BROOKFIELD – Brookfield softball has experience and a lot of experience.
The Warriors are returning eight starters from last year’s district runner-up team, including seniors Katie Gibson, Sophia Hook and Miranda Nicholson.
After losing just one senior from this team, Brookfield is looking to return to the District Finals and win their first-ever District trophy.
“It’s a little different for us,” Warriors coach Dave DeJoy said. “We are moving from Division IV to Division III, so it will be a bit of a new landscape for the team. At the same time, we are also in a rather unique position where we are very senior. We have nine seniors right now and two juniors who had a lot of college experience last year. We have eight returning starters, so we have a lot of leadership and we have a lot of girls who have experience.
Brookfield’s returners include their leaders in home runs (Abby DeJoy with 3), batting average (Sammi McAnany with a .442), hits (Abby DeJoy and Hook, each with 22), RBIs (Hook with 18) and starting pitcher Nicholson, who recorded 110 strikeouts last season.
McAnany is a player ready for another breakthrough this season. She entered the lineup in a road loss to Champion during the season and, despite the loss, recorded several hits and served as a spark plug for the team.
From that moment, she became a staple in training. She will be seen as a focal point this season and they hope McAnany continues to be that spark.
“She was the one who surprised us all last year,” DeJoy said. “She’s done very well in her off-season training, and hopefully she can pick up where she left off.
Abby DeJoy, Jenae Pugh and Hook will also be names to watch.
With Brookfield’s roster, expect a lot of rotation and players in different locations. Given the talent the Warriors boast, this allows DeJoy to really tinker and move players around the field as needed.
That said, Nicholson will be their ace in the circle, and the team will lean around his arm and the team defense.
“We’re deep in some positions,” DeJoy said. We have a lot of flexibility with talented girls. It will depend on our defense and our throwing. This is definitely where we want to hang our hats and be strong during the season.
The Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference gray level should be a glove as always. With teams like Champion, Garfield, Crestview and Newton Falls standing in the way of Brookfield this season, it won’t be an easy crown to lift.
“We’re in an incredibly competitive league,” DeJoy said. “Obviously Champion will be strong. I think Garfield is a strong team and Crestview is a strong team. We had two incredibly close games last year with Newton Falls and we want to be in that conversation with the top teams in the league, and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. Liberty is improving, and other schools are coming in, and we just want to run our championship games as best we can.
It’s not just the league games either. The Warriors face several strong local teams with Salem, McDonald, Boardman and Poland. There’s no shortage of challenges as Brookfield prepares for the inevitable Division III-level stacked districts.
“It will be a little more difficult for us this year in Division III. There are a lot of great teams out there, but we’re always going to strive to get there and maybe beyond,” DeJoy said.
The Warriors open their season with a home game against Maplewood at 11 a.m. Saturday.