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    With half a dozen returning starters and several others with varsity experience, the Chagrin Falls Tigers are optimistic they’ll be competitive this spring.

    The Tigers finished 5-12 overall and 3-5 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division last spring, but head coach Whitney Garrett is confident her program is headed in the right direction.

    “Moving into the 2024 season, we are extremely hopeful for a competitive year and many more to follow,” she said. “We have a core of returning seniors to lead a group of hungry freshmen. We are starting to see the younger grades come to us with more and more softball knowledge and grit thanks to the work of our youth teams. The talent we see coming from these younger grades not only excites us as coaches but also our older experienced players. We are looking forward to a year of good,
    aggressive softball and lots of growth.”

    With a solid core of returning starters and an influx of talent, the expectations surrounding the program have been raised.

    “We have a core of returning seniors, a few varsity players from last year, and new freshmen which will give us our starting lineup this year,” Garrett said. “Our outlook as a coaching staff this year is very optimistic. We have been working over the past two years to build a softball program not only at the high school level but at the youth level as well. I believe this year I can say we are starting to see the growth we have been diligently working towards. Our girls are hungry to prove themselves this year and as a coaching staff, we are right behind them every step of the way.”

    Chagrin Falls won’t be without challenges this spring.

    With a lot of younger faces in the lineup, the Tigers will have to work hard to stay focused through the good times and bad.

    “Our biggest challenge this year will be staying mentally tough in hard times and communication,” Garrett said. “Being that we are on the younger side, we will have to be mentally tough when situations get hard. In those times, the senior core leadership will be key to help guide and provide confidence to their younger teammates. Communication has always been a struggle for us throughout the years, so we are really preaching using their voices this offseason. Communication comes with confidence on the field, and we are seeing more and more confidence each day.”

    With seniors at key positions, Garrett will have plenty of experience on the field at all times.

    Senior catcher Alexis Kaseler will play a key role in managing sophomore pitcher Mia Beavers and in setting the team’s defensive alignment.

    A second-team All-CVC selection last spring, Kaseler continues to develop her skills and has emerged as a consistent leader.

    “Lexi is one of our core seniors this year who has been with me for the past four years,” Garrett said. “Last year and this year, we have seen her thrive in the leadership role as she mentors young players with her softball knowledge or drives our team’s defense from behind the plate. Lexi is one of those kids you know will leave it all out on the field for you as a coach and we could not love her more for it. Lexi will also play a key role in our pitching this year as she supports and guides our returning pitcher,
    Mia Beavers.”

    Senior Peyton Pierce returns at shortstop after earning first-team All-CVC honors last spring.

    “Peyton is one of our core seniors who has been with me for the past four years now,” Garrett said. “Over the years, I have watched Peyton grow not only in softball skill but into an all-around phenomenal human. Peyton takes on a large role for us again this year at shortstop and continues to be one of the main voices for us out on the field. We are looking to shake some things up this year as far as her placement in the lineup giving her more opportunities to run the bases.”

    Senior Caroline Reeder earned second-team All-CVC honors as an outfielder last season. She’ll lock down the first base spot for the Tigers this spring.

    “Caroline is one of our core seniors this year who has been with me for four years now,” Garrett said. “Caroline is one of the hardest working players I have yet to see, starting her freshman year she had never played softball to now being one of our key starters and leaders on the team. We are asking Caroline to take on a new position this year and have all the confidence in the world in her. When looking to fill a key infield gap, we knew we could count on ‘C’ due to her work ethic, drive, and competitive nature that we have seen over the past few years.”

    Senior Kate Quinn will serve as the team’s designated player and sophomore Ella Stec will play center field with freshmen Gina Ponikvar and Brigitte Edwards lining up at second and third base, respectively.

    The Tigers have not yet settled on a left or right fielder, but many talented underclassmen are available to fill those spots.

    “Brigitte Edwards, Gina Ponkivar, and Megan Shisila all joined us this year as freshmen,” Garrett said. “They came in with dedication and grit ready to get to work this winter. We are excited to have some young players pushing our older players and hungry to make the season a success.”

    Beavers will throw most of the innings for the Tigers in the circle with Ponikvar and Shisila providing relief.

    “Mia is a returning varsity player from last year as a sophomore. She was our backup pitcher last year, which got her a few varsity innings on the mound,” Garrett said. “This year, Mia will be taking the mound as our starting pitcher. She has put in a lot of work this offseason and is determined to make her year successful. Our goal for Mia this year is to throw strikes and let them hit. We want her to trust in the defense behind her to do their job just as she does hers.”

    Garrett will lean on her seniors to set the tone for the younger players on the roster.

    “This year we have a great group of seniors that I have been with now for four years,” she said. “These girls have worked harder and harder each year to try and get the program recognized in not only the conference but in the community. This year, our seniors are lit on fire with drive due to the talent they see joining them from our underclassmen. We know there will be bumps in the road this year but moving into the season, I have never seen the team so determined and driven.”

    That drive could lead the Tigers to more success in 2024, but they’ll need to remain focused and be there for each other when things aren’t going well.

    “To have a successful season this year we are going to need to play as a family,” Garrett said. “What I mean by that is we are going to need to lean on each other’s strengths and pick each other up when needed. We are going to need to make confidence contagious throughout the team in order to bring everyone’s full potential out.”

     

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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