Prep softball: New coach, but success continues for SWOC-leading Ross

The Pat Spurlock era of Ross High School softball is off to a fine start.

The Rams are on top of the Southwest Ohio Conference standings after Friday’s 5-1 victory over visiting Little Miami, a win that boosted their record to 12-1 overall and 6-1 in the SWOC.

“I’m just having tons of fun,” said Spurlock, who came to RHS from Indian Hill and is a former assistant at Cedarville University. “We’re trying to figure all this Ramball stuff out and adding our own flair to it.

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“It’s been very intense. There’s a lot of tradition here. All you’ve got to do is walk upstairs and see the room (in the press box). Everybody knows Ramball. We’re just trying to establish our own identity within the same program.”

Ross has a veteran pitcher in senior Kenzie Meyer and multiple experienced position players back this year.

Senior first baseman Haley Grau, senior outfielder Maddy Foster, sophomore third baseman Emily Poling, junior catcher Whitley Arno, junior outfielder Adrienne Gleason and Meyer all had at least 40 official at-bats in 2017. Junior shortstop Kaitlyn Justice was a key player as a freshman, but missed last year because of an injury.

“Solid pitching and solid power hitting,” Spurlock said. “But if we’ve got to small ball, we can definitely do that too.”

Poling had two hits and two RBIs, Grau and Meyer collected two hits and an RBI apiece, Justice and Alexia Ploehs both marked two hits, and Arno plated a run against Little Miami.

The Rams outhit the Panthers 12-4. Meyer struck out five and walked two.

“It was a great game,” Grau said. “The team was pumped. We were in it. We were ready to play probably since we woke up this morning.”

Losing pitcher Casey Kemp singled and scored an unearned run on a passed ball in the fourth inning to give Little Miami a brief lead. Ross came up with all of its runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, stranding nine runners along the way.

“We have a really great lineup this year,” Grau said. “We’re hitters. We’re going to hit every day.”

It’s a little crowded at the top of the SWOC right now. The Rams lead the Panthers (9-3, 7-2) by percentage points, and Harrison is 5-1 and has wins over both teams.

Ross will travel to Little Miami on Monday, then host Harrison on Tuesday.

“Monday and Tuesday are going to be fun,” said Spurlock, noting that an emphasis on weightlifting has paid off for the Rams this spring. “We’ve got a lot of strong talent here. It’s just a matter of getting them to stay within themselves.

“We’re doing something they haven’t done a lot in the past. We’re transferring a lot of kids back and forth between the JV and varsity so nobody gets too pine-happy up here. Everybody’s playing a little bit, and we can see the depth we have down below. We have a lot of speed on the JV team. We can definitely use that late in the season.”

He is the pitching coach for Ross and said Meyer has been consistently strong this season.

“We’ve made a couple little adjustments, and she’s really bought in. She’s hitting all spots,” Spurlock said. “We’re a little light overall in pitching this year, but we’ve got a bunch coming up from junior high next year.”

Little Miami didn’t have a great day Friday, but Panthers coach Mary Von Bargen said her squad is quite capable of turning the tables Monday.

“It was a tough loss for the girls,” Von Bargen said. “We didn’t hit like we usually do, but they’ve got a good pitcher. We’ve got a good pitcher too, but they got to ours a couple more times than we got to theirs, so we’ll do it again Monday.

“The one thing about our team is they’re resilient. We lost to Harrison 10-7, then we came out on their field and won 6-5 in the last inning. They’re that way. They don’t let things get to them.”

Little Miami is off this weekend because of prom. Ross will be at home for two games Saturday, facing unbeaten Taylor at 10 a.m. and 2017 Division IV state champion Williamsburg at 2 p.m.

Little Miami 000-100-0—1-4-2

Ross 000-221-x—5-12-1

WP — Kenzie Meyer (12-1); LP — Casey Kemp (3-2). Records: L 9-3, 7-2 SWOC; R 12-1, 6-1 SWOC

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