All the pieces appear to be in place for Western Wayne to enjoy a solid softball season. Coach Bob Bunting returns for his third year in the Lady 'Cat dugout and ace pitcher Megan Gershey will be back on the hill.

Bob Bunting is entering his third year as Western Wayne’s varsity softball coach...and he’s cautiously optimistic about the ‘08 Lackawanna League campaign.

“I’m anxious to get going,” Coach Bunting told TWI Sports. “So far, the girls are doing pretty well. We’ve only had one scrimmage because of the weather, but we looked good. There are a lot of girls back from last year’s team, so experience should be one of our strong points.”

The Lady ‘Cats suffered through a tough season in ‘07, winning just one game in 16 outings. Coach Bunting’s girls did improve as the year wore on and qualified for the District Two play-offs. Despite saving their best performance for last, the Lady ‘Cats were bounced from the Class AAA tourney after a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to West Scranton.

Western Wayne opened its exhibition schedule with an impressive 15-0 mercy rule win over Forest City on Wednesday. The Lady ‘Cats is will be back on the diamond this afternoon at Wallenpaupack Area. First pitch for this Lackawanna League tune-up is set for 4:00 p.m. on the shores of The Big Lake.

Weather permitting, Western Wayne’s first Division Two regular season contest will be Thursday, April 3rd at Old Forge.

Around the Horn
Any discussion of this year’s Lady ‘Cat quad must begin with Megan Gershey. A three year starter and returning all-star, Gershey is the ace of Western Wayne’s pitching staff.

Megan is a hard-throwing righthander whose main strength is impeccable control. Gershey led her team in every major pitching category last spring. She’s a hard worker with an extensive knowledge of the game.

“I don’t think there’s much doubt that Megan Gershey is the key to our season,” Coach Bunting said. “If she keeps improving the way she did her first two years, we’ll be in pretty good shape. Megan is a power pitcher and she always throws strikes. She’s working on a couple of off-speed pitches that should make her even tougher to hit.”

Gershey looked sharp in her first outing of the spring. Megan dominated Forest City hitters en route to a four-frame shutout. She is expected to be on the hill for every important Division Two game this season.

On those rare occasions when Gershey might need a rest from her mound chores, Varden fans are likely to see a pair of freshman toeing the rubber. Emily Komar and Emily Heffinger have displayed intriguing potential and both could work some innings early in the campaign.

Komar has shown flashes of power at the plate this spring. She has experience at several infield positions, but may also see spot duty in the outfield. Heffinger is a home-schooled student who’s coming out for softball for the first time. According to Coach Bunting, her strengths include innate athleticism and versatility.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them in the line-up before the season’s over,” he said. “At this point, it’s just a matter of finding a place for them. We really need for some of the underclassmen to step up and make an impact.”

While these two frosh give Western Wayne a sprinkling of youth, a trio of seniors will provide veteran leadership. Casey Voges, Emily Ritter and Staci Hennings have been named captains for the ‘08 season.

Voges started in center last year. She’s in the midst of making a difficult transition from the outfield to shortstop.

Ritter will once again handle Western Wayne’s pitching staff. Emily has steadily developed into one of the division’s top defensive catchers.

Hennings is a multi-sport standout who also excels on the hardwood. Staci has a lock on the second base job and should provide a consistent bat.”

“All three of these girls have been with the program for four years now,” said Coach Bunting. “They have a lot of experience at the varsity level, so I’m expecting them to give us good leadership this year.”

Carly Curtis is another youngster who should provide a bit of depth for the Lady ‘Cats.Another member of that talented freshman class, Curtis will back-up Ritter behind the plate. Coach Bunting won’t hesitate to plug Carly into the line-up if he sees an opportunity to get her some experience.

“She’s young and she’s a little bit raw, but I think Carly has alot of potential,” he said.

Sabrina Bates and Veronica Bell will see extensive time in the infield. Bates is a sophomore who’s slated to hold down the Hot Corner. Bell is a senior and will open the season at first base.

Looking Ahead
While Coach Bunting is excited about the upcoming campaign, he’s also realistic. He knows his Lady ‘Cats compete in one of the region’s toughest leagues and he has no illusions about winning a championship.

At least, not quite yet.

“If we can have a .500 season, I’ll be very happy,” he said. “We have a nice mix of older and younger girls. But, it’s so tough playing in this league. There aren’t any easy games, so you have to set realistic goals.”

One of Coach Bunting’s “points of emphasis” this spring has been aggressiveness, especially in the batter’s box. He’s very pleased with the way his girls are attacking the ball so far. However, he knows that unless that attitude carries over into the regular season, a repeat of ‘07 is a scary possibility.

Last year, Western Wayne went 1-15. However, the Lady ‘Cats started to gel at the tail end of the season. Coach Bunting’s girls won a 7-6 thriller over Mid Valley, then dropped a tough 5-3 decision to Bishop Hannan.

In the first round of the district play-offs Western Wayne took West Scranton right down to the final pitch before losing a 1-0 heartbreaker. The local girls had several chances to push a run across, but simply couldn’t come up with the clutch basehit.

Coach Bunting hopes the improvement his team showed at the close of the ‘07 season carries over. He sees Valley View and Lakeland as favorites in what should be a red-hot Division Two race. Dunmore, Holy Cross and Old Forge could be in the mix as well.

“We’ll probably take our lumps against the better teams in the league, but I can see us winning some games this year,” he said. “Our main goal is to be competitive every time we step onto the field. We have a legitimate shot at surprising some people, but we’re probably a year away still.”

According to Coach Bunting, Western Wayne is scheduled to move from Division Two to Division Three next season. And, if Wednesday’s 15-0 shellacking of Forest City is any indication, the Lady ‘Cats should make some serious noise in ‘09.