Northwestern Press

Thursday, April 19, 2018
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZNorthwestern pitcher Emily Akelaitis returns after a 10-win season in 2017. PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZNorthwestern pitcher Emily Akelaitis returns after a 10-win season in 2017.

Tiger softball has a ‘true team’ in 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018 by ANDY STEINMETZ Special to the Press in Sports

Last season, the Northwestern softball team made its presence felt by posting a 13-9 record, including a 12-6 mark in the Colonial League. The Tigers played in the league playoffs, advancing to the semifinal round. They also participated in the district postseason.

Head coach Josh Zimmerman is looking to his returning players to continue a path of success and advance even further in 2018.

“With the return of many key players from last year’s successful team, we are hopefully poised, once again, to contend for league and district titles this year,” he said. “We want to qualify for those playoffs, and from there, we have just as much of a shot at winning it as anyone else.”

Zimmerman and his team must deal with the loss of all-state selection Brooke Wehr, who graduated last spring. Her departure leaves a big hole in the Tigers lineup. Her offensive output (.578, 32 RBI, 4 HR, 14 SB) will be difficult to duplicate and her strong defensive play will also be missed. The former Tiger is now playing at Moravian College. Zimmerman, however, is confident that his remaining players can rise to the challenge of overcoming her absence.

“In my four years as a coach, I can say without hesitation that this is the truest team I have had,” he said. “They are a group of selfless girls who genuinely celebrate each others successes.”

Zimmerman looks to Emily Akelaitis (Jr.) for a bulk of the pitching duties. Akelaitis is coming off a 10-win season a year ago. Kayla Mitman, a senior, is referred to as “the heart and soul of this team” by the coach, and has emerged as “a tremendous leader,” who hit .357 last year with two home runs. Others that will add to the experienced lineup are Anna Akelaitis (So., C), Ashley Sisco (Jr., 1B), Cassidy Lentz (Sr., P/LF), Natalie Smith (Sr., OF/2B), and McKayla Wildrick (Sr., 2B/DP). The team has two freshmen in Molly Mitman, who looks to be comfortable in center, and Sam Sisco, whose soft hands and quick first step may land her the starting job at shortstop.

Whether or not this group can repeat or build on last year’s success will be determined over the next several weeks. But there’s no question this group expects to enjoy the season and leave everything on the field each game.

“It is tough to take yourself too seriously with this group,” Zimmerman said. “And I’m OK with that, as long as they know when it’s time to get down to business. So far, this group has a knack of being able to do that. I think it’s just a matter of getting some of these young kids the experience at the varsity level, which should come quickly to them and shouldn’t be an issue.”