PREBLE COUNTY — The last time Eaton and National Trail’s softball teams played a game, they were in the process of making deep post-season tournament runs. That was two years ago.
Along with the rest of the teams in state and around the country, neither team got the chance to take the field in 2020 due to the coronavirus and build on that success.
But both programs are hoping to enjoy that the same success as the softball season is set to begin this weekend.
Eagles seeking first league, district titles
Maggie Neanen will be at the helm for her seventh season, sixth on the field, as Eaton seeks its first-ever league title with hopes of breaking through and winning the program’s first-even district championship.
The Eagles have won 80 games under Neanen’s direction and finished the 2019 campaign as Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division runner-up (9-3) and district runner-up.
Things have changed in two years.
Eaton returns just two starters from a team that won a school-record 21 games and played in its third straight district final in 2019.
Seniors Alexis Miller (right fielder) and Carsyn Lammers (2B) are the only starters returning. Both are four-year starters.
Also back are seniors Claire Sorrell (1B/3B) and Erika Wilkinson (pitcher/shortstop). Junior Allison Mowen (shortstop/pitcher) also returns.
Other newcomers include senior Braily Ward (catcher), senior Brooklyn Barker (3B), junior Macy Wright (infielder), junior Anna Kramer (infielder), junior Abbie Bryant (infielder/catcher), sophomore Olivia Baumann (CF), sophomore Kendall Miller (left fielder).
Neanen said junior Kyla Mize, sophomore Samantha Witte and freshmen Gracie Copper and Emma Gebhart will split time between varsity and junior varsity.
”Our league is always one of the most competitive leagues in the area so it will definitely be tough,” Neanen said. “But not playing for a year I think everyone will come into this season more even than normal. We as a coaching staff believe we could finish in the top of our league again but it will take a lot of work.”
Neanen said she is excited about this year’s team.
“I am very excited to be entering my seventh season at Eaton with such a great group of hard working girls,” she said. “This season we believe that our offense will be explosive and powerful. We think this could be the most dangerous lineup we have had in a while. We have six seniors and we believe their experience will help lead us into a great season.”
Neanen is ready to see her team in action.
“Entering this season after last season being cancelled we couldn’t be more excited to get on the field,” she said. “Our girls have put so much work in from last March to now to make sure we didn’t miss a beat. Finally playing other schools and getting back to a normal routine feels great and we are all ready to get going. We are very blessed we get to play again.”
Eaton is scheduled to begin the season on Saturday, March 27 with a doubleheader at Ansonia. Game one is set for a noon start time. The Eagles will host Franklin on Monday, March 29 and travel to Franklin on Wednesday, March 29.
Trail looking to repeat as district champ
As Derek Lee enters his fourth season with National Trail, he’s looking forward to building on the momentum from the 2019 season.
The Blazers are 31-16 overall under Lee’s guidance.
In 2019, the Blazers were 19-8, winning sectional and district championships on their way to reaching the regional semifinals for the first time since 1991.
Back from the regional team are senior pitcher Madison Hathaway, junior pitcher/shortstop Skyler Ward and senior center fielder Molly Skinner.
Lee said he has several players who will be playing at the varsity level for the first time.
“Also excited about some of the new faces that will be in the batting lineup with a lot of power,” he said.
Senior Kayleigh Michael will be in her first full season with the Blazers after transferring from Eaton.
Coach Lee said he is looking for contributions from junior Zoey Lee, junior Jenna Petitt, senior Jessie Gable and junior J’da Jackson.
Sophomore Maddie Harrison will take over the catching duties.
Trail is scheduled to begin the season at home with Middletown Madison on Saturday. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.
The Blazers are then scheduled to play at Minster on Monday, March 29 and will travel to Arcanum on Tuesday, March 30.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 or follow on Twitter @emowenjr