EATON — Hanging a banner on the gym wall for a league championship is at the top of the list for Eaton’s softball team — but the goals don’t stop there.
Over the past two seasons the Eagles have played in two sectional championship games and a district championship game, but a league title has eluded them.
Eaton went 19-11 a year ago, finished third in the Southwestern Division of the Southwestern Buckeye League and reached the district final for the first time in program history.
Now Maggie Neanen, who enters her fourth season as head coach, is looking for this year’s team to challenge for a league title, as well as advancing deeper into the postseason.
“This year more than anything our goals are even aimed higher with a strong returning team,” she said. “We made it to districts last year which was a huge goal of ours but this year it’s to get to regionals and state. Our league is probably the toughest it’s been in my four years coaching but we are determined to overcome hard and compete and hopefully win a league championship. Our girls are hungry for a banner so that’s what we are aiming for.”
Eaton returns 10 players from a year ago, including four third-year starters — Annika Gels, Becca Mowen, Logan Unger and Emily Dungan
Gels, a junior, was tabbed as the SW Division Pitcher of the Year last year and Mowen, a junior catcher, was a first-team selection. Unger, a junior second baseman, earned honorable mention.
Also back is senior Bailee Worley, a second-year starter at third base and second team all-SWBL pick last year.
Sophomore shortstop Ashley Earley was an honorable mention selection last year.
In addition to Dungan, the team’s center fielder and a junior, returning are juniors Alysa Sorrell (Jr./first base) and Quinlyn Sittloh (Jr./utility). Returning sophomores are outfielders Bailey Shepherd and Rilee Worley.
Newcomers this year are sophomore first baseman Shay Perry and freshman outfielder Alexis Miller.
Eaton began the season with a pair of wins.
The Eagles won their league opener 4-2 over Bellbrook on Monday, March 26. Eaton scored three runs in the third and added another run in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead. Bellbrook added single runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
Gels allowed six hits and struck out 14 in a complete game performance. Sorrell went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Mowen went 2-for-3 with a double and a triple.
On Saturday, Eaton traveled to Coldwater and came away with an 8-1 win.
After being held scoreless for the first four innings, the Eagles offense got on track in the fifth as they scored six times to take control of the game.
Coldwater scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first due to a pair of Eaton errors.
“Our girls came out sluggish for the first couple innings, we weren’t ready for Coldwater’s small-ball game,” Neanen said. “We settled after the first inning and our hits didn’t come until the fifth.”
A lead-off walk by Lexi Miller and a sac bunt by Ashley Earley got things going.
“After that hitting became contagious, we finally looked like the team we thought we would be. Annika Gels pitched another good game with the help of her catcher Becca Mowen calling the pitches. I’m very proud of the way we settled in and fought back,” Neanen said.
Bailee Worley went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Gels, who pitched another complete game, allowed just two hits and struck out 12. She also went 2-for-4 with a double and drove in a pair of runs. Mowen went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI. Dungan added a key hit in the fifth to drive in a pair of runs.
Eaton (2-0, 1-0 SWBL) was scheduled to play Arcanum on Tuesday, April 3. The Eagles will travel to Oakwood on Thursday for league game and will host Oakwood on Friday.
Eaton will close out the week by hosting Twin Valley South for a doubleheader on Saturday. Game one is scheduled for 11 a.m.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH