it’s strong enough to come out with a winning record. Right now, the players seem open to new ideas,” Jurich explained. “As long as that continues, we should be able to improve from last year.”
The tennis team competes against Port Clinton tomorrow at the Glenwood athletic complex.