By Steve Hemmelgarn
Special to the Times
PARKERSBURG - Last year was almost a magical baseball season for Parkerburg Catholic.
The Crusaders finished 19-10, won the sectional for the first time in 10 years and came within one win of going to the Class A state tournament.
To try and match last year, PC head coach Tom Harvey has ''a good group coming back,'' with the lone graduation losses being two-time all-state catcher Zack Romine, pitcher Jim Ferrell and third baseman Bobby Casto.
''We lost three good seniors who hit well and provided a lot of leadership,'' said Harvey.
''Plus with Eric Scott transferring to PHS, that's four guys we lost who started for three years or more, and three of the four hit over .320 in their time here.''
Harvey said this year's team ''is in the process of finding our identity.
Last year's team was gutsy and fought every pitch. They all bonded well and played for each other. Hopefully as this season progresses, this team gels as well. Every year is different, but this team just needs to focus and play solid defense and give us chances to win.''
First and foremost for Harvey, though, is pitching with primarily Mitch Davis, Payton Sturm, Andrew Cinalli, Mike Hinton and Jake Ullman ''giving us quality innings and keeping us in ball games,''said the coach
Jake Boice looks to take over behind the plate, but Evan Dexter is pushing him. Cary Casto will play first base, backed up by Ryan Helm. Austin Luther returns at second base, and Ullman will be at shortstop, except when he pitches with Davis playing short then.
Third base is a question mark. Sturm will play center field when Davis pitches, Nick Roedersheimer will play left field with Joe Welch, Andrew Garvin or Cinalli all expected to see action in right field.
The versatile Davis, a returning first-team all-stater, will pitch, play center and short. ''He's just so athletic, he can play anywhere and play well,'' said Harvey.
''Everyone enjoyed the success we had last year,'' said Harvey.
''But at the same time, they know yesterday's home runs don't win today's games. We have some question marks we need to answer and hopefully, we can find those answers by the time sectional play starts.
''If we can throw strikes and play solid defense, it can be a fun year. Everyone knows defense is the key. Good teams play good defense. If we want to enjoy another year like last year, we need to play great defense.''
PARKERSBURG - Former Ohio Valley University athlete Preet Dhillon has taken over the reins of the Parkersburg Catholic softball program with the retirement of head coach Dave Woody after 17 seasons at the helm of the Crusaderettes.
Dhillon, currently a graduate teaching assistant at OVU, is in the process of obtaining her masters degree in education.
A Canadian native, Dhillon was recruited to play first base and right field for OVU, and earned all-conference honors in the WVIAC. She also ran cross country at OVU as she obtained her bachelor of science degree in secondary mathematics education with a special education endorsement and wellness minor.
Dhillon has been actively involved with coaching teams in the area and ''is excited'' to make her debut as a head coach of a high school team with Parkersburg Catholic.
Her assistant coach, pitching specialist Monica Wigal, is a Parkersburg native who played softball with Dhillon at OVU. In high school, Wigal played for PHS and still holds many of the pitching records for the Big Reds.
''Coach Wigal and I feel privileged to coach this group of young ladies for the 2013 season,'' said Dhillon.
'While the team still has room for growth, we anticipate surprising some teams this year. Our hitting and defense are looking better with each practice, and we are challenging our pitchers constantly.
''It has become clear to us that our players are all anxious to learn the game, and we are excited to teach them and help build their skills and confidence on the diamond.
''We are looking forward to starting the season and picking up some big wins with the support of our school and community.''