Middletown’s Carly Metcalf sends a pitch toward her catcher, Katie Pearson, and Hamilton’s Mya Halcomb (23) during an April 30, 2018, game at HHS. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Prep softball preview: Ace hurler boosting confidence for Middletown

MIDDLETOWN — Middletown High School softball coach Tyler Callahan doesn’t apologize for his excitement when he thinks about the 2019 season.

The Middies return a bevy of players from last season’s Division I sectional runner-up squad, and Callahan said his team has set its sights high for this spring.

“The sky’s the limit,” Callahan said. “We have all the pieces. We want to win the sectional, advance to districts and beyond. The time is now for this program.”

Junior Carly Metcalf, who is verbally committed to the University of Akron, is one big reason why the Middies are optimistic.

The reigning Greater Miami Conference Pitcher of the Year, Metcalf won 13 games last year with 309 strikeouts, and Callahan said she will be stronger this year.

“She is bigger, stronger, faster,” Callahan said. “(Metcalf) works extremely hard. She is stronger, she is smarter, and she is hitting her spots well. According to her, she is going to have a big year.”

Middletown went 14-15 last year, taking a 2-0, 11-inning loss to Springboro in the tournament. The Purple-and-White haven’t had a winning season since 2007, but Callahan expects that streak to end soon.

“If we can limit our mistakes and get timely hitting, we will be good,” he said. “We have a lot of experience for a young team, and they are hungry.”

The infield is set with junior Arianna Layne at shortstop, senior Kaytlin Goodwin at second base, sophomore Paige Patterson at third and junior Kylie Dingledine at first.

Layne was a second-team GMC selection a year ago, Goodwin is a transfer from Miamisburg, while Patterson and Dingledine both started last year.

“(Layne) is our emotional leader,” Callahan said. “She leads off and sets the tone. I really believe she is as good a hitter as anyone in our league.”

Callahan said Goodwin, Patterson and Dingledine can all hit for power, and he said one key is sophomore catcher Katie Pearson.

“(Pearson) and (Metcalf) work well together,” Callahan said. “I don’t have to worry about my pitcher/catcher combination.”

Another transfer — senior Leah Fugate from Monroe — will roam the outfield, along with sophomores Bryanna Mize and Trinity Icaza.

“Our outfield looks pretty good,” Callahan said. “One of the areas we wanted to address was the outfield, and I think we have done that. (Fugate) will be a big addition.”

Callahan said the Middies are a more confident team after a solid offseason weight-lifting program.

Callahan said the No. 1 area the coaches wanted to fix was offseason conditioning. He said the team’s work with Middletown strength and conditioning coach Nick Stephens has shown great results.

“The girls have done a great job buying into the offseason program,” Callahan said. “I am seeing a more positive, and stronger, group.“

As always, the GMC is going to be tough, according to Callahan, but he expects the Middies to be in the mix in the top half of the league.

“The GMC, in my opinion, is the best conference in the state,” Callahan said. “All 10 teams have great players and great coaches. It is a grind every day and nobody wants to play a GMC team in the postseason.”

Rounding out the Middies’ roster are junior Miranda Greene, sophomore Breanda Fuller, senior Alley Roberts, junior Jada Patton-Frazier and senior Taylor Jones.

Middletown opens the season at home against Princeton on Tuesday.