Emily Poling of Ross bunts the ball during a softball game against Badin on April 27, 2017, at Joyce Park in Hamilton. Badin won 6-2. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Prep softball preview: Promising young talent gives Ross a big boost

ROSS TWP. — Pat Spurlock is OK with mixing a lot of youth and a lot of talent this season.

Spurlock, starting his second year at the Ross High School softball helm, said his Rams can be very good in 2019 while setting up a strong run for the near future.

“The next four years are going to be really exciting,” Spurlock said. “The freshman and sophomore classes are exciting. The eighth-grade class coming up is exciting. So things are going to be building nicely. And we’re hoping everything goes in the right way this year.”

PREP SOFTBALL SEASON PREVIEWS

» Badin Rams

» Carlisle Indians

» Cincinnati Christian Cougars

» Edgewood Cougars

» Fairfield Indians

» Fenwick Falcons

» Franklin Wildcats

» Hamilton Big Blue

» Lakota East Thunderhawks

» Lakota West Firebirds

» Lebanon Warriors

» Madison Mohawks

» Middletown Middies

» Middletown Christian Eagles

» Monroe Hornets

» New Miami Vikings

» Talawanda Brave

Ross — 20-5 last spring while finishing as the Southwest Ohio Conference and Division II district runner-up — has a solid nucleus back in 2019 and kicked off the campaign last Saturday with 16-2 and 19-4 wins over Clermont Northeastern.

Spurlock said his only concern is the Rams’ pitching. Not because Ross doesn’t have some quality arms, but because it’s a brand-new situation now that four-year hurler Kenzie Meyer has graduated.

“I don’t want to call it a rebuild,” Spurlock said. “But whenever you’re learning on the mound, you’ve just got to play through some things.”

Sophomore Madison Minges and freshman Samantha Iannarino lead the way in the circle. Freshman Emilie Toney is in the mix as well, and freshman Savannah Smith threw an inning in the opening doubleheader.

Spurlock said Minges, who didn’t play against CNE because of show-choir obligations, is a very hard thrower. He said Iannarino has a live arm as well, but may be better at changing speeds.

“I think Samantha and Madison are very capable of being the No. 1 and No. 2,” Spurlock said. “We’re just going to have to play it by ear as far as who’s No. 1. There may be a rotation. We’ll see.”

In terms of position players, the Rams will once again have a lot of speed. They expect to battle defending champion Harrison and Little Miami in the SWOC title race.

PREP BASEBALL SEASON PREVIEWS

» Badin Rams

» Carlisle Indians

» Cincinnati Christian Cougars

» Edgewood Cougars

» Fairfield Indians

» Fenwick Falcons

» Franklin Wildcats

» Hamilton Big Blue

» Lakota East Thunderhawks

» Lakota West Firebirds

» Lebanon Warriors

» Madison Mohawks

» Middletown Middies

» Middletown Christian Eagles

» Monroe Hornets

» New Miami Vikings

» Ross Rams

» Talawanda Brave

Senior shortstop Kaitlyn Justice, who’s committed to Mount St. Joseph, and senior catcher Whitley Arno are back, as are junior third baseman Emily Poling, sophomore second baseman Ashley Shelton and sophomore center fielder Alexia Ploehs.

Justice hit .407 with 29 RBIs last season, and Shelton (.372, 22 RBIs, 18 steals), Arno (.354, 22 RBIs), Poling (.350, 13 RBIs) and Ploehs (.306, 11 RBIs) were offensive standouts as well. Against CNE, Shelton was 8-for-9 with four doubles and Arno drove in nine runs.

There’s been plenty of competition for corner outfield time between sophomore Alexis Dillingham, senior Adrianne Gleason and Toney. First base is a battle between sophomores Bailee Gunnell and Mackenzie May, along with freshman Ava Bell.

“We’re freshman and sophomore heavy,” Spurlock said. “I think we’re going to be very good defensively, and hitting should be a strength. The lineup’s got some pop to it, but with our team speed, it’ll be short game to long game, definitely somewhere in between.”

Ross will host Tecumseh for a 3 p.m. doubleheader Tuesday.

Ross High School softball coach Pat Spurlock
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