The 2013 girls' softball season was like night and day for Bellaire.
The Big Reds took the early portion of the season by storm, winning their first 10 outings. However, they finished a disappointing 17-9 after a loss in the Division III sectional tournament.
Along the way Bellaire qualified for the OVAC Class 3A playoffs for the first time since winning the title in 2003, ending up as the No. 2 seed. It also advanced to the championship game with a thrilling, 6-5, decision over Shenandoah in eight innings, but dropped a tough, 1-0, nod to undefeated and top-seeded Fort Frye.
PICTURED ARE the key returnees for the Bellaire softball team. Front row, from left, are Mary Garloch and Morgan Runyan. Back row, from left, are Elisha Gillespie, Dallas Messenger, Mackenzie Conroy, Daphne Clark and Katie Zeller.
Gone from that talented squad are standouts Megan Ging and Taylar Canter. Ging was an all-state performer last season. Canter was all-district.
"Reflecting back on last year's season, the Lady Reds were paced by two solid graduates, Megan Ging and Taylar Canter. As a coach you can replace leaders like them, I can only hope that their leadership and dedication along with fire is embedded in this year's team," veteran head coach Melissa Lahna noted. "Taylar may have been one of the most fluent fielders I have had the privilige of coaching. She was scrappy on defense and always clutch when we needed a hit. She played solid for her entire career for us and would do absolutely anything to make each member of her team better.
"Megan may have been the best fielding pitcher I have ever seen. She had unbelievably quick hands and footwork and was in every play," Lahna added. "She was not only a great fielder, but one of the very best pitchers to command the mound for us. She was one of the most natural hitters, I have had the opportunity to coach and watch play the game. Megan will be missed for her athletic softball skill but will never be replaced or forgotten for the fire she brought to the game."
However, the cupboard isn't entirely bare as half-a-dozen players return for another season. Leading that group are senior Mackenzie Conroy (OF) and junior Dallas Messenger (C), both of whom were all-district selections a season ago. Messenger was also all-Buckeye 8.
Other returnees include juniors Daphne Clark (P/1B), Elisha Gillespie (3B/SS); and sophomores Mary Garloch (3B/OF) and Morgan Runyan (2B).
The roster is completed by junior Katie Zeller (UT); and freshmen Abby Cusick (SS/OF), Marissa Dippel (OF), Kelsey Jarvis (1B/OF/C) and Sarah McAninch (P/1B/OF).
"As I watch practice unfold daily and the work being put in from this years team, I am very excited to get the season started," Lahna noted. "Again with only one senior we will be young, which is never a bad thing in this sport. Mackenzie has commanded the leadership role and is pushing her team to strive for more this year.
"These girls have gotten a taste of the OVAC championship atmosphere and a season that was full of records and wins that they want to beat those for this year," she continued. "We are a small group, but very close and work as a team pushing each other daily. The girls are determined to win and stay as one throughout the entire season. I have never witnessed a team that brings the game every day to practice and pushes each other one more time or one more swing. They are very competitive and demand so much of one another at practice.
"This team has a hunger and so much heart it is pretty awesome to be apart of daily. This year a lot of players will be popping up in new positions and thrive on the challenge," she said. "We have so many athletes that can play more than one position and be very successful in each one, which makes us a threat not only defensively but offense as well. Our attitudes are compettive , positive and these girls will not settle until they attain the goals they have set for the season.
"I am extremely eager to get them suited up and back in the dirt," she noted. "You can witness good things happening in practice which will only mean success on the diamond."
As far as strengths and weaknesses, Lahna replied, "Our strengths and weaknesses are entwined together because we are humble, but have a lot of swag. Therefore, it will be fun to watch how the players balance humble swag all year. We are definely ready to get the Lady Red uniform on and command our home diamond. I am looking for great success out of these girls and there is not a doubt in my mind that they will not only step up to the demands but be over achievers."
Lahna, who is beginning her 14th season, is assisted by Linda Cihy, George Kaldor and Chuck Canter.
March 29 - Beallsville (DH), 1 p.m.; April 2 - at Frontier; April 4 - at Shenandoah (DH), 4 p.m.; April 5 - Linsly (DH), noon; April 7 - Union Local; April 8 - Bridgeport; April 10 - Barnesville; April 12 - at Monroe Central (DH), 12 p.m.; April 14 - at St. Clairsville; April 19 - at Caldwell (DH), Noon; April 21 - at Buckeye; April 23 - at Barnesville; April 26 - at Oak Glen (DH), 3 p.m.; April 29 - Martins Ferry; April 29-30 - OVAC Semifinals; May 1 - Indian Creek; May 3 - OVAC Finals; May 5 - at Harrison Central; May 6 - Edison; May 8 - at Bridgeport; May 9 - St. John