Springfield senior Quartni Whited and her softball teammates know all about the cliché, “Take it one game at a time.”
The expression might sound corny, but there is also truth in it.
Whited and her friends realize they should never overlook an opponent and focus on the team they are playing in the moment.
With that said, the Spartans have grand plans to play in the big postseason games and win the softball program’s 10th state title on June 8 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
“That is our main topic that we talk about all the time,” Whited said. “We have this motto, and it is ‘Firestone or bust.’ Each game we keep it in mind.
“We know the teams are going to be better as we get further along during the season. As seniors, we know this is our last chance to win it all together.”
Springfield (17-2, 6-0 Portage Trail Conference Metro Division) is ranked No. 2 in the Division II state coaches poll and has shown the look of a title contender by displaying a potent offense, efficient pitching and solid defense.
Whited, 17, is the centerpiece to the Spartans as the ace pitcher and No. 3 hitter in the batting order.
“Quartni just has that will to win,” Springfield softball coach Roger Errington said. “She knows the game very well and works very hard at it. She is one of those kids who puts in the work when we have a day off. She will work on her pitching or go down in her basement and do some soft toss or hitting off a tee.”
Whited entered Wednesday with a 14-1 pitching record and two saves, a 1.33 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 68 innings. She has a .472 batting average (17 hits in 36 at-bats) and has scored 15 runs.
“She is a just great kid,” Errington said. “She is one of our captains. If we have any problems, she is there trying to solve it and help people work through it.”
Whited, a 5-foot-8 right-hander, is a Walsh University recruit and is in her fourth year as a varsity starter.
She started playing softball at age 6. She credits her parents, Doug and Tammy Whited, and her brother Cameron, 11, for their support. Doug Whited serves as the Spartans’ hitting coach.
“He has always been a big supporter,” Whited said. “He has helped me out and been my main coach. I have always listened to him because he knows what he is talking about. He helps out our entire team.”
Errington, in his fifth year as varsity coach, said he realized the current senior class (Whited, Sarah Stubbs, Marisa Lucco, Lydia Sanner and Brittany Alekna) was talented when they were little kids.
Springfield returned seven starters this season: Whited, Sanner, Stubbs, Lucco, junior Kassy Flores and sophomores Deanna Cole and Laura Stubbs. Cole is batting better than .600 this season. Lucco has been limited due to an injury.
Alekna has played a major role with juniors Makayla Pigott, Alexis Slider, Genny Pratt, Mandi Moore, Chloe Williams and Shyann Powell, and sophomore Kennedy Colegrove.
“I think we are really close,” Whited said. “This is the best team I have been on in my four years here. We shake things off and pick each other up.”
Springfield advanced to a Division II district final last year and lost to Archbishop Hoban. Whited said she and her teammates have learned from that setback.
“This has been a good year for us,” Whited said. “We have been working really hard. … This is a whole new year. We had the same goal last year, but I don’t think we were fully invested like we are this year.”
Whited watched the 2005 Springfield team, and was at Ashland’s Brookside Park “up on the hill” beyond the home run fence when the team won the Division II state title. Springfield also won Class AAA state titles in 1978, 1988 and 1989 and Division I state titles in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995.
The nine state championship teams combined to post a record of 236-16. Errington was the Springfield junior varsity coach in 2005 and saw what a championship looks like.
“We are pounding in their head to take it one game at a time, but we talk about it,” Errington said. “We had a great two-hour practice inside the other day in the central building and we talked about it. It is something the girls think about and talk about. It is going to be hard, but we hope we can accomplish it. … This is the last year before they tear the school down and move into a new one. It would be nice to bring home No. 10.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org.