By Chris Chaney
One step further.
That’s what Clermont Northeastern softball coach Bill Goldfuss has been preaching since the end of last May when the Lady Rockets’ bid to reach the Final Four of the state tournament came to the end at the hands of Southern Buckeye Conference foe Felicity-Franklin.
One step further hasn’t been a bad mantra for the Lady Rockets. The team has managed to do just that for the past three seasons, leading them to the cusp of a state title. In 2010, CNE reached the sectional final; in 2011, the district final and in 2012 they ended their season in the regional final.
“Our expectations are the same every year,” Goldfuss said. “We want to win the league, we want to win sectionals and districts and get back to regionals and try to improve upon where we finished off last year and get to state.”
State is a lofty goal, but it has become the only option for a team that once boasted a plethora of young talent that has now aged into senior experience.
“Obviously, our pitching and defense are key, but offensively (Emily) Anderson, our pitcher, our catcher (Allison) Gilkerson, first baseman (McKena) Miller, our shortstop Chelsae Osborn and second baseman Rae Reynolds are our best offensive players for the most part,” Goldfuss said. “We’re expecting each one of them to improve and get better with another year under their belt. With four of them being seniors, hopefully that will help, also.”
A clear favorite in the SBC year in and year out, the Lady Rockets have set the watermark in the American Division, but will switch to the National Division of the conference with the inclusion of Norwood on the American side.
“With us switching over, normally (the biggest challenge) would be Western Brown, but we only play them once now and it’s not a league game,” Goldfuss explained. “On our side, Blanchester has quite a few people back, they’ll probably be decent. Batavia’s usually pretty well coached, but other than that it’s hard to say. Switching (divisions), we’re used to playing the other side twice and now we’re playing teams that a couple we didn’t even play last year, so it’ll be a new thing.
“Western Brown will be the team to beat on their side and hopefully, we’ll be the team to beat on our side.”
It would be hard to pick against the Lady Rockets, especially with an ace like Emily Anderson in the circle. The senior is a three-time Player of the Year in the American Division and she posted 320 strikeouts, 18 shutouts and a 0.43 earned run average during her junior year.
Simply the brightest star on a team full of them, Anderson will have a solid defense behind her and an explosive offense to alleviate any mistakes.
McKena Miller has been a First Team All-SBC selection every year at CNE, as has Chelsae Osborn. Allison Gilkerson, a sophomore, was named to the First Team last year as well. Carly Aselage was named to the All-Star team as well last year.
The veteran leadership of the Lady Rockets should work to their advantage as many other teams around the area will have a difficult time adjusting to playing with one another due to poor weather conditions that force teams to practice indoors.
“It’s been a rough four weeks so far and we’re starting week five this week,” Goldfuss said. “We’re back in the gym again. We were on the field last Friday and Saturday for the fifth time all year, so it’s been rough.
“The only good thing is that we have eight starters back, seven seniors, so we’re an experienced group. With a lot of positions already set, we’re not having to worry about who’s going to play where and who’s going to do what. But the idea of not being able to get out on the field and work on special plays makes working in the gym redundant.”
Goldfuss and Lady Rocket fans are banking on that experience and leadership to be the difference in the early season as the weather perks up and teams begin to get acclimated with each other.
Still, the goal remains the same: one step further. The Lady Rockets want to play deep into the warmer weather. Specifically, June 8. In the state championship.