With eight returning starters, Kirtland’s softball team has the pieces in place to make a run at defending Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division champion Independence.
The Hornets opened the preseason with a tough scrimmage against Willoughby South but rebounded with a couple of better performances and now will open the regular season with plenty of confidence.
“It was a pretty eye-opening week for us,” said Kirtland coach Jamie (Smrdel) Kamensky. “We started out scrimmaging South and that didn’t turn out too well in our favor. After that, we scheduled North Olmsted and Wickliffe and we’re putting the ball in play and hitting it hard. That was good to see.”
Kirtland’s lineup features several multi-year starters and Katie McCollister returns to the starting lineup after missing last season with an injury.
“That’s huge for us to have eight of our nine starters back,” Kamensky said. “All of the kids on our team are going to play a role. We only have 16 kids and one is out with an injury. I’m pretty confident with every kid playing every position except for pitcher.”
Emily Ungrady returns at pitcher after a dominating performance, both in the circle and at the plate. Ungrady suffered a hand injury in the offseason but is now healthy and expected to carry the bulk of the pitching load.
“Emily is one of a kind,” Kamensky said. “She’s a competitor. She battled that hand injury all summer and is back almost 100-percent throwing-wise and ready to go. She’s going to be a big key for us this year.”
Liz Vernon is back at shortstop and will lead off the Kirtland batting order.
She’s also one of the team’s leaders.
“Liz is going to be a staple in the infield,” Kamensky said. “She has a special drive, a tunnel-vision for softball. When she’s on the field she turns it on and is a leader by example.”
McCollister will play second and bat second while Ungrady will be third in the lineup.
Center fielder Danielle Davis will fill the cleanup spot.
“Danielle is one of a kind,” Kamensky said. “She has the range that can match any good outfielder we will come up against. She has become a vocal leader for our team.”
Haleigh Getchell will bat fifth and play in the outfield or fill the team’s designated player role. Vikki Carriero again will line up behind the dish and bat sixth. Colleen Baldrey will play first and Morgan Faber will be at third. Both Baldrey and Faber also will see time in the circle.
“Vikki is taking a lead by example approach and Morgan Faber and Colleen Baldrey are stepping up to give us more depth to our pitching staff,” Kamensky said. “I’m pretty confident going into this year.”
Julia Camino and Sam Bates round out the outfield.
Kirtland is scheduled to open the season at Poland on Saturday.