BEVERLY HILLS — He’s been coaching for 18 years, and never before has Ryan Minarik experienced a spring this drastic, where weather has canceled games and practices while souring the moods of players and managers, alike.
“I’m like a kid stuck inside, just itching to get out,” the Beverly Hills Groves softball coach said last week. “When the weather breaks, we’re going to have some fun. Whenever that is.”
Groves finished 23-14 a year ago but brings back eight offensive starters and seven defensive starters. The team used a designated hitter.
Up and down the lineup are bats that can produce, and talented veterans occupy most of the same spots in the field they did a year ago.
“Things look pretty good, so far,” said senior catcher Zoe Schmerin. “We have some strong players in the areas we need, and other girls are stepping up. This is a season we think could be pretty good.”
Last season, the Falcons were 7-3 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division, second only to Troy Athens.
But with the Red Hawks moving to the Red, Groves seems to be the early favorite to take home the division crown.
“We don’t know much about Oxford (High), which moved down, but I know they have some tough girls,” Minarik said. “Still, I feel like we’re one of the teams to beat.”
“If we continue what we did last year, it’s a shot we certainly have,” Schmerin said.
Schmerin, who hit .526 as a junior and was named All-Association for the third straight year, may be one of the Falcons’ top offensive threats.
She’s certainly one of the biggest weapons on defense, as well.
And that, according to Minarik, may be where the difference in a good and great season rests.
“In four or five of our losses last year, they were games that we gave away in the last inning,” he explained. “(Defense) is where we’re going to win and lose games like that this year. If we can make the plays we need to, we’re going to be all right. I know we’re going to hit the ball. It’s going to take a special pitcher to slow us down.”