Lakota West celebrates after defeating Lakota East in the state tournament last season. The Firebirds were the only softball team to defeat Lakota East in 2011, winning twice in the regular season and again in the state quarterfinals. Photo taken by Joseph Fuqua II.
Lakota East and Lakota West featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Division I softball preview
Mark Schmetzer reports
Lakota East’s march to last season’s Division I state tournament was memorably stopped short by Lakota West in the regional finals.
There’s a good chance those two schools will play major roles in this season’s tournament – or, if not those two, another area team, according to Lakota East coach Steve Castner.
“I believe the area will hold its own, as it has for years,” he said.
Castner’s Thunderhawks, who finished the regular season as champions of both the Associated Press state poll and The Enquirer area coaches’ poll, have three first-team all-Greater Miami Conference performers returning in junior Lea Buckenmyer and two seniors, right fielder Ainsley Ellison and shortstop Alyssa Grevenkamp.
Lakota East was the favorite to win the state title last season, but was ousted 1-0 in the state quarterfinals by rival Lakota West May 28, 2011. Photo taken by Joseph Fuqua II.
Buckenmyer will move from first base to take over for Sara Pearson, last year’s Enquirer Player of the Year. Buckenmyer was 5-0 with a 1.31 earned-run average in 10 games last season.
The Firebirds, who lost in the state semifinals, have experience in senior third baseman Amanda Lahti, who hit .440 while being named first-team all-GMC last season, and senior catcher Jessica Burke.
Fairfield, which tied Lakota West for second in the GMC, returns six starters, led by senior third baseman Kelly Browning, a two-time, first-team all-GMC selection.
Mason also will be counting on seniors, according to coach Liann Muff. Pitcher Sarah Browning was named first-team all-GMC last season while catcher Margo Hutchinson, shortstop Jill Richardson and third baseman Claire Wehby were second-team picks.
Glen Este, the third local team to reach last season’s regional tournament, lost all-state pitcher Kelly Benhase, but coach Tim Gregory expects sophomore right-hander Bailey Miller and freshman left-hander Brook Parker to capably plug the hole for the youthful Trojans.
Mercy, which won the Girls Greater Cincinnati League Scarlet Division championship and reached the Division II regional finals last season, has eight returning starters, including pitchers Amy Feie and Anna Eggleston, to help a weather move up to Division I.
“We have great potential, experienced leaders and team motivation,” coach Stefanie Kathman said.
The Bobcats will be challenged by McAuley, which finished second in the Scarlet behind second baseman Rachel Oakley, who hit .513.
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