By Chris Chaney
Like clockwork, spring in Southwest Ohio guarantees a few things: greener grass, more full-bodied trees and a Felicity-Franklin softball team with their sights set squarely on making a run towards a state title.
This spring has proven to be no different as head coach Rob Wear has another stellar team of Lady Cardinals in the driver’s seat of the Southern Buckeye Conference’s National Division and as the No. 1 seed in the Division IV sectional tournament. Even if he’s hesitant to say so himself, Wear has brought a winning tradition to Felicity that few in the district can duplicate.
“It’s hard for me to blow my own horn, but I’m competitive,” the coach intimated. “I’ve been doing the softball since 2000. I’ve been to numerous camps. I stay really positive with the girls. I try to talk them into setting a goal and reaching that goal. I push them; I bend them, but I don’t break them. I just try to be a light at the end of the tunnel for them.”
That light becomes brighter for the young women who take the field under Wear’s tutelage. And perhaps there is no greater example of the type of respect he garners than in the pitching circle where junior Sandy Woodmansee now reigns supreme. Woodmansee is one of the top pitchers in the district, if not the state, but entering high school, she had to find a new position while Montana Wear finished out her senior season.
“Sandy could have pitched her freshman year for any high school in the country, but she elected to let Montana to go ahead and keep the reigns because Montana had a chance to break so many state records,” Wear explained. “Along with that, Sandy pitched every day, but no body knew Sandy because she was playing right field.
“She had a good fastball and could hit her spots, but we taught her a cut ball, a curve, a rise, a good change and she bought what I was selling. She does extremely well now.”
Woodmansee has thrown in all 13 of the Lady Cardinals games, totaled 87.0 innings, struck out 125 batters and kept her earned run average south of 1.00, currently sitting at 0.80. The junior pitcher hits well, too. With a .533 average and 10 RBI and 13 runs scored, she usually does enough by herself to win games, but Felicity has a full compliment of offensive and defensive studs aside from Woodmansee that make the Lady Cardinals such a tough opponent.
The team’s lone senior — Toni Rodriguez — is out for the year with a broken leg, but the experienced, yet young team still has a chemistry that is better than most.
“Our future is bright,” Wear said. “The girls all bond together. We stress that when they’re on the field that they’re family and they should treat each other like family.”
The Lady Cardinals infield is held up by returning starters Brittany Drake, Makayla Jacobs and Allie Rodriguez, all of whom band around first-year starter Lauren Mitchell at third base. Kaitlyn Clark, the third baseman last year for Felicity, has moved to the outfield and become the leader of that unit.
Drake, Clark, Jacobs, Mitchell, sophomore catcher Rachel McConnell and sophomore outfielder Taylor Ackerman all hit over .300 for the Lady Cardinals and are a big reason why Felicity averages nearly seven runs per game this year.
The Lady Cardinals faced a gauntlet of conference games down the stretch on their quest for a league title, playing a conference game each of the first four days this week. Their Monday, May 5 victory over Batavia was the first leg of their four-part journey to a culminating and possibly deciding game on Thursday, May 8 with Williamsburg, the second-place team in the league.
Results of the games against Georgetown and Clermont Northeastern were not available at the time of print.
And despite the success the Lady Cardinals have had in the past, another league title is paramount in their minds this week.
“(A league title) would be huge,” Wear said. “We’ve got new blood in the mix this year. And it might even get us a few more girls that might want to play the game.”
Wear stressed the sense of pride and responsibility that he and his team feel to play well for their community. The “tiny town of Felicity,” as Wear called it, can have a lot to be proud of with their softball team. He continued, saying that the pressure is a privilege, not a burden and one that his players fully embrace.
“We play with a lot of pride. We take pride in each other and the team. The parents and community take pride in the program and that’s a great asset,” he said.
The next onslaught of pressure comes next week in the sectional tournament when the No. 1-seeded Lady Cardinals open up with sixth-seeded Little Miami on May 13 at Felicity.
“We’re in it to win it,” Wear said of expectations for the postseason. “I tell the girls when they’re uptown getting ice cream or walking through IGA to look at the little girls there and give them a glimmer of hope.
“If we can do that, we can put a banner on the wall.”