The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

June 23, 2013

Heralds had a ball

Houser’s heroines part of SJ’s revitalized program

In a spring on renewed optimism and enthusiasm, the softball program at St. John High School took one of the biggest steps in terms of invigorating a program were made by coach Mike Houser’s softball squad.

The Heralds numbered by 12, but they were anything but a dirty dozen in terms of results as they put together a 9-3 season and won the Lake Effect Conference championship.

St. John’s winning percentage of .750 was the best posted by any St. John sports squad in the 2012-13 school year and was third-best in Ashtabula County this spring among softball squads, trailing only Premier Athletic Conference champion Geneva (.875) and All-American Conference champion Jefferson (.778).

  • The Heralds reached several other milestones this season:
  • The winning season was the first for the program since the 2006 squad went 10-5.
  • The .750 winning percentage was the best by a St. John softball squad since the 2004 team went 17-2 and posted a winning percentage of .895.
  • The conference championship marked the first by the Heralds in softball since the aforementioned 2004 team won the East Suburban Conference crown.

“Yes, it has been awhile since the program has had a winning season,” Houser said. “Yes, we look forward to the future and, yes, we had a lot of fun.”

“Fun” has not been an operative word much for the St. John softball squad recently. In fact, since the aforementioned 2006 team went 10-5, the Heralds won a total of six games in the next six seasons — combined.

But this spring, something clicked for the Heralds, though Houser admits things at the beginning of the season did not resemble the way they did at the end of the campaign.

“During open gyms, the players eager to get going,” he said. “When the preseason officially started, the numbers were low – (we had) only 10 players.”

The lack of numbers almost ended the St. John season before it even got off the ground.

“The St. John administration was concerned if we were able to have a team,” he said. “We had a core group of young ladies all eager to get going. Some were experienced and some not so.”

But numbers are numbers and not enough of them can throw a monkey wrench into any season at any high school.

“It still required the team to add two players to ensure we had a full roster in case of absences, injury, etc.,” Houser said.

With that in mind, the veteran of the softball wars went to extremes.

“We added two players who had never played softball before, Cassie Hannah and Christy Yuen,” Houser said. “Christy Yuen is a foreign-exchange student from Hong Kong.”

That lack of know-how did not trump the girls’ want-to, however.

“Both were eager to learn and we had about four weeks to teach them the basics,” Houser said. “And also constantly telling them, ‘I don’t know how much playing time you will get, but we have to get you ready – just in case.’”

Little did Houser know, he was a bit of a prophet.

“The ‘just in case’ came sooner than later,” he said. “Very early in the season, we found ourselves short players for one reason or another.

“Myself, and assistant coaches Jim Howell and Dennis Perry constantly reminded the girls that this season had the makings of something special. Season achievements were endless.

“And that they did.”

Houser said help bringing the extremely green blue-and-white-clad squad along came from within.

“Our senior leadership was outstanding,” he said. “Alex Ferrante and Brenna Powers, both four-year letterwinners, offered on- and off-the-field leadership.

“Being absent from the program for two years, senior Alicia Lewis provided much-needed experience that would prove very beneficial.”

Houser ran through the list of the other Herald heroines:

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