BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — The last time the Maumee softball team started out this hot – well, Panthers coach Brian Jones isn’t quite sure.
Maumee went 3-0 in its opening week, outscoring Archbold, Notre Dame and Delta 32-13 with a 41-21 edge in hits. Jones said his team hasn’t started 3-0 in his six years as head coach, and he wasn’t quite sure when it had happened last before that.
“We only won seven games last year, so we’re already almost halfway to our season total from last year,” Jones said. “We’ve pitched well, we’ve hit well, I think we only have three total errors. We’ve already hit four home runs this year.
“I knew going into this season that we were going to be athletic and we have some power hitters. I thought we would have good team chemistry … all 12 of these girls love to play together.”
Maumee has been clicking in all three aspects of the game – offensively, defensively and pitching.
Senior Danielle Schriner has picked up where she left off after a standout junior season. She’s gone 6-for-12 at the plate this season with a double, triple and home run. Schriner has driven in eight runs with four runs scored.
Junior Lilly Duling leads the team with two home runs. She went 2-for-4 with two runs in the 12-6 win over Notre Dame and 2-for-4 with three RBI, two runs and a homer in a 14-4 five-inning win over Delta.
As a team, Maumee is hitting .441 with only 14 strikeouts.
“If one person struggles, there’s someone there to hold them up,” Jones said. “If it’s not Danielle, it’s Erika (Kalaski). If it’s not Erika, it’s Lilly.
“A lot of it is because they’ve put in the work. We have this saying, ‘You focus on the process, not the outcome.’ Well, they’ve focused on the process enough that the outcomes are starting to show up.”
The Panthers have also gotten tremendous production from a trio of freshmen – Autumn Gugger, Taylor Smith and Hannah Ruiz.
Ruiz threw a complete game in a 6-3 win over Archbold to open the season, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. She came on in relief in the other two games, allowing three runs and five hits in six innings, walking two and striking out eight.
Gugger went 5-for-7 with four RBI and three runs against Archbold and Notre Dame, while Smith went 4-for-6 with four runs and an RBI. Smith has also stepped in as the Panthers’ starting catcher.
Those three freshmen are among the top five hitters statistically for Maumee already.
“I knew coming into this season that all three freshmen were going to contribute, but I didn’t realize it would be this early,” Jones said.
“They’re stepping into the high school level where they’re playing against 17- and 18-year-olds, some are getting ready to go to college. It has not fazed any of them. You can tell they feel comfortable with their game.”
The Panthers were scheduled to open the Northern Lakes League schedule on Wednesday at Springfield. Jones thinks the NLL is the toughest league in Ohio, and he believes Maumee’s hot start can only help the Panthers in league play.
“In the past, and I’ll flat-out say it, we go to Springfield, we go to Perrysburg, we go to Anthony Wayne, and we feel like we don’t have a chance,” Jones said. “If we can beat Evergreen on Monday and roll into Springfield 4-0, that will be a huge confidence builder.
“If we play our game and we play smart, we can compete with Springfield. I don’t know if we can knock them off … but if you go in believing you can win, that’s 90 percent of your battle right there.”