There’s no questioning which are the two most successful high school softball programs in Madison County.
Jonathan Alder and West Jefferson have proven themselves to be among the very best programs in all of Central Ohio over the last 4-5 years. The two programs will renew acquaintances Saturday, April 15, when they play each other under the lights at Pastime Park in Plain City. The first pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Roughriders coach Jim Stevens brings an undefeated squad (8-0) into the game that seems to be riding high with confidence. The Pioneers (4-2) are back on track having posted back-to-back run-rule shutouts and look to have reloaded nicely after graduating seven starters off of last year’s squad.
There’s a lot of familiarity between the two teams, which makes this match all the more intriguing.
“The girls are looking forward to this one,” West Jeff coach Jim Stevens said. “A lot of these girls from both sides play together in the summer and know each other real well.”
Current West Jeff assistant coach Tony Caldwell was the head coach at Alder prior to the arrival of the current Pioneers coaching staff. And while the on-the-field contest figures to be intense, there is no animosity between either the coaches or players.
“These two schools have become rivals, but it’s a good rivalry,” Stevens said. “There’s no bitterness or bad blood. It’s just two good programs going at each other.”
Alder won the night time match-up last year, doing so with a senior-laden squad. One that featured a handful of players who are now playing college ball. The Roughriders team it defeated was playing its first game of the season with a whole host of new faces and freshmen starters. The environment at the game last year convinced Alder coach Dave McGrew that it had to be played again.
“It was awesome,” the Jonathan Alder coach said. “Both teams have kids who grew up playing at that park. Whether it was in rec ball or travel.
“It was such a great environment, with so many people. I called Jim and said we need to do this again.”
West Jeff which has played in four straight Division III district championship games but failed to advance past that point are getting things done this year with a collection of sophomores leading the way. A year ago they gained significant experience and now have the look of a team destined to once again make a deep tournament at the end of the season.
“There’s no single player that stands out on the field or in the dugout,” Stevens said. “We’re getting it done with a complete team effort.”
As for Alder, the Pioneers went through a week where they had some sickness and minor injuries which resulted in a couple losses, but other than that blip the team is playing well.
It’s McGrew’s team which is the inexperienced one this time around. With a number of freshman in the starting lineup the team is expecting to have its ups and downs. The Pioneers will continue to rely on junior pitcher Katelyn Perkins and senior catcher Kayla Fredendall to lead the way.
“It ought to great,” Stevens said. “It should be a great game between two good teams with really good fan bases.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.