McDonald hopes two beats one in softball tournament

During tournament season, whether it’s baseball or softball, the best way for a team to make a deep postseason run is to have great pitching. In particular, there’s the old adage that “two is better than one.”

For the 2016 McDonald Blue Devils softball team, that approach has carried them to an outright ITCL Blue Division title thus far, and they hope, much more.

The two talented arms in question, junior three-year letterman ace Cheyenne Titus, and two-year letterman sophomore Rachel Ward have formed a powerful duo that has combined for a 13-2-1 overall record, and a perfect 10-0 in the ITCL.

“Cheyenne has been pitching since her freshman year, and she really carried the load early on,” third-year McDonald coach Tom Senich said. “It’s been real nice this year with Rachel coming in, it has really helped.”

Providing an even bigger boost to the Blue Devil pitching staff is the presence of a four-year letterman catcher in Keri Montella, one of two, four-year letterwinners.

“She does a good job of keeping everything in front of her. She’s made a lot of improvement this year, from throwing out more runners to improving at the plate,” Senich said.

At the plate, Ward leads the charge as a power-hitting third baseman in a potent offensive attack.

“I’m really fortunate to have basically three clean-up hitters in a row with (Kendra) Kelly, Ward, and Kerrigan McDermott,” Senich said.

McDermott, the other four-year letterman on the team, plays first base and is joined by a talented middle infield, featuring sophomore second baseman Hannah Donkers and senior shortstop Olivia Sanson, the squad’s leadoff hitter.

A speedy outfield features the likes of centerfielder Kelly, plus, senior Hannah Jones in right, and a pair of freshmen, Sierra Schrader and Katie Donkers, platooning in left. What really stands out about Kelly and Sanson, however, is their leadership.

“Sanson and Kelly feed off of each other. They’re both very vocal, they’re kinda the loud ones, they like to have fun,” Senich said. “But, they go out there and they play hard every single game.”

Senich believes it’s the middle of their infield that is the strongest part of the McDonald defense.

“We’re really strong up the middle. Sanson is a great shortstop with a tremendous arm, and she’s as fast as any player.”

After an 8-8 season in Senich’s first year, McDonald went 15-5 a season ago, losing to Windham in a Division IV district semifinal.

“This is actually my first softball coaching job. I was a football and baseball coach at Campbell, and then I got the opportunity to be an assistant baseball coach at McDonald,” he said.

“But then, the softball head coaching opportunity came up and it just seemed like a good fit.”

After a slow start to the season, which included an opening loss against United Local, a tie in the third game with Springfield Local, and later, a loss to Crestview, things began to click.

“Playing all these teams, including beating Western Reserve twice, was a big confidence booster for us,” Senich said. “It gave us the confidence that we could go in and compete against anybody … we’ve been developing.”

As for a district title run, the selection committee was none-too-forgiving, as the Blue Devils will play in the Warren (Candlelite Knolls) District against the likes of Mathews, Fairport Harding, and yes, Windham. “We’re gonna come in and try to compete for the district championship, but it will be tough with Windham and Mathews,” Senich said.

“But we’re just worried about us and what we can do to get better.”

As for what the Blue Devils have done to get better this season, Senich said, “I’d say our overall consistency and maturity. What I mean by that is, we’re an older team now and we’ve physically gotten stronger and faster than we’ve been.”

While hitters like Ward provide a power boost, Senich says that the offense has varied from game-to-game this season.

“I normally kind of like to hit, but it depends on certain situations. I usually don’t ask them to bunt, but I leave that up to them.”

As for what distinguishes the two pitchers, Titus (7-1-1) has “real good movement and great command of the strike zone. She walks very few and she’s a good strikeout pitcher,” according to her coach. Ward (6-1), meanwhile, “is a little bit of a different pitcher. She has straight-line power, but she also has good off-speed stuff.”

The Blue Devils hope that a talented offense, coupled with their two outstanding pitchers, can help navigate them through a tough district. After all, if the old adage is right in this case, two is really better than one.