BEVERLY - With the postseason tournament just around the corner, the Fort Frye softball team could be a team to keep an eye on when it takes the diamond in Cambridge.
Never mind that the Barb Sleek-coached Cadets currently own a break-even overall record of 9-9. The Fort has faced some pretty good pitchers and teams this spring.
"We've beefed up the schedule this season," Sleek said, "and as a result, we've lost six games by one run.
Fort Frye’s Natalie Smith is all smiles as she rounds the bases after hitting a home run against Buckeye Trail. Smith is one of five Cadets on the team who have slugged home runs this spring.
"That's the sign of a young team, which doesn't know yet how to win the close games. But we've been in every game."
A young team might be an understatement. Four of the starters are freshmen, including right-handed hurler Jada Baker.
At one point in the season, Baker was instrumental in the Cadets being 9-5. But dropping one-run decisions, like 1-0 and 2-1 to Bellaire St. John (13-1) at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Youth Sports Complex in Elm Grove last Saturday hasn't exactly been beneficial to the W-L mark - although it could be a good learning experience for the postseason.
"Hannah Absalom (of St. John) is a very good pitcher," Sleek said.
Absalom tossed a pair of two-hitters and in the process combined to fan 25 Cadets. She also hit a game-winning homer in the twinbill's opener.
The Fort probably won't be swinging against a hurler like Absalom for the remainder of the spring campaign.
The Cadets other freshman starters have been Tanner Booth (designated player), Sarah Wagner (first base), and Chelsey Snodgrass (left field). Allie Tice, another frosh, is a utility player off the pine.
Booth, as it turns out, has become the team leader in home runs with four. Seniors' Natalie Smith (catcher) and Hali Lemasters (shortstop) each has two round trippers, while junior Michelle Adkins and Baker have one apiece.
"I've had teams before that have hit 10 home runs in a season," Sleek said, "but never by five different girls."
Fort's starting lineup also includes senior Courtney Allen (right field), junior Lexi Skinner (second base), and sophomore Mikaela Dyar (center field).
Adkins occasionally spells Baker on the hill as she did against St. John.
As for the Cadets' slate....
When Fort takes the field against the Parkersburg Big Reds at 5 p.m. today, it'll be a program first, at least since Sleek has been at the helm.
"We've never played them before," Sleek said. "We've played Parkersburg South but not them. We thought this year we'd try it one time, and see what happens."
After PHS, two of Fort's remaining regular-season games are scheduled against arch-rival Waterford, on May 5 in Beverly and May 8 at the Wildcats' field. The Cadets' other game is at Belpre on May 6.
"Both sides (Fort Frye and Waterford) get up for that game," Sleek said. "My dad joked that if we don't win any other game during the season, make sure that's the one we do win. To me though, it's just another game."
On Sunday, the postseason seedings are scheduled to take place, and Fort Frye knows it will be playing someone in Cambridge.
The Cadets will be ready.
You can count on that, no matter how young they are and what their record is.