Lake Center Christian softball notches small victories

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

HARTVILLE – With the 2021 season now complete, the Lake Center Christian softball team can say that it was able to do something that not every squad in the area or state was able to do – play a full 24-game schedule.

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season and had widespread impact on sports, education and society over the past year-plus, merely getting back on the field was a win. That the Tigers completed their schedule was another plus as a team with a three-person senior class who were sophomores the last time they competed is another success story and third-year head coach Howard Wright appreciates what his team gained on the diamond this spring.

"We played three more games (after they were eliminated from the sectional tournament) and we were counting our blessings ... the weather was fantastic and Lake Center Christian did not have any rainouts on our schedule," Wright said. "With COVID, we had three schools that were paused because of it, but we were able to either reschedule those games or schedule other teams."

The Tigers posted a 4-20 record that included several close losses and four games against Mogadore, which reached the district final and was one of the area's better small-school teams again this season.

Wright pointed to several close losses as points where LCC played well against quality opponents and ultimately lost close games, showing plenty of fight even in defeat. One-run losses to Southeast and Garrettsville in Portage Trail Conference games, as well as a non-league loss to Division I for Canton McKinley, all proved to be moments when the Tigers stayed in difficult games and gave themselves an opportunity to win.

"We had a couple heartbreaker games, one against Southeast where we lost 11-10 in extra innings, and another where battled Garfield to a 4-3 loss, but those were games where we shined and played well, and then with McKinley, we lost in extra innings and they're a Division I team," Wright said.

Senior Hannah Mang led the offense with a .427 batting average, 21 runs batted in, 24 runs scored and 32 hits. She had help from sophomore Faith Pavkov, who had a .394 batting average and 10 runs scored, and junior Nicole Miller, who contributed 20 runs scored and batted .365 for the season.

On the mound, Pavkov and fellow sophomore Jamye Barber were accurate in the strike zone, walking a combined 12 batters while striking out 52 – 28 for Barber, 24 for Pavkov.

"I actually led the team in walks because of intentional walks we issued," Wright noted with a chuckle. "It was awesome just to be able to get back to work in February and the girls were excited. For a small program like ours, it really hurt not having a season last year and it stunted the growth a little bit. We have 78 girls in  our high school and 15 of them are on the softball team."

One plus from having last season canceled by the pandemic is that there were no seniors set to be on the roster in 2020, so there weren't any players who missed out on their senior season. With just three seniors this season, it also means that 80 percent of the roster could return next season and build on the lessons learned this spring.

LCC will look to take the lessons learned and the renewed appreciation for the chance to play softball and use them to launch a successful offseason that sets them up for success next year. If the past year has taught any one lesson above the rest, it's to not take the chance to lace up the cleats for granted.