WEST CHESTER TWP. — Lakota West High School softball coach Keith Castner said the philosophy doesn’t change from year to year for the Firebirds.
“At West, we work to get ready for the tournament,” Castner said. “I didn’t know what we could do last year and I don’t this year. We build all we do around getting better so we can peak at tourney time.”
West followed that philosophy last year, parlaying a second-place finish in the Greater Miami Conference into a hot tourney run capped off by a Division I state runner-up finish.
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Gone are GMC Player of the Year Allie Cummins, star pitcher Stephanie Maldonado and all-conference performer Lauren Betz, but West returns a bevy of players who Castner thinks will keep the Firebirds competing for championships and more.
“We have some good ones returning and some good ones coming up,” Castner said. “It is hard to replace players like (Cummins), but we have some talent and they are battling for open positions.”
Senior third baseman Alyssa Triner was a first-team GMC honoree last year. Triner hit six home runs, and Castner said she is capable of hitting more.
A trio of second-team GMC players will help as well. Senior Casey Bramble will play either left or center field, while senior Cameron Wesley and junior Taylor Williams will hold down infield spots.
While Maldonado and her 21 wins are gone, Castner said Jenna Harris and freshman K.K. Mathis will be fine in the circle. Harris, a senior, won five games a year ago.
West has a couple of players vying for catcher, sophomore Hallie Gyarmati and freshman Kendall Forren.
“(Gyarmati) and (Forren) have both done a good job so far,” Castner said. “That position battle, as will some others, will be a dogfight.”
West hasn’t won the GMC since 2012, but Castner said that isn’t the goal as much as preparing for a long tournament run.
“The GMC is awesome,” Castner said. “Day in and day out, you just get tested. With Mason, East, Oak Hills, our league is just so tough. You don’t just challenge league teams for the league championship. You compete against these same teams for districts, regionals, state.”
Castner said it all came together at the right time last year for West, and he said this team has the same potential.
“Offense, defense, base running, pitching … it all just came together,” Castner said. “If we can play defense, cut down on our errors and get timely hitting, we will be OK. I just hope it all comes together again come tourney time.”
West opens the season March 25, hosting Princeton.