It’s hard to imagine Perry improving upon its 22-3 record from a season ago, but a quick review of head coach Joe Medlen’s projected lineup and it becomes much easier to believe the Pirates could become even more dominant.
Perry returns eight starters including the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division’s reigning MVP and two other first team all-league selections.
The Pirates also are much faster than in the past, creating another dynamic opposing teams have to counter.
“Our expectations this year is to continue to grow as individuals on and off the field,” Medlen said. “Our goal is to work hard to improve our post season results. This team is the fastest team I have had in my four years. We finally have the ability to play small ball or stand toe-to-toe and get into a slugfest. This team loves the game.”
Perry’s advantage starts in the circle where junior Olivia Moon returns after winning the CVC MVP award and dominating opponents.
She already has committed to continue her education and softball career at St. Bonaventure University and she has two complete seasons of high school softball left to play.
“Olivia could be a dominant pitcher for the Pirates coming off her MVP season and will be leaned on heavily in the circle,” Medlen said. “Olivia is a true pitcher and I believe is one of the best right-handed pitchers in the state of Ohio and beyond. Olivia has grown into one of our strong leaders.”
Helping Moon’s cause is senior shortstop and team captain Taylor Hradek, a first team All-CVC selection and a Wheeling Jesuit University commitment.
“Taylor has turned into the Omar Vizquel of shortstops,” Medlen said. “Taylor’s range and athletic ability is something rarely seen and a joy for all to witness.”
Perry’s outfield is loaded with speed, limiting the opportunity for extra-base hits.
Junior Ava Strahan is slotted to play center field while Angela Vicini will be in right and Ally Hartman and Sydney Moon will see time in left.
“Ava Strahan has incredible range in the outfield and can hit for power,” Medlen said. “Ava has a low-key attitude but her game speaks volumes. Angela Vicini brings a tremendous amount of speed to the team in the outfield and on the base paths. Ally Hartman will be a true utility player this year as she can play multiple positions. Ally has worked extremely hard since November with her hitting and it’s showing.”
Hartman and Sydney Moon also will see time in the pitching circle.
“Freshman Sydney Moon will solidify our outfield and has a ton of power at the plate,” Medlen said. “Sydney accidentally fell into our pitching rotation and we now look forward to having her absorb some innings in relief of her sister, Olivia.”
Perry’s infield is filled with talented players.
Junior first baseman Emalee Sines earned first team All-CVC honors last season and is again expected to be one of the Pirates’ most powerful hitters.
“Emalee will bring the power to our team,” Medlen said. “Emalee is your true power hitter and I expect huge numbers from her. Emalee is a throwback ballplayer and can never get enough.”
Sophomore Katie Pietrzak and junior Elena Ciolli will play second base and third, respectively.
“Elena Ciolli brings the ability to hit and go small from both sides of the plate with great speed and power,” Medlen said. “Elena is the type of player any coach would want to build a team around. Katie Pietrzak will also play multiple positions and also has great speed on the base paths. Katie is a great line drive hitter and a great small ball player.”
Perry added another impressive multi-tool player in freshman Elle Infalvi, who will start behind the plate.
“Freshman Elle Infalvi comes from a great tree of athletes and coaches at Perry and beyond,” Medlen said. “Elle takes over the catching duties as a freshman and is working very hard to be the best catcher in the CVC. Elle is a true athlete and has a great bat.”
Perry’s strengths are obvious as the Pirates have one of the best pitching rotations in the area and an offensive and defensive lineup that can lead to a lot of wins this season.
The key to pushing beyond the 22-wins and getting past the district tournament is developing the small ball game.
Medlen has his players focusing on bunting, dragging, pushing, slapping and swinging away.
“We have to have all the players accept their roles no matter what they are,” he said. “Get rid of the me for the we.”