Wayne Asher is ready for his Edgewood High School softball team to make the jump from solid to strong.
He believes the Cougars are starting to come together as they’ve won five of their last six games, including Friday’s 13-1, six-inning overpowering of host Talawanda.
“I think we’ve been playing at about 70 percent,” said Asher, who briefly retired after his 16th season at the helm last year, then opted to return in 2017. “We had a good gap in the team earlier in the year. Once we close the gap all the way — and it will happen — then I’ll feel really good about this team.”
Junior pitcher Sam Davis agreed that team chemistry was an issue when the season began.
“Usually this team is really close and like sisters, but we didn’t really hang out at the beginning of the season,” Davis said. “Then when we were not doing so hot, we did a team bonding and started picking each other up and started winning. I think we’re finally starting to jell.”
“I think it was just different ages,” said Asher, noting that he has five seniors and a starting lineup that includes three freshmen. “I’ve had chemistry problems before where the girls just weren’t nice to each other. These girls aren’t mean to each other. They just need to come together a little more.”
Davis led the way against Talawanda, tossing a four-hitter with seven strikeouts while going 4-for-5 with three RBIs.
Edgewood is 8-4 overall and 4-1 in the Southwest Ohio Conference, and all four of the Cougars’ defeats have come by one run. Little Miami (7-2) is the only two-loss squad in SWOC play.
“We could easily be undefeated right now, but we’ve had some bad breaks here and there,” Asher said. “I’m looking for us to get on a roll like we did last year.”
The Braves (5-10, 2-5) didn’t challenge Edgewood. The hosts avoided the shutout when Lauren Baker, who had two hits, delivered a two-out RBI single in the sixth.
Talawanda committed eight errors along the way, seven in the last three innings.
“They brought their ‘A’ game and we didn’t,” Braves coach Stephanie Guenther said. “I know at one point Sam Davis had six strikeouts in nine batters. She’s a good pitcher, but we need to at least be swinging the bat. We just looked panicky on defense, and it went downhill really quick.”
Madison Asher had three hits and three RBIs for the Cougars, and Jenna Evans added two hits and an RBI. Ally Williams, Hailey Jackson and Michaela Finkbine drove in a run apiece.
Davis issued no walks and pushed her record to 8-3. She’s on the mend from a groin injury.
“The good thing is we kind of jumped on them in the first inning with two runs,” Wayne Asher said. “With Sammi pitching, that’s a pretty good start.”
He said Davis was one of several EHS players that convinced him to coach this year.
“I’ve known her since she’s been little,” Asher said. “When your star pitcher looks you in the eye and asks you to come back, you don’t want to let her down.
“I’m really ready to retire, but it’s amazing when you retire how many people it affects. My age is telling me to get out and my heart’s wanting to stay with it. It’s fun coaching these girls. We’ve got a great group this year.”
Talawanda has already earned as many wins as it did last year in Guenther’s first season as head coach. The Braves were 5-18 overall and 3-9 in the SWOC in 2016.
Friday’s performance aside, Guenther said the program is improving.
“We’re not going to win the conference in one year, but we can have those aspirations and strive for it,” she said. “We have six seniors, but we also have a lot of new kids on the team. One of our goals was to go .500 this year, and we want to win more games in the conference.
“This isn’t a worst-case scenario. Our goals are not out of reach by any means, and I think our team has the ability to come back and make some noise. We’ve been working a lot with the youth program. We’re optimistic about the future.”
Both teams are scheduled for doubleheaders Saturday. Talawanda will be on the road to face Beavercreek, while the Cougars host Madison.
WP — Sam Davis (8-3); LP — Kayli Scott (2-6). Records: E 8-4, 4-1 SWOC; T 5-10, 2-5 SWOC