BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Brian Jones admits it feels too early in the season, but the Maumee softball coach and other Division II coaches in the Northwest District held their tournament draw last Sunday for the upcoming postseason.
Jones was excited about the Panthers’ first-round matchup against Central Catholic, a team Maumee split a doubleheader with earlier in the season.
“Yes, I do think this is really early because a lot of teams haven’t gotten a lot of games in yet,” Jones said. “Some teams like us, we’re still feeling our way around what we want to do.
“This seems real early this year, not only because we haven’t played; it just feels like it’s a week early. With all the rainouts and snow-outs, it’s hard to judge where certain teams should be.
“At the end of the day, they’ve all got to play each other and beat each other anyways.”
It was a positive ending to an otherwise rough week. The Panthers went 0-4, with Northern Lakes League losses to Anthony Wayne, Perrysburg, Napoleon and Southview.
“It’s been a tough week,” Jones said. “Just being in the NLL, it’s a grind, we all know that.
“Anthony Wayne (is) ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason. We didn’t play horrible against them – it was close early. A team like that, they’re just going to take it to you when they can.”
The Panthers started the week with lopsided losses to AW (25-1) and Perrysburg (19-6) before narrowly losing to Napoleon (9-8). They closed out the week with a 10-0 loss to Southview.
Ever the optimist, though, Jones found the bright spot in the week.
“I’m the positive coach,” he said. “I told them this is what we need to build on. I pulled out the stats from the last two years where we got one-hit and two-hit and were getting shut out. We had 12 hits and scored six runs against Perrysburg, and that’s huge.”
Sophomore Lilly Duling had the week’s highlight with a three-run home run against the Yellow Jackets, part of a four-run fifth inning.
“We were 0-4 for the week, but it didn’t feel like we were 0-4,” Jones said. “We had a lot of positives that I think we can build on going into next week and into tournament time.”
Jones knows even these losses to league opponents can help prepare his team for the upcoming tournament.
“It hurts. I mean, no one wants to lose to Perrysburg, trust me,” Jones said. “But it does prepare us for the (D-II) tournament, because at least in the first couple of rounds, you’re not going to face the talent of Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne and Springfield.
“The one good thing about this league is it can prepare you for tournament runs if you get good draws and play well down the stretch.”