Saturday, May 27
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    Cardinal’s softball program is trending up in head coach Haley Adams’ third season.

    Adams was thrown into the fire two seasons ago when she was elevated to the head coaching position shortly before the season started.

    Now that she has settled into her role, the Huskies are looking to improve upon their 2-14 season last year.

    “Heading into the 2023 season, the coaches’ outlook for the season is extremely positive and competitive based on what we have returning and what we’ve seen from a couple of newcomers early in the season,” Adams said. “Our numbers in the program grew immensely this year, and our coaching staff has really been pushing the girls physically and emotionally. This season the girls are in much better shape than they were last season, and that’s a testament to the girls, for adapting to our new coaching style. It’s exciting to see girls compete for their positions, and push one another to their full potential.”

    Cardinal’s struggles over the past several seasons pointed directly at the pitching circle.

    The Huskies haven’t had an experienced pitcher leading the way, until now.

    “We have two freshmen pitchers coming into the circle, Maggie Grant and Dakota Gillispie, who we are extremely excited to see the results from all their hard work this offseason,” Adams said.

    Despite their lack of varsity experience, Grant and Gillispie have worked in the circle previously and should force opponents to swing the bat more aggressively.

    Junior Morgan Soltis also could chew up some innings.

    “Walking into the circle as a freshman, there is a lot of pressure on you,” Adams said. “Maggie has shown great poise in practices and leading by example for her teammates. She has a great selection of pitches that she has mastered, and a couple others that she is working on. Her swing looks great, and we’re excited to see her hit in the cleanup spot.”

    With their pitching situation stabilized, the Huskies now can focus on defense and scoring runs.

    “Expectations are much higher than they’ve been before,” Adams said. “We bring two very strong pitchers into the circle who complement each other very well. Sophomore catcher Rylie Leichtman will finally make her appearance on the field after a season-ending knee injury affected her playing time last season. Our coaching staff believes that we can surprise a lot of teams who might overlook us on their schedule. The last few weeks of practice, the girls have been showing a different type of confidence in decision-making situations and have been communicating much better. I think our softball skills are much better as a whole this season, and with that, we can implement softball strategies into our game plan. This is the first season that we feel comfortable as a coaching staff that the majority of the girls are in the position that they were created for.”

    Leichtman’s presence solidifies Cardinal’s battery, despite who is in the circle.

    “Rylie provides experience behind home plate,” Adams said. “The coaching staff and she are really excited to finally have her step onto the field after missing her freshman season due to a torn ACL. She brings a lot of power at the plate and has the potential to lead us off in the batting order. She is one of the hardest workers on the team and is in great physical shape.”

    Senior Kelsi Collins is a three-year letter winner who returns to her starting position at shortstop.

    “Kelsi has great speed,” Adams said. “Because of that, she could really help us out in the outfield. She had a great sophomore season in center field, but due to injuries last season, she was moved to the infield. She does a great job of leading by example, both on the field and in the classroom. She holds her teammates accountable.”

    Cardinal’s other veterans include second baseman Alaina Rupinskk and left fielder Morgan Soltis.

    Rupinski posted a .887 fielding percentage and hit .364 last season. She is a three-year letterman.

    “Alaina has made some really great plays in practice as a second baseman,” Adams said. “She has quick footwork and has great IQ of the game. This season, we are really pushing for her to show more confidence on the field. She makes the right decisions; she just has to trust her instincts.”

    Soltis, also a three-year letterman, batted .353 with a .947 fielding percentage last season.

    “Morgan is one of our most versatile players on the team,” Adams said. “She is also one of the most coachable players and absorbs everything. Morgan has grown tremendously since her freshman season, where her swing has improved, and she is being more of a vocal leader.”

    Rounding out the projected starting lineup are junior center fielder Casey Koeth, sophomore third baseman Kayleigh Duncan, and sophomore right fielder Bri Lew.

    Gillisipie will play first base when she isn’t pitching and Grant will serve as the team’s designated player when she isn’t in the circle.

    Duncan is a two-year letterman. She posted a .667 fielding percentage last spring.

    While the optimism is high this season, the Huskies know they still have a long way to go to reach all their goals.

    “Our team’s biggest challenge that we face this spring is our lack of experience to make adjustments at the plate,” Adams said. “Looking at our roster, we are definitely better defensively than we are offensively. We are looking for a few more girls to step up and bring consistency to our games this spring. We have to start off strong and keep our foot on the gas. If we let up and get comfortable against our opponent, we could very well lose our lead. We struggled last season with getting on the scoreboard first. Our offense went cold further down the lineup. We need to provide consistency with our hitters one through nine.”

    Fortunately for Adams, her senior class is all-in on changing the culture around the program.

    “This year’s senior class has done a great job of setting the tone,” she said. “They want to be the group that molds the program into healthy habits. The last couple of years have been tough for Cardinal softball, but between the coaching staff, and this year’s team, we have a specific goal in mind. Our entire infield is capable of playing two or three positions on the field. Depending on who starts in the circle that day, will determine who plays where.”

    Adams and her coaching staff will focus on the fundamentals throughout the season to keep the Huskies in contention.

    “In order for our team to be successful this season, we must limit the number of pitches our starting pitcher throws,” she said. “Softball is a pretty simple game–score more runs than your opponent. In order to do that, we need to limit the number of errors, which means taking care of the ball and staying focused. The last few seasons, between inexperienced pitching and fielding, we have had our pitchers throw more pitches than they’ve needed to. So, when the ball is put in play, we have to provide outs for our young pitching staff. The girls who are a part of this year’s team are doing a great job of adjusting to coaching changes and quite frankly, cultural changes. They are molding the program in the right direction, and we have to continue to do that to get more girls excited about softball at Cardinal High School. Our coaching staff already considers the growth of 11 players to 19, a huge win. This past week of practices, Coach Grant and I have talked about focus. Our girls understand that we have to stay focused in order to not overlook any opponent. Staying optimistic when things don’t go our way is another component to being successful this spring.”


    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, 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, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the 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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