Softball season right around the corner

With down right frigid temperatures coming through the Mahoning Valley last week, it’s not an odd thing to start thinking about warmer temperatures that are only a few months away.

When I start thinking of warmer temperatures, I think of girls cheering from dugouts, the clink of a bat against a ball and green grass.

That’s right – softball season is almost here.

Though basketball tournaments are still yet to be determined, I can’t help but get excited about the upcoming softball season and what will be in store for the ladies of the diamond.

It’s arguable that softball in Trumbull and Mahoning County is the most successful sport the area produces – especially in the past 12 years. Since 2000, the area has had teams qualify to the state final four every year except 2003 and 2007. In those 12 years, the Mahoning Valley has produced five state winners in a division and five state runners-up. If that’s not a run of dominance I don’t know what is.

The likely favorite to represent the area in Akron at the state tournament this year is the Mathews Mustangs. Being the Division IV state runners up last year – and only losing one starter – they are the obvious early-season choice to go back to state.

It didn’t take long for the Mustangs to start looking ahead to the 2013 season. After losing to Convoy Crestview, center fielder Tabby Granelly already was ready to get the next year going.

“Today just wasn’t our day,” Granelly said. “But this is only the beginning of the tradition that Mathews High School is about to bring for softball. That’s the way everybody has to look at it.”

If Mathews can repeat the success of 2012, and take it a step farther, then the standard will be set for years to come. And that is something only few schools in the area have been able to do (i.e. Champion, Poland).

A good early-season test for the Mustangs will be April 18-20 when they participate in the Wendy’s Spring Classic at Brookside Park in Ashland. To say this competition is tough is an understatement.

The Mustangs will take on Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in the first round – a Division II team that was upset early in its district tournament last year, but went into postseason play as the top seed in the Jefferson district.

Whether Mathews’ wins or loses the opener, it would face either Baldwin-Woodville, which won the Division 2 title in Wisconsin last year, or North Canton Hoover, the defending Division I state champions.

Other teams in the bracket the Mustangs could see is Keystone (the defending Division II champion), Massillon Perry, Nequa Valley (Illinois), and Willoughby South.

Kudos to the Mustangs for playing the best competition there is to play. The cliche goes, to be the best you have to beat the best. And if starting a tradition at Mathews is the goal of this team, no better way to do that then make a name for themselves in Ashland – and maybe again in Akron.