All Ohio hurler Abby Mann returns to lead Cambridge softball team this spring
CAMBRIDGE − After 21 years guiding the Cambridge High School softball program, veteran head coach Bob Shepard knows what it takes to be successful.
"Having a true quality number one pitcher is the key to a team having success," Shepard explained. "It's all about who you have in that pitching circle."
And entering the new season, Shepard is all smiles as he welcomes back his ace junior All Ohioan Abby Mann (P/3B) to once again fill the valuable role for his Lady Bobcats.
"Abby was All Ohio as a sophomore, so that tells you the type of talent she is," Shepard added. "She gives us a huge advantage when she has the ball in her hands. Abby is a very important key to our success, she's a very strong hitter and has a great glove as well. She is just a really talented ball player, and we expect her to have another big year."
Mann was tabbed with Division II Honorable Mention All Ohio honors last season as a sophomore, after finishing with a 9-5 record with 108 Ks for the Lady Bobcats, who finished with a 16-6 mark last season.
Mann also received First Team Eastern District, First Team Ohio Valley Athletic Conference, and First Team Buckeye 8 recognition for her efforts.
But Mann brings more than just high level pitching with her game. Offensively she was a power source for CHS as well as a slick fielding third baseman when not in the circle. Mann finished with a team leading .581 batting average, with 32 RBIs, two home runs and a slugging percentage of .852.
Mann is joined by fellow two year lettermen in senior Janiya Conrad (SS/OF), along with senior one year letter winners Kendall Kenworthy (2B) and Kinzi Hickman (3B).
Conrad who will be the Lady Bobcats' shortstop finished with a solid .443 batting average last season, with 22 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .571. Conrad reeled in Second Team Division III honors for her efforts a year ago.
"Jaynia will start at shortstop for us this year," Shepard explained. "She's a very versatile athlete who can play several positions at a high level. And brings a strong stick to our hitting lineup as well."
Kenworthy returns off a .315 average last season, and will play second base for the Lady Bobcats this season.
"Kendall is one of those kids who plays and gives 100 percent at all times," the CHS mentor explained. "She's very consistent player defensively and will start at second base. She brings experience to our infield as she will be the only returning infielder from last year."
Hickman will get the starting nod at third base, and will also be an option in the pitching rotation.
"We lost both catchers, our first baseman, third baseman and shortstop along with two outfielders," Shepard explained. "So we are looking at several underclassmen to step in the and fill those spots."
Candidates battling to fill those openings according to Shepard include senior Madison Johnson (INF/OF), juniors Elaina Hines (CF), Mel Ruiz (OF/C), Eva Lamphear (1B), Jazz Bell (OF/INF/P), Jada Hall (INF), and Alivia Kidwell (INF), sophomores Bailey Kenworthy (INF) and freshman Audrianna Gibson (OF).
Shepard pointed to one newcomer who could contribute right away this season in freshman Miranda Cole (C/SS).
"Freshman Miranda Cole is a very promising first-year player, who has three years travel ball experience," Shepard said. "She can play both catcher and shortstop and has a chance to play this year for us."
Making up Shepard's coaching staff will be varsity assistants Aaron Mathews and Jason Kenworthy with Mike Birkheimer leading the JV team.
"We return to Division II this year, which is some very strong competition," Shepard said. "We will look to compete hard all season, and try to be playing our best softball when tournament time comes around."
Cambridge opens the season on Saturday with a 5 p.m. road game at Steubenville.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: Hurler Abby Mann returns to lead Cambridge softball this spring