There was little doubt that this season would be one of rebuilding for the Boardman softball team.
Very few pundits had the Lady Spartans finishing much higher than the middle of the pack in the Federal League or advancing too far in the state tournament.
Well, Boardman concluded its season last weekend and did end the year with a slightly better than average 15-13 record. A 6-4 loss to Warren Harding in the Division I district final, however, left Boardman's bench boss yearning for more.
"We didn't go as far as we hoped," said head coach Mike Trell a few days after that district defeat. "We thought we could at least win the district, but that's the way it goes."
The way it went in Warren on May 15 may not have been exactly as most people scripted. Harding already had 20 wins and was the number four seed so it was expected to bump off Boardman rather easily. Making things tougher on the Spartans was that stalwart starting pitcher Alexis Stano was standing in the middle of the pitching circle for Harding. Stano was sailing along early until the Spartans started to show life in the top of the third. Melissa Maiorano mashed a two-run double and later scored on a Courtney Cina single to put the Spartans ahead 3-1. Unfortunately, that lead would not stand up for the Lady Spartans as the Lady Raiders rose up for four runs in the bottom half of that inning. Boardman tried to catch up a couple of innings later when Maiorano tripled and Cina again brought her in, but another tally by the Raiders in the home half of the fifth put the game away. Although Boardman battled bravely against the higher-ranked Raiders, the opportunities it left unfulfilled all game troubled Trell.
"We outhit Harding," said the coach sounding frustrated. "We got runners into scoring position, but made some bad decisions on the bases. We had three runners thrown out at the plate. That may happen one or two times, but (when it happens) three times you just shake your head."
Coach Trell wasn't shaking his head, but instead was nodding his head in approval when his girls took on Howland in the district semifinal on May 14. Boardman bounced Howland from the playoffs with a 9-6 triumph. Once again the Spartans secured 13 hits and this time that was enough to fend off their opponent. Caitlin Cina broke a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the fifth with a triple that scored Sabrina Marshall. Casey Johnson then jacked a two-run homer the next inning to put the Spartans up for good 8-5. Starting pitcher Kristin Huck hurled 31 pitches at Howland in the first frame when the visitors scored three runs then settled down and only made 48 pitches the rest of the way. Huck held Howland scoreless in innings four, five and six en route to the complete game win. Trell was in a much more terrific mood when discussing the happenings versus Howland than he was talking about the Harding loss.
"Playing Howland is always a tough time," Trell said. "It was rewarding that we won it."
It was also rewarding when Trell's team beat Canton GlenOak and Canton McKinley last Thursday and Friday respectively. Those two games put a cap on both the Federal League and regular season schedule for the Spartans. The pair of wins also allowed Boardman to climb over the .500 mark in the conference and send its seven seniors out on a happy note.
"(Winning the last two league games) was great for this class of seniors," Trell said proudly. "They will all be a big loss. Every kid will be hard to replace."
Indeed, making up for the departures of both Cina girls, Johnson, Marshall, Marina Damato and Jaclyn and Megan Jones will be a difficult task for Trell in 2014. Maiorano will be one of the seniors who will be banked on heavily by Boardman next year as will Huck from the hill who will still only be a junior. The Boardman community is also notorious for pushing potential star athletes through the youth ranks so the Spartans should be stocked well into the future.