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Posted: 03/26/14

Softball players working hard for another good season; just need to get outside

by RICK DESOTELL
Observer Sports Writer
      Last year the Romeo varsity softball team started just one senior and three sophomores in the infield, so even though they had an All-State pitcher returning in Taylor Weaver, no one really knew what to expect from the young, yet talented, squad.
       And when they started the season with a 7-6 record after 13 games, they didn't exactly strike fear in the MAC Red division, especially with powerhouse teams like Sterling Heights Stevenson, Utica Ford and Anchor Bay tearing it up.
       "We got off to a slow start last season for a few reasons,'' said Romeo Coach Dave McIntyre. "We were young with a lot of players in new positions which took time to iron out and we were playing very good teams. The weather, with the way our field sits low, usually puts us a little behind, too. I hate to say it but it will probably be the same this year. Our field is still covered in snow. We're suppose to open the season with a home game April 2, but it doesn't look good right now and, of course, practicing on it is out of the question, so it may take us awhile to get cranked up.''
       Romeo didn't just get warm during the end of last season, they got red hot, winning 19 of the their next 21 games to finish the regular season with a 26-8 overall record, while going 9-3 in the Red to finish in second place behind Stevenson in the division.
       With a new found confidence that was growing game by game, Romeo made a run at history once the State playoffs began.
       After winning the District title, its third in four seasons under McIntyre, Romeo then won the Regional championship in dramatic fashion to advance to the State quarterfinals.
       In the Regional semifinals against Troy, Danielle (Danni) Szajna hit a home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh on a line drive to tie the game 1-1 and Erin Barg hit a two-run walk-off homer in the ninth inning to give Romeo the victory over the Colts.
       Weaver then shut out Hartland, 3-0, on six hits to give the Lady Bulldogs the Regional championship.
       The Lady Bulldogs then beat Canton, 2-1, in the quarterfinals to advance to the school's first ever State semifinal game against Mattawan, who they lost to 3-2 to finish the year at 33-9.
       This year there will be no surprises as the Lady Bulldogs enter the season ranked as the number three team in Division I. Mattawan is the top ranked team with Bay City Western as number two.
       "Yeah, we won't be sneaking up on anybody this year,'' said McIntyre, whose record is 107-30 since taking over at Romeo. "Last year was a very special year and everyone got real close as we made our run through the playoffs. This season we have a lot of talent again and we have some playoff experience now but every team is a new one with different challenges so we'll see what happens.''
       It helps to have two-time All-State selection Taylor Weaver coming back. Weaver, who is headed to Central Michigan University after the season, enters her senior year with an impressive 71-7 overall record on the mound, but has also become a threat with the bat hitting .432 last season.
       "Taylor has worked real hard on her hitting, especially her power," said McIntyre. "She has also matured into a very good leader for us.''
       Back also is a terrific core of hitters (all of whom hit above or around .400) starting with first baseman Danielle Szajna, shortstop Kayla Noch, third baseman Erin Barg, outfielder Geordin Craun and second baseman Morgan Gardner.
       Weaver, Noch, Szajna and Gardner (who may be moving to catcher) were first team All-Macomb County a year ago. Craun and Barg made second team.
       Kimiko Hinatsu, Maria Milana, Alexis Jandreski, Madyson Collins, Kelsey and Chelsea Malburg, Breanna Olley and Madison Jones will fill out the rest of the order and see significant playing time.
       "We're not sure about catcher yet and we're still trying to figure out our batting order but it is coming together,'' said McIntyre. "Like I said, it's going to be hard to duplicate what happened last year but the coaches and players are working real hard to make this another special season; we just wish we could get outside.''
       2014 MHSAA Tournament Dates
       • Districts: May 27, May 30, or May 31
       • Regional: Saturday, June 7
       • Quarterfinals: Tuesday, June 10
       • Semifinals: Thursday & Friday, June 12-13- Secchia Stadium, East Lansing
       • Finals: Saturday, June 14- Secchia Stadium, East Lansing.
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