Conference says Northwood softball the team to beat

J. Patrick Eaken

When the Toledo Area Athletic Conference coaches voted to make Northwood the preseason favorite, eighth-year coach Jennifer Noonan knew she had her team had its work cut out for them.
        Noonan still believes that other contenders are knocking on the door if her Rangers are not careful. What they have going for them is there is a youth movement going on in the TAAC this year and Northwood is no different.
        “We lost two league teams this year and the league graduated a lot of seniors so we expect the league to be competitive,” Noonan said. “We are a very young team with one senior and one junior and we are still learning and developing.” 
        In seven years as head coach at Northwood her teams have gone 68-64. She was the junior varsity coach five years before that.
        Last year, Northwood won a sectional championship after finishing the regular season 8-8 overall and 6-3 in the TAAC.
        This year, the Rangers started out 3-10 overall, but won their first two TAAC games, including a 21-4 pasting over Ottawa Hills. The challenge comes from Toledo Christian, which started 5-3 overall and won their first four conference games. Stritch is also a viable contender, starting out 4-8 overall but opening the TAAC season on a winning note.
        Against the Green Bears, Northwood junior pitcher Chastity Eisenhard held the Green Bears to four hits and sophomore catcher Ana Hoddinott went 2-for-2 with a triple and three RBIs. The Rangers needed just nine hits to win that mercy-ruled game and took advantage of three Ottawa Hills errors.
        Kirsten Stacy leads the Rangers at the plate early in the season, batting .520 (13 for 25) with nine runs, six RBIs, and two stolen bases. Sophomore shortstop Angel Mendoza is batting .381 (16 for 42) with 11 runs, six RBIs and two SB, and Hoddinott is hitting .345 (10 for 29) with seven runs, one home run, 10 RBIs and one stolen base.
They are among five returning letter winners which also includes sophomore second baseman Ana Tristan. Eisenhard and Hoddinott were first team All-TAAC and honorable mention all-district selections last year. Stacy was second team and Mendoza was HM All-TAAC.
Hoddinott, Mendoza and Eisenhard all ended the season last year hitting over .400. Eisenhard has two years under her belt pitching varsity softball and Noonan says “she has done a great job so far.” Despite not batting over .300 yet, Noonan says Tristan and others are “also finding ways to get hits as they get to the plate this year.”
“Ana Tristan has worked hard in the off season and has done a great job at the plate so far this year,” Noonan said. “Meiah Smith is a freshman and a three-sport athlete and has done an exceptional job in center field and at the plate so far.” 


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