Berkshire returns six starters from the team that finished 12-7 overall and 7-3 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division. The Badgers also added a talented player in Meghan McKeogh, who moved into the district, and return Cheyanne Bosse, one of the top pitchers in the area.
With that group of returning starters and the collection of talent in the dugout, head coach Brittany Bakalar has high expectations for her team.
“We have a solid number of players returning with most having 3-4 years of varsity experience,” Bakalar said. “My expectations for the season are high. We have been with each other for a few years now and with that, we have a sense and a good handle on our pulse. The addition of Cheyanne Bosse last year was pivotal in our success and it will be more so this year. Furthermore, our addition of Meghan McKeogh has added more talent, knowledge of the game, and she just has fit so nicely with the other girls on our squad.”
Success will start with Bosse, a Mount Union commitment, who will chew up most of the innings in the circle this spring. Sophomore Tiffany Purcell will provide relief when necessary.
“Cheyanne will be our leader this season,” Bakalar said. “Her knowledge and passion for the game is exciting to watch. She has gained more speed and confidence in the circle.”
McKeogh, a Hillsdale College commitment, will step in at shortstop.
“Meghan has been a great addition,” Bakalar said. “She is a true softball player with a great softball IQ. She has a great arm, great range, and has a great bat. I have already enjoyed seeing how she has meshed with the team, I look forward to seeing her perform at game time.”
Junior Madison Chapman, an Edinboro University volleyball commitment, will catch and senior Joanne Miller, a Thiel College basketball commitment, will play first.
Senior Kayla White will play second and senior Casey Sinkenbring moved from shortstop to third.
“Casey has shifted to third base this year and has had a fierce commitment to learning this new position,” Bakalar said. “Casey is a player that will do anything for this team to be successful. The key to Casey being successful is focusing on the little things and staying confident in her natural abilities.”
The outfield will be filled by junior Hailey Gifford, who will play left field, senior Asya Martin, who will line up in right, and senior Catherine Lillibridge, who returns in center.
Lillibridge, a Hiram College soccer commitment, will be the anchor of that group.
“We will look to her for her leadership and guidance of the outfield,” Bakalar said. “She has an amazing sense of the position and left and right will need her.”
While Berkshire lost a group of talented seniors to graduation last spring, the Badgers return a solid core this season and Bakalar will lean on that group to provide the leadership to the younger players.
“They are veterans,” Bakalar said. “They can dictate the tempo and with their knowledge of the game can execute vital defensive plays along with their solid bats in the lineup. We lost quite a few of seniors who were strong leaders on our squad, they kept a real nice tempo and they had the girl’s trust. This year I can say is similar however this group of seniors are scrappier and lead by example on the field. My approach with them will not change.”
Berkshire isn’t quite as deep as it has been in the past so the Badgers will need to stay healthy to compete for the conference title and to make a deep postseason run but Bakalar is doing what she can to develop her backups in case of an injury.
“We have a solid starting roster but that leaves us no room for fatigue or lengthy injuries,” Bakalar said. “To overcome this we have been spending quite a bit of time really working with our JV squad getting them prepped and ready if the situation arose that we would need them to step up and play varsity.”
The key to the Badgers upending defending conference champion Independence and perennial league power Kirtland is to focus on one at-bat, one pitch and one play at a time.
“To have a successful season we must keep sharp, build on our softball IQ, and become more instinctual, all things our squad is capable of doing and have started to do,” Bakalar said. “Do not let any mistakes compound with more mistakes and that goes with mental toughness and confidence. We will continue to press these concepts and always work with the idea of playing relaxed and honestly just have fun playing this awesome game.”