BEVERLY - If Fort Frye's first week on the softball diamond is any indication, it could be a very, very good spring.
Perhaps even a banner one.
The Barb Sleek-coached Cadets went a perfect 8-0.
Photo courtesy of Pam Brooker
Fort Frye first baseman Lexi Huck gets a putout of a Shenandoah baserunner during softball action on April 2. The Cadets are off to an 8-0 start this spring.
"Yes, it was a good first week," said Sleek, whose Cadets are scheduled to host Frontier in a Pioneer Valley Conference game at 5 p.m. today. "I just hope it continues."
FFHS started off Week 2 with a triumph at Buckeye Trail on Monday. Then, the Cadets hosted and beat Belpre 11-0 Tuesday. The Cadets (8-0 overall) are now 6-0 in league play.
"It hasn't been a cakewalk," Sleek said. "We've been challenged, and there will be more challenges to come."
Fort's first week of competition was highlighted by a perfect game on the hill, tossed by Victoria "Tori" Mimken in a 10-0 mercy shutout of Caldwell on April 3. The right-handed senior standout fanned 12 in six innings of work.
"Tori is a pretty experienced pitcher," Sleek said.
Mimken is also an All-Ohio honoree (sophomore season) and the workhorse of the pitching staff. As she goes, so go the Cadets.
"Right now, we're kind of strapped for pitchers since Michelle Adkins hurt her knee playing basketball," Sleek said. "So, Tori is pretty much it."
In essence, Mimken has become an everyday pitcher for Fort Frye.
"She could pitch in every game for us this season," Sleek said, "and it won't harm her arm. Unlike baseball, where a pitcher throws overhand, the underhand motion in softball is a natural one."
There is of course the fatigue factor to consider.
Against River last Saturday, Mimken hurled a one-hitter and struck out 11 in a 2-0 win in the opener. In the nightcap, she also went the distance in an 8-6 error-plagued victory as the two schools combined to commit 14 miscues.
"Tori wasn't as overpowering in the second game," Sleek said. "But she was able to keep the River hitters off-balance with her changeup.
"I think she only gave up one or two earned runs in that game."
Mimken actually has an assortment of pitches, which include a fastball, a curveball, a drop curve, and a change.
"She mixes up her pitches really good," Sleek said. "And, more importantly, she throws strikes."
Mimken has been a good control hurler since her freshman season. This spring, she's only issued "five walks and fanned almost 100 in six games," Sleek said.
Currently in 53 innings of work on the mound, Mimken has struck out 95 and issued five base on balls. She's allowed 10 runs, one of which was earned. Her ERA is 0.132.
"She lives on the outside corner of the plate," the Fort Frye boss continued. "But she will come in high and tight with the fastball."
Mimken is also a good stick, and often helps her own cause. Against River in Game 2, she was 2-for-3 with two doubles, and also scored twice.
Currently, she's batting .450 (nine for 20) with four RBIs.
With Adkins injured and now a part of Sleek's coaching staff as a student assistant, Mimken's mound backups are senior Courtney Hendershot and junior Hali Lemasters.
For the most part, though, Hendershot (seven for 23, .304 with six runs scored as the leadoff hitter) and Lemasters (nine for 25, .360 with two doubles, two triples, four RBIs and four runs) will be positioned in center field and third base, respectively.
Natalie Smith (eight for 24, .333 with one double and six RBIs) is the team's catcher, filling the shoes of All-Ohio honoree Nicole Miller, who is now playing for Ohio Valley University in Vienna, W.Va.
"Natalie is a real good hitter," Sleek said.
Against River, Smith's two-run double in the fourth inning was all Mimken and The Fort needed to claim Game 1.
Fort's starters also include Lexi Huck (seven for 21, .333 with two doubles, four RBIs, and four runs) at first base; Lexi Skinner, at second; Morgan Liedtke, at short; Megan Liedtke (four for 10, .400 with a double and two RBIs), in left; Courtney Hendershot, in center; and Courtney Allen, in right.
The designated hitter is either Abby Baker or Sammi Knotts.
Rounding out the rest of the roster are Ellie Clark, Haleigh Hendershot, Tori Hendershot, Sarah Tucker, Mikaela Dyar, and Jessica Isner.
Sleek is also assisted by Justin Erb, Doug Pfeffer and Bridget Campbell.
"This team has good leadership and definite goals posted in the dugout," Sleek said. "Right now, pitching is our strength, and we're getting the big hit when we need it."
Last season, Fort Frye bowed out in the district final with an 18-8 overall mark. The Cadets are hoping to advance further in the postseason this spring - much further.