The Black River Pirates finished 16-12 (14-2 PAC) and second to Keystone in the conference last season in softball action.
After the Pirates defeated the perennial conference bully during the regular season, Keystone didn’t lose again until the state title game.
Despite Black River dropping its first-round playoff game to Wooster Triway, third-year coach Larry Toth thinks his squad is ready to build on positive aspects from 2016.
“The biggest thing for us is getting almost all of our key girls back,” he said. “We lost Madison Combs and that’s a big absence. We can make up for it with attitude. We’ve played well in our scrimmages so far.”
Combs is now working with the team as an assistant coach after graduating last year. She earned first team All-PAC honors as well as honorable mentions in Medina County, Lorain County, and the Northeast Ohio district.
Returning senior pitcher Hannah Barco also received All-District recognition last year and heads a returning group with fellow seniors Emily Zumak, Bailey Scheck, Kayla Gardner, and Kaina Schmoll.
Junior shortstop Grace Spencer earned an All-PAC nod and comes back to the Pirates with other underclassmen standouts such as Kaitlyn Unangst and McKenzie Hendershot.
“We’re doing very well for a small school,” said Toth. “We expect to win. I expect the league to come down to us an Keystone again this year.”
Black River opens its season Wednesday on the road at Crestview.
“Buckeye will be good too and can beat you at anytime,” the coach said. “They’re very well-coached. Columbia is also very well-coached. Things are always very competitive around here and I don’t see that changing.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.