By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The softball preview for the Waterloo Vikings’ 2023 season:
Head Coach: Brenda Flarida, 25th year, 308-205 career record.
Coaching Staff: Justine Baker.
2022 Record: 7-10 overall; 6-7 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference.
Returning Letterwinners (6): Jewel Lilley, sr.; Morgan Sweitzer, jr.; Savannah Francis, jr.; Miranda Long, jr.; Emma Njegovan, jr.; Sophia Wood, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (3): Mackenzie Kehrer, Jennifer Cieplinski, Logan Lynn.
Underclassmen to Watch: Brilyn Eddy, fresh.; Bayley English, fresh.; Regan Hellman, fresh.; Kamryn Lynn, fresh.
Jewel Lilley: .491 average, 28 hits, 6 doubles, 21 RBI, 4 pitching wins, 37 strikeouts, 43 innings pitched.
Miranda Long: 16 hits, 14 RBI.
“Our goal every year is to contend for a league title,” veteran head coach Brenda Flarida said. “We hope to be in the mix, but with losing many key players, we will have to step up quickly to the challenge. I feel there are many quality teams in our league and it will be competitive every night.
“Any given night, anyone can beat anyone,” Flarida added. “So we need to come ready to play.”
The Vikings’ infield will feature many new faces, but there are two returning letter winners that will lead the group.
Morgan Sweitzer at shortstop and Savannah Francis at third base.
On the right side, Miranda Long, Brilyn Eddy and Kamryn Lynn will see time at second base and first base.
“Our infield will be inexperienced at the beginning of the season, but they all have great skill,” Flarida said.
After many years relying on Jenny Cieplinksi, who was First Team All-MVAC last year and graduated, a new face in freshman Bayley English will play behind the plate.
“Bayley is certain up for the challenge and has had a great preseason so far,” Flarida said. “She is a great fit for the position — in a long line of great Waterloo catchers.”
A group of new players will handle the outfield duties.
“We may use a rotation of players until they get comfortable out there,” Flarida said.
Alana Holmes, Reagan Heilman, Sophia Wood, Lynn and Long will all see time.
Senior Jewel Lilley shared the pitching duties last season with First Team All-MVAC honoree Makensi Kehrer.
This season, Lilley is ready to take on the daily pitching duties.
“She brings a great assortment of pitches and has great location,” Flarida said.
“We have a very hard-working group of girls this season and some young new girls that bring a lot of excitement to the team,” Flarida said. “We are hoping the weather cooperates, and we can get outside and get on dirt. The tradition we have created within our program is always our strength.”
“We have many new players in positions that don’t have much varsity experience, so they will need to step up quickly,” Flarida said. “It will come with repetition and game experience. Hopefully, that will happen soon for us.”
March 27: at Sebring McKinley
March 28: vs. Sebring McKinley
March 29: vs. Mogadore
March 31: at Norton
April 3: vs. Mineral Ridge
April 4: at Mineral Ridge
April 6: at Streetsboro
April 7: vs. Mathews
April 10: at New Middletown Springfield
April 11: vs. New Middletown Springfield
April 13: at St. Thomas Aquinas
April 14: vs. Woodridge
April 17: at Berlin Center Western Reserve
April 18: vs. Berlin Center Western Reserve
April 20: vs. Southeast
April 21: at Lake Center Christian
April 24: vs. McDonald
April 25: at McDonald
April 27: vs. Lowellville
April 28: at Lowellville
May 1: at Jackson-Milton
May 2: vs. Jackson-Milton
May 3: vs. Garfield
May 4: at Southeast
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