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Softball team has big bats

When you’re talking with a high school coach, you always know when you’ve hit on a topic that they really want to discuss. There’s that look that comes on their face. The mischievous grin combined with the gleam in the eye is a telltale sign.

That’s the look Northwestern Lehigh softball coach Josh Zimmerman brings up when you ask about the offense on his team.

When the long-awaited return of spring sports comes later this week, expect to see fireworks from the Lady Tigers. Up and down the lineup, there will be several players who can simply dig in and hit the ball a long way.

“I told the players that if we don’t lead the league in home runs this season, something is wrong,” Zimmerman said with that grin. “We have a lot of girls who can hit home runs and I really think that our offense is going to be really good right from the start of the season.”

With all the concerns and question marks about teams and players missing a full season, there are some things to consider. Not the smallest of which is that by late summer, some of the club teams had opened and players were able to get at least some playing time in for the season. Not nearly as much as they would normally have, but they’re not coming into this season cold.

For Zimmerman and Northwestern, the 2019 team that last took the field was pretty good, posting an 18-5 mark overall and reaching the finals of the District 11 tournament where it fell to Blue Mountain.

That team graduated just two players and the team that would have played last season also had just two seniors on the roster. In other words, Northwestern Lehigh had a lot of success in 2019 with a very young team. Many of the Tigers’ players had just the type of travel team experience that they were able to turn to last summer and they were able to step into playing varsity ball as underclassmen.

“For some players now, softball is a year-round sport,” Zimmerman noted. “They have experience from feeder leagues in the community or travel teams and they’ve been able to develop their skills and our team benefited from that experience.”

The nine freshman and sophomore players from 2019 are now juniors and seniors ready to help the team. Seniors Adana Funk, Molly Mitman, Sam Sisco, Abigail Snyder and Kylie Zentz will all contribute, and juniors Brynn Balliet and Morgan Farthing will also shoulder much of the load. Farthing’s power was evident from early on and she put up impressive numbers as a freshman.

Zimmerman really wasn’t sure what to expect when his players reassembled for workouts, but he’s been pleasantly surprised. As for the competition that his team will face, that remains somewhat of an unknown for Zimmerman just as it is for nearly every coach after the lost year of COVID. Not every team was fortunate to have young players contributing as highly as Northwestern did back in 2019. Some were relying on having a roster full of upperclassmen who were able to carry their team. Now, with those players gone, how good are the younger players who weren’t getting opportunities to play much varsity ball two years ago?

“You really just don’t know because we lost that year for players to develop,” said Zimmerman. “You can usually go with teams like Bangor and Palmerton and Notre Dame (Green Pond) who always have talent and put together good teams.”

For Northwestern Lehigh, the goals remain the same: win the league, win districts and make a run at a state championship. Having come close to a district championship two years ago, many of the current players remember the feeling of playing for that title and are anticipating making a return to districts this season only with a different outcome.

“I think that postseason success gave us the feeling of what it’s like to go deep into the postseason, but still come up short,” said Zimmerman. “I’m sure most teams feel like they can have great seasons and they should be confident. What I like about this team is that many of them have been there before and are back for another run.”