Cleveland-area trio leads softball to playoffs

Mercyhurst College junior Michelle Schmitz is leading the Lakers with her .356 batting average.Mercyhurst College junior Michelle Schmitz is leading the Lakers with her .356 batting average.For the first time since 1991, the women’s softball team has posted a regular season record over .500.

The Lakers swept Edinboro University in a two-game series over the weekend and earned the second seed in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division Tournament.

The Lakers look to bring success to a program that has been relegated to years of pushing through season after season of disappointment.

A major reason for the recent success comes from the surge in offense from the Lakers.

Last year the Lakers were rather anemic on offense, struggling to produce runs in key situations.

There are three big reasons for this resurgence in the Lakers offense and they are junior Michelle Schmitz, sophomore Jen Bower and sophomore Emily Redig.

The three offensive dynamos have one thing in common, as they are all from the Cleveland area.

Redig went to Notre Dame Cathedral Latin in Chardon, Schmitz attended Westlake High School and Jen Bower attended Elyria High School and twice played in the state championship game.

The region’s competitive nature has made these players more prepared than most.

“Being in such a competitive area playing high school softball really prepared us for college softball and made the transition easier,” Redig said.

“There were defiantly players in the area and there were a good deal of Division I players that were in the area, and playing against them made us better,” Schmitz said.

The level of competition apparently prepared them well.

Schmitz and Bower have combined for 20 home runs, four less than the team total last season. Redig has five home runs as well through the regular season.

Schmitz, Bower and Redig’s 84 RBIs account for close to half the Laker’s RBIs this season and have a combined .335 batting average for the season.

Despite the high production these Lakers just try to keep a simple mindset at the plate.

“I just try and go out there and put the ball in play and make the other team make mistakes,” said Bower, who leads the team with 11 homeruns.

All three worked hard in the off-season, playing on strong summer league teams and working on individual weaknesses.

“Over the summer, I worked very hard on trying to improve how I hit the outside pitch, and now I can really focus on just hitting the ball where it is pitched to me,” Schmitz said.

The hard work has shown, as Schmitz is leading the team in batting average with a .352 average with nine home runs and a team-leading 36 RBI’s.

Schmitz, Redig and Bower are all very excited about the success of the team this season but are convinced there is still room for improvement.

“I think that we have a lot of potential and talent on this team. We have been really performing well and we hope we can continue to carry it over into the playoffs,” Redig said.

If the Lakers look to advance deep into the playoffs they will need them to come up big.