Year in and year out the Lady Cats seem to be in contention for the state championship.
Last season, Logan came close, falling to St. Albans and a buzzsaw of a pitcher in a 1-0 decision in the Class AAA state title game at Vienna.
The Lady Cats are back at it and are looking to challenge again for the state crown.
With many key players returning from last year’s runner-up team, Logan seems to have the team to do it. The Lady Cats are loaded with experience, talent and depth and resemble Logan’s powerhouse teams of the early 2000s.
The West Virginia coaches seem to agree as they have tabbed the Lady Cats as the Class AAA preseason No. 1 team.
Logan, 29-5 last season, hopes to win its first state championship in five years and its fifth overall as the 2011 campaign gets underway this week.
The Lady Cats are scheduled to open the season on Wednesday at Scott before embarking on a four-game homestand beginning with Thursday’s contest against county rival Man. LHS then hosts Parkersburg on Friday, Chapmanville on Monday and Winfield on March 29.
Back at the helm for the Lady Cats is veteran coach Randy Robinette, who has led Logan to three of its state titles in 1986, 2001 and 2002. He was an assistant coach on Logan’s 2006 Double-A state championship team.
Robinette said his team should be tough to beat this season.
“We have quite a few returning people who played in the state championship game last year,” he said. “That’s always a good sign. We’re pretty experienced. It’s a nice thing to be ranked number one to begin the season. But it only matters at the end. Our kids have worked really really hard and we thought we would be ranked near the top anyway. It’s always nice to be ranked number one. We just hope that we can hang onto it at the end.”
Logan has an experienced and deep pitching staff with returning players Sommer Neace, a senior, and juniors Taylor Norman and Morgan Aguirre. Logan, however, lost its ace to graduation in Ali Neace, who is currently a freshman pitcher at Alderson-Broaddus College. Shana Hall, a sophomore, is Logan’s fourth hurler.
“We have four who have pitched real well. We have a staff,” Robinette said. “Three of those pitchers saw action last season. Shana is really improved since last year. We have four quality pitchers we think.”
This season’s rules change moves the pitching mound back three feet to 43 feet from the plate, the same as it is at the collegiate level.
“That will make a big difference in the way the game is played,” Robinette said. “The pitchers pitch that way all summer in travel ball. The hitters, too, have to make an adjustment.”
Behind the plate, Logan returns starting catcher Katie Chryssofos, a junior, who belted 12 home runs last season.
“She’s back. She hit several home runs and had a good year last year,” Robinette said. “We’re expecting big things from her.”
Logan’s backup catcher is Chastidy Wiley, a freshman.
“She’s a very impressive incoming ninth-grader,” Robinette said of Wiley.
Logan has experience, too, at first base as junior starter Lara Sedlock is back.
“She had a solid year for us last year. She’s a good defensive first baseman and is a good hitter,” Robinette said of Sedlock.
Emily Allred is the Lady Cats’ backup first baseman. Ninth-grader Montana Russell is also pressing for playing time at first.
At second base, Logan is experienced as well with senior starter Erica Kelley, who is back.
“We’re experienced at second with Erica,” Robinette said. “She’s a real good defensive player and I think her hitting will improve some this year, too.”
Kelley’s backup at second is promising ninth-grader Shelby Hale.
At shortstop, senior starter Jessica Bias is back. Antonia Hill also saw some starting time last season when Bias experienced pain in her throwing shoulder.
“She had a shoulder injury for most of the season but got back there at short for the tournaments,” Robinette said of Bias. “She’ll anchor shortstop again. Antonia Hill is a promising sophomore and played a whole lot last year at shortstop in Bias’ spot defensively. She’s really improved a lot.”
At third base, Robinette said he plans on using a platoon system, depending on who is pitching and what the situation is. Norman and Aguirre will most likely see the bulk of the action. When Hall or Neace is pitching one could play at third and the other could go to the outfield, Robinette said.
“Experience is what we have here and they can play numerous roles for us,” he added.
Sophomore Samantha Curry can also play at third base if needed.
In right field, Emily Vinson is a returning starter.
“Emily has done a real good job defensively and hits the ball real well,” Robinette said. “Every position seems to have an experienced player and that bodes real well for us.”
Another starter is back in center field as Autumn Collins is returning.
The left field starting job is open.
“The left field position seems to be the only spot that is up for grabs heading into the season,” Robinette said.
Senior newcomer Bethany Brewer is one of the candidates in left.
“She’s been a surprise and has done a real good job for us defensively and hitting the ball,” Robinette said.
Senior Faydra Martin and Hill are also in the mix.
“Hill seems to have the lead in left simply because of her experience,” Robinette said. “One of those three will open in left field. Hill is a good outfielder as well as a shortstop. Martin played year before last. Brewer hasn’t played yet for Logan.”
Also competing for outfield positions are: sophomores Jenny Adams and Ashton Holbrook; andfreshmen Hannah Kol-ovich, Ciera Conley and Kate Willis.
“All of these girls could see time in the outfield and all have done well for us. I wouldn’t hesitate to put any one of them in there,” Robinette said.
The Lady Cats have another challenging schedule this spring with home-and-home series against Class AAA preseason No. 4 Lincoln County and No. 10 Nicholas County, as well as single games against No. 6 East Fairmont and No. 10 University.
Also on the slate are home-and-homes with Class AA No. 1-ranked Chapmanville and 2A No. 4 Scott.
Logan is scheduled to meet Nicholas County a third time in the Best of the Best tourney at Buffalo, April 8-9. The Lady Cats take on East Fairmont and University as well in the tournament.
LHS is slated to play in three more tournaments — the Lady Tigers Invitational at Chapmanville, the Cabell Midland Sluggerfest and the Myrtle Beach tourney, set for April 25-29, to close out the regular season.
At Chapmanville, Logan is squared off with Riverside and Poca on April 2. At the Sluggerfest, set for April 15-16, the Lady Cats are matched up against Class AAA preseason No. 5 Parkersburg South and Spring Valley.
Robinette said Logan is scheduled to play seven games at Myrtle Beach.
“Spring Break came at a good time for us this year. We hope to have good competition at the Beach,” he said.
In addition, Logan is set to take on Class A runner-up and preseason No. 3-ranked Man in a home-and-home series.
Logan is scheduled to battle against George Washington and South Charleston again in its Class AAA sectional tourney. The Lady Cats won three straight to take the sectional crown last season, then downed Capital (7-0) and Nicholas County (6-0) in the regional to advance to the state tourney.
This year’s sectional is at GW and Logan has the first-round bye.
Last year at state, Logan opened with a 5-0 win over Jefferson, then lost 5-0 to St. Albans.
The Lady Cats rebounded with an 8-1 win over Jefferson before being eliminated by St. Albans in the finals by a 1-0 score.
It’s shaping up to be another good season for Logan softball but Robinette said his team must remain hungry and get the job done on the diamond.
“On paper, we look good but you have to transfer that to the field,” he said. “Hopefully, we can do that. I think these girls are mature enough to do that. They had a really good year in travel ball. We won several tournaments and didn’t lose many games. This is a very experienced group. We haven’t had this much experience since the last state championship teams in Triple-A 10 years ago. For the first time, we have depth. We didn’t have a whole lot of depth last year and we suffered some injuries and that hurt us. Our numbers are up to 23 people.”