Rangers, Wauford hit their way to TAAC league title

J. Patrick Eaken

There is a reason why Northwood sophomore softball player Elizabeth Wauford, the Toledo Area Athletic Conference Player of the Year, goes by the name “EB.”

Wauford, a second team all-district selection and the team’s Most Versatile Award winner, says the name was shortened by her dugout mates for softball cheers and it stuck.

However, EB could also be short for “Extra Bases” because Wauford had 19 doubles, six triples, four home runs, 38 runs and 47 RBIs in batting an astronomical .612 (52 for 85). Whoever said hitting was about accepting failure never took into perspective Wauford’s performance at the plate. She broke school records for batting average, doubles, and hits.

It took daily dedication to get to this point, including lessons from two hitting instructors.

“I hit every day. Usually I swing at least every day — I have since 11U (travel softball),” Wauford said.

This year, she hit over .600 despite playing through pain. An injury from August of 2019 came back to haunt her.

“EB is really versatile,” Northwood coach Jennifer Noonan said. “The big thing this year is that we didn’t find out until the end of the season that she had a broken wrist. It was an old injury that did not heal right away and then she agitated it. She had surgery three days after our season was completed and our doctor cleared her to finish the season, and as soon as the season ended she had surgery to repair it, so she is out for summer softball season.”

Wauford, whose goal is to play collegiately someday, led her team to a 12-14 record but the Rangers were a perfect 8-0 en route to a TAAC championship.  

“This is the first time we have won the league since I’ve been coaching the varsity team, so that is a goal that has been sitting there a while. I’m glad we were able to achieve that with these kids,” Noonan said.

Noonan said the versatility of Wauford, who can also play catcher, and her teammates, was key.

“As far as league play, we have a lot of versatile players and we also have two catchers who can also play infield, so they got catching time and infield time and that helped us out a lot,” Noonan said.

Sophomore pitcher Mikayla Hanely was named the team’s Most Valuable Player after setting a school record 165 strikeouts.

“Mikayla Hanely pitched every inning of every league game for us, and every inning of every other game except two-thirds of a one inning of one game,” Noonan said.


Determined from the start

As a team, Northwood batted .367. Noonan, the TAAC Coach of the Year, said that her team was determined from the get-go. They never lived down the cancellation of the 2020 season because of a global pandemic.

“We had a bunch of freshmen come in last year and we were very excited about them and our upperclassmen were very excited,” Noonan said. “And then, to lose the season, they just came in wanting it this year. They were ready to play. 

“We had a lot of kids in open gyms, putting in offseason work, so they were ready. They were disappointed after last year. We kept thinking, ‘OK, we’re coming back. It is just three weeks,’ and then it was six weeks, and ‘we’ll be back,’ but it was just heartbreaking for the kids. We did some offseason (summer) workouts but we didn’t do any games or anything like that.”

Wauford relished the opportunity to be back on the softball diamond this year.

“It was really exciting for most of our first year actually getting to play high school ball. It was a good experience. Honestly, we all just got along really well. It was a lot of fun,” Wauford said. “The older girls really brought the younger girls up because we had a lot of younger girls who were really unsure about wanting to play. 

“The freshmen were nervous and the seniors really helped them out. Even the sophomores, my class, because we didn’t get to play last year, they were very good about keeping us up. But it was really fun in general and we got along really well. The coaches really helped us come together and stay in the game. I think our goal for next year is to get more wins and once again take the TAAC title.”

Noonan believes there would have been no championship without seniors Ariana Tristan, Anastasia Hoddinott and Sierra Vendt. Tristan and Hoddinott were first team All-TAAC at second and third base and Hoddinott was honorable mention all-district. Wauford is the only Ranger to get first team Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press, but Hoddinott is second team. Hoddinott, who catches and plays third base, batted .528 (38 for 72) with 30 runs, seven doubles, five home runs, 40 RBIs.

There is also a collection of underclassmen whom are the future of the program. In all, 10 Rangers got all-league recognition, more than needed to field a team.

“We had a bunch of young girls who were just surprises with their abilities on the field. You see them in the gym, but you can’t see everybody’s abilities inside the gym, and once they got on the field, we are like, ‘Whoa.’ There are a few of those young girls who we are really impressed with,” Noonan said.

The non-league mark of 4-14 does not look impressive, but Noonan believes this year’s team may have jump started the program just by getting some confidence-building wins.

“Lakota is a tough program and we beat them 8-7 so that was a good out of conference win for us,” Noonan said. “Toledo Christian and Cardinal Stritch split the title last season (2019), so beating both of those teams twice was really a big deal because we did not know what to expect. They always have strong programs. We knew that we had the title with the win over Toledo Christian.”









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