The 2013 softball season has finally come to a close, and for several eastern Ohio teams, it was a banner year.
Three squads - Shadyside (IV), St. John Central (IV) and St. Clairsville (III) - advanced to district tournament competition in their respective divisions. One, the Irish, made it to the district finals before bowing out to eventual state champion Strasburg in New Philadelphia.
As a result, 20 players, representing 13 schools, and a trio of head coaches comprise the All-Times Leader Softball Team. Half-a-dozen of the honorees are repeaters from 2012.
THE 2013 All-Times Leader Softball team is pictured. Front row, from left, are Hannah Absalom (St. John Central); Morgan DeLuca (St. John Central); Haylee Bowers (River); Paige Gibbons (Barnesville); Ashley Hadzima (Bridgeport); Aliyah Marelli (Buckeye Local); and Megan Ging (Bellaire). Back row, from left, are Coach Joe Soos (Buckeye Local); Lauren Figura (St. Clairsville); Alli Delaney (Union Local); Katie Ellzy (Harrison Central); Lauren Swiger (Buckeye Local); Megan Heagney (Shadyside); Angelina McKeever (Shadyside); Coach Jerry Magistro (St. John Central); and Coach Rachel Duncan (St. Clairsville).
St. John Central junior Hannah Absalom serves as captain.
The team was chosen by The Times Leader Sports Department, along with input from area coaches.
Capsules on each honoree follow:
HANNAH ABSALOM - Coming off a superb sophomore season, this hard-throwing righty had a breakout campaign this spring for the Irish.
She won an Ohio Valley-best 25 games against only four losses. In those setbacks, St. John Central lost by a combined five runs. She compiled a microscopic 0.57 ERA and whiffed an astounding 338 hitters (also an OV high) in just 175 innings of work inside the circle.
Among her accomplishments are six no-hitters and a pair of perfect games.
At the plate, Absalom batted a robust .406 with 40 hits, of which 20 were doubles, which topped all valley performers. She legged out five triples and blasted one home run, that being a grand slam. She drove in 40 runs and had an on-base percentage of .544.
"Hannah meant everything in the world to our team," veteran St. John Central head coach Jerry Magistro said. "She is a coach's dream. She's a very coachable kid, and a really humble kid. She doesn't care about individual awards. That's the way she was brought up. She's happier when the team gets an award.
KRISTEN RUSSELL, St. John Central - A four-year regular at various positions during her Irish career, Russell hit .350 with 27 hits. She drove in 20 runs and scored 27.
"Kristen is one of those girls that is a very hard worker," Magistro said. "You look at her four years, every sport she played she gave it her all. She got a lot better as this season progressed. She really started hitting this year."
KAYDIE COPPA, St. John Central - Another four-year veteran for Magistro's Irish, Coppa led the team with 45 hits, 15 of which were doubles. She hit at a .400 clip as the lead-off batter, slugged four home runs and finished with 29 runs batted in. She also scored 36 runs and stole 22 bases.
Coppa was also a steady force at second base, which she manned all four years.
"Just like Kristen, Kaydie didn't want her senior season to end," Magistro allowed. "Kaydie led by example. She respected her coaches and did everything we asked of her for four years."
On top of all her offensive numbers, the slick-fielding second sacker didn't commit an error all season.
MORGAN DELUCA, St. John Central - Just a sophomore, she displayed her power with a team-best seven home runs. She cracked 41 hits, including 11 doubles and four triples. Her 43 RBI were second in the Ohio Valley and her .460 batting average ranked in the valley's Top 10 and led the Green-and-White.
A very capable backstop as well, few teams tried to steal on her shotgun right arm.
"Morgan can be one of the strongest and better hitters power-wise that I've ever coached," Magistro said. "We've had some good ones, but the key to Morgan is her health. If she can stay healthy, she has a chance to be one of the strongest hitters in the Ohio Valley."
MEGAN HEAGNEY, Shadyside - This Tigers' sophomore really came into her own this season, both inside the circle and at the plate.
On the mound she fanned 266 batters in 165 innings, while walking 51. She allowed 30 earned runs for a fine 1.27 ERA.
At the plate she led Shadyside with a .379 batting norm. She cracked a team-high five home runs and drove in a team-best 24 runs. Her 30 base hits were also a team high. She finished with 14 singles, nine doubles and two triples. Her slugging percentage was .734.
"Megan had a solid year for us all around," Shadyside head coach Jillian Ongley said. "She was not only a great pitcher, but she was a true team leader . When the game got a little crazy, Megan stayed focused and kept the team focused."
ANGELINA MCKEEVER, Shadyside - Another talented sophomore, McKeever stepped from behind the plate to fill a void at third base.
"We lost our third baseman to graduation and Angelina really stepped up where we needed her," Ongley added. "She was anxious to play third and she did a good job."
McKeever hit .328 with a home run, 24 hits and 15 runs scored.
LAUREN FIGURA, St. Clairsville - A three-year letterwinner for the Red Devils, this junior led the team in hitting with a robust .493 mark. She had a slugging percentage of .800 and she hammered five home runs. She legged out one triple, banged out six doubles and singled 25 times. She also had a team-best 31 RBI.
"Lauren shows a great amount of athletic ability in all aspects of the game," St. Clairsville head coach Rachel Duncan said. "She also has a wonderful attitude and is a consistently strong player in all regards for our team."
CARLEE GILLESPIE, St. Clairsville - Another talented junior that has lettered three seasons for Duncan and the Red Devils, she hit .359 with five doubles and 28 singles. She also knocked in 31 runs.
"Carlee was our centerfielder because of her speed and athleticism," Duncan explained. "If the ball is hit anywhere in her vicinity, she will catch it. She has amazing speed, range and a strong arm."
HAYLEE BOWERS, River - Just a sophomore, she was a second team all-Division IV shortstop after hitting .72 with three home runs and a team-leading 42 hits. Her slugging percentage was .787, while her on-base mark was .542.
"Players like Haylee don't come around often in a coach's career, but when they do they sure are a joy to coach," River head coach Dave Wright allowed. "Haylee has hard work ethics and loves to play the game. Her great family support to what she is doing in sports, not only softball, also helps her."
KATIE ELLZY, Harrison Central - This Robert Morris recruit not only excelled inside the circle during her sophomore season, but she also helped herself out at the plate.
She cracked out a school record 37 base hits while hitting a sizzling .463, which was ninth in the valley. She also drove in 31 runs, scored 24 and knocked four balls out of the park for home runs.
On the mound, she fashioned a fine 17-5 mark with an ERA of 1.66. She struck out 175 batters in 160 innings.
"Like I told everyone at our banquet, our team goes as Katie goes," Harrison Central head coach Donnie Bethel said. "That's no different than any other team with an outstanding pitcher, however.
LAUREN SWIGER, Buckeye Local - Just a sophomore, she impressed area coaches this spring so much that she was named OVAC Class 4A Co-Player of the Year.
The athletic shortstop hit .448 with 39 hits, 25 runs scored and 24 runs knocked in. She had four doubles, a triple and three home runs.
She was named first team all-OVAC Class 4A, all-Eastern District and all-Buckeye 8.
"Lauren continually puts the ball in play when she's at the plate," Buckeye Local head coach Joe Soos noted. "She was very consistent at the plate, hitting safely in 24 of the Panthers' 27 games."
ALIYAH MARELLI, Buckeye Local - The Lady Panthers' leftfielder, she turned into a power hitter for Soos this season after primarily being a slap hitter in previous seasons.
She finished with a .370 batting average that featured 30 hits. Of those, three were doubles, five were triples and three more went for home runs. She crossed the plate 25 times and drove in 16 teammates.
"Aliyah has unlimited potential," Soos allowed. "She's very quick in the outfield and turned out to be a power hitter this season as her numbers really improved.
KYLIE STALDER, Martins Ferry - A four-year veteran for head coach Paige Williams and the Lady Purple Riders, she hit .302 with 16 hits and 17 runs scored.
She was just as valuable in the field as the slick-fielding shortstop made just seven errors this season in 130 chances.
"Kylie is one of the best defensive players in the valley," Williams allowed. "She has been a four-year starter and a silent leader on our team. She was a pleasure to coach and will be hard to replace."
ADDIE SURIANO, Martins Ferry - Another four-year vet for the Purple Gang, this sparkplug hit a team-leading .485 with 35 hits and 25 runs scored. She also swiped 25 bases.
In the field, she committed a mere six errors at second base.
"Addie has been the spark for our team all four years," Williams noted. "Her quickness on the bases and ability to bunt, slap hit or hit away has made her a difficult out. She, too, was a pleasure to coach, and will be hard to replace."
Suriano was also a second team all-OVAC Class 4A selection and an all-Eastern District first-teamer. She was also selected to the 2012 All-Times Leader team.
ASHLEY HADZIMA, Bridgeport - A four-year starter for the Lady Bulldogs, she becomes a three-time member of the All-Times Leader team.
In her final season, Hadzima hit .403 with 27 hits despite playing half the campaign with an injured knee. She clubbed eight doubles, a like number of three-baggers and four roundtrippers. She knocked in 31 runs and stole 13 bases.
On the mound, she had a very deceiving 7-8 mark for the injury-riddled Bulldogs. She fanned 82 batters in 95 innings of work. Her ERA was a very respectable 1.87. She yielded 88 hits and walked just 19 batters.
"Ashley has been a stalwart pitcher for four years. Her first two years were self-taught," Bridgeport head coach Tom Joseph. "She was given the nickname 'Ironman" for all the time she spends working on her craft. She has a tireless work ethic."
MEGAN GING, Bellaire - Another four-year veteran, she broke six school records during her career as a Big Red.
In her senior season, she went 15-9 inside the circle. She struck out 129 opponents and compiled a fine 1.11 ERA. She had 62 assists and a mere two errors.
At the plate, she hit .393 with 35 hits and 28 runs scored. Seven of her hits were doubles, while six were triples. She blasted two home runs and drove in 25 runs while slugging at a .674 clip. She was a career .332 hitter.
"Megan will never be replaced at Bellaire," Big Reds' skipper Melissa Lahna allowed. "She came every day with fire and determination, and never missed smiling at a game. She brought a fun attitude on the field and was a leader by example, not only on the mound, but at bat, as well."
PAIGE GIBBONS, Barnesville - The senior proved that she was a team player when she was asked to pitch for the Shamrocks. She compiled a deceiving 11-8 mark inside the circle and had a 3.89 ERA.
At the plate, she batted .346 with four home runs.
"Paige's unselfishness to pitch as much as she did is a testament to the kind of girl she is," Barnesville head coach Matt Johnson said. "She is really a middle infielder who gave up her senior year to do what was best for the team. As a coach, you wish every player took that type of team-first mentality, no matter what the sport is."
ALLI DELANEY, Union Local - Just a freshman, Delaney stepped into the limelight due to an injury, but she didn't disappoint one bit.
The second baseman batted a whopping .455 with 35 hits. Included in those safeties were eight doubles and four triples. She drove in 19 runs.
"Alli is the most dedicated player I've ever coached," Union Local head coach Roger Herbert allowed. "She would be the first one to show up at practice, and she'd be the last one to leave."
CHELSIE ROBERTS, Monroe Central - This senior do-everything did just that this season for the Seminoles..
Primarily a shortstop, she was forced inside the circle due to injuries.
She hit .328 with 22 hits and 17 runs batted in. One of her hits was a home run.
"Chelsie was a very valuable part of our team," first-year head coach Missy Hooper said. "She had never pitched before, but she kept practicing a little just in case we needed her. She ended up pitching five games.
MADDIE STEPHEN, Beallsville - This Blue Devils' senior was a four-year mainstay for head coach Deb Street.
She was a standout infielder and one of the team's leading hitters.
RACHEL DUNCAN, St. Clairsville - Duncan led the Lady Red Devils to the first Division III District Tournament in quite some time, but, unfortunately, they lost to Steubenville Catholic Central.
JERRY MAGISTRO, St. John Central - The 2013 season was a magical one for this veteran Irish head coach. His squad not only won the OVAC Class A regular season and tournament titles, but they also claimed another sectional crown. In addition, early in the season St. John Central presented him with his 250th career victory.
JOE SOOS, Buckeye Local - Soos made it 2-for-2 with a second OVAC Class 4A tournament championship in as many seasons at the Panthers' helm.
Buckeye Local sputtered through the early part of the season, but caught fire at the right time.
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