Northmont softball takes tradition to next level

Northmont junior shortstop Anna Mangen is one of five nieces who have played for Thunderbolts coach Kris Mangen, along with sister and senior Erin Mangen. Anna is third on the team in hitting with a .394 average. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

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Northmont junior shortstop Anna Mangen is one of five nieces who have played for Thunderbolts coach Kris Mangen, along with sister and senior Erin Mangen. Anna is third on the team in hitting with a .394 average. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

The saying for Northmont High School’s softball team is Tradition Never Graduates.

But it does go to college.

From the banners denoting championships hanging on the outfield fence to the deep postseason runs, Northmont softball players are well versed in the Thunderbolts’ tradition. And this season 15 players are continuing that at the next level.

That’s a point of pride for veteran coach Kris Mangen. She hasn’t kept track of the overall number of college players she’s helped produce, but she’s Northmont green with envy at the T-Bolts current crop. Bluffton junior Brittney Huff is one of them.

“It meant tradition, to be honest,” Huff said of what the Northmont softball program meant to her. “I grew up hearing that playing for Northmont was a tradition. It was something you were to continue the legacy of it.”

Under Mangen, who is 473-142 in her 22nd season, the T-Bolts have won 12 league championships, 17 sectional titles, seven district titles and one regional championship. She took over the program in 1996 from current Northmont athletic director Robin Spiller.

Mangen wants her players to think of the softball program as family. That message really hits home for a couple of her players. Senior Erin Mangen and junior Anna Mangen are the coach’s nieces. They are the fourth and fifth nieces she’s coached.

“It’s means a lot. It’s like a family thing,” said Erin, a center fielder who leads the team in average (.543), home runs (9) and RBIs (33). “It’s all around fun. She may be a little intense sometimes but I think it helps us in the long run.”

Anna Mangen, a shortstop hitting .394, said she and her sister have been part of the program since they were little. They served as bat girls and sometimes attended camps right next to the girls they looked up to.

“It was kind of a dream to be one of the older ones,” Anna said. “I’m very blessed to have that opportunity with Northmont softball and having my aunt as a coach, being able to experience that with my family.”

The other nieces are playing in college. Kate Pfeffer and Libby Pfeffer are at Wright State and Cory Mangen is at Capital. Libby holds family bragging rights for the highest batting average, hitting a robust .678 for the T-Bolts in 2013.

“Seeing my cousins play Northmont softball really inspired me. I wanted to be like them,” Erin said. “There is more competition (between us) because of all the nieces. We want to be the one on top.”

That’s where Northmont is used to being, too. The T-Bolts won’t claim another Greater Western Ohio Conference division championship this season at 14-8 overall and 5-5 in the National West division. But the team thinks it can capture that spark that led a 27-4 record and trip to the Division I regional semifinals last season.

Juniors Sydney Weaver (7-2, 2.83 ERA) and Marissa Bardonaro (6-1, 2.96 ERA) have combined for 13 of the team’s 14 wins. Fellow junior Cassy Lewis is 1-5 with a 5.35 ERA but has faced many of the team’s toughest opponents.

“We have potential. We always have those games where we can do better,” Anna said. “When tournament comes I think we can put everything together and show what we can do.”

Seventh-seeded Northmont hosts No. 12 Fairmont in the sectional tournament Monday at 5 p.m.. The winner advances to play No. 11 Wayne on Wednesday. The highest seeded team hosts the game.

Though they’ve moved on from Northmont, those college players could still have an impact on a lengthy postseason run. Coach Mangen said former players sometimes return to the school during Christmas break and demonstrate drills they’ve learned. Players also help out during practices once their college seasons have ended.

She appreciates the support of her players and assistant coaches even more this season. She injured her Achilles tendon a couple of weeks ago and has relied on 16-year assistant coach Matt Maiken and 15-year assistant Tami Sterner perhaps more than ever.

“I think sports does a lot of positive things, regardless of the sport,” Mangen said. “It gives them a family. They fall in love with the game and love their teammates. It’s pretty amazing. The assistant coaches, the parents, the players. They just make it fun.”

Northmont grads playing college softball:

Kate Pfeffer, Wright State

Libby Pfeffer, Wright State

Cory Mangen, Capital

Cheyanne Rowe, Otterbein

Kelly Wood, EKU

Amanda Rose, Sinclair

Brittany Huff, Bluffton

Sarah Jasinski, Capital

Courtney Jasinski, Bluffton

Whitney Feidler, Ohio Christian

Lizzie Ritchie, Mount Vernon Nazarene

Emily Ritchie, Mount Vernon Nazarene

Shelby Stephens, Notre Dame College

Taylor Hoover, St. Francis Univ. (Pa.)

Kendall Bennin, University of Nortwestern Ohio

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