Rick Foose returned this year as head coach of the Washington Lady Lions softball program.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to be closed and the Spring sports season in 2020 to be cancelled.
This year was Foose’s third year back with the program. He spent the last two years as an assistant coach.
Foose was the program’s head coach for 11 consecutive seasons from 2003 until 2013.
Randy Elzey took over the program in 2014 and was the Lady Lions’ head coach for six years.
“I really felt like I never left the program, because I went to a lot of the games,” Foose said. “When I stepped away, I did so thinking I was going to develop a middle school program. That’s when we started it, when my daughter (Brooklyn) and that group of juniors and seniors were in middle school. I did that for four years.
“Two years ago, I came back as Coach Elzey’s assistant for two seasons,” Foose said. “When that occurred, Greg Knisley took over our middle school program. We have two middle school teams, run by Greg and Caleb McKinney.”
Assistant coaches on the varsity are Wendy Hawk and Greg Knisley, along with statistician Vernon Pabst.
Trevor Patton is the j-v head coach, assisted by Caleb McKinney, Mike Holley and Kyle Hoppes, with student statistician Destanie Leach.
“We were at our next to last practice when we got word from Governor DeWine basically stating that the schools would be shut down,” Foose said. “When we got the word, we made the most of our last practice, scrimmaging the j-v and varsity using the pitching machine. At the time, we did not know that it would be our last practice. We were optimistic, I guess, that we would come back in two or three weeks and maybe have part of a season; that we would get a handful of games, or at least the league games.
“Of course, the girls were disappointed, as well as the coaching staff,” Foose said. “We got word eventually in April that there would be no season. It was most unfortunate for our two seniors (Lilly Cowman and Danika Marcum) who played their last game and didn’t even realize it. Their last game was actually two years ago, for both of them. The last time they played Blue Lion softball was as sophomores.
“We were anxious, because we had only graduated two players,” Foose said. “We felt like we had a young team coming back. They were having really good workouts. The work ethic was top-notch, as was the effort in all of our practices leading up to that announcement. We felt like we had a hungry group of young athletes that could really compete this year and surprise some people.”
Seniors last year were Maddy Jenkins and Taylor Smith.
“Maddy was All-FAC and also Second Team, All-District (last season),” Foose said. “She was a catcher and first baseman. Taylor was more in a utility role.”
In 2020, Washington had 13 players on the varsity roster, including two seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.
“Danika and Lilly are both catchers,” Foose said. “Lilly was our starting catcher her sophomore year, in which she received All-District, Honorable Mention. She had a good chance of being our starting catcher this season.
“Danika can also play third base and the outfield,” Foose said. “She’s kind of a utility player in that sense. She can play a variety of positions. Lilly’s secondary position would be right field. Danika was actually the starting catcher her freshman year and then Lilly took over the duties as a sophomore. Last year, of course, (the catcher) was Maddy Jenkins.
“This would have been Danika’s third year,” Foose said. “This would have been Lilly’s second year.”
Juniors were Corynn Chrisman, Brooklyn ‘Tex’ Devenport, Brooklyn Foose, Emma Funari, Marcelle Jones and Kearria Marcum.
Foose, Devenport, Chrisman and Funari each received a three-year letterman plaque.
Sophomores were Makenna Knisley, Kassidy Olsson, Meredith Pabst and Mallori Tucker.
The lone freshman on the varsity squad was Kalana Smith.
“Corynn Chrisman, Kassidy Olsson and Kalana Smith — I kind of tie all three of those players in the same grouping,” Foose said. “Because, in my opinion, they were going to fill the voids of shortstop, third base and center field. I really felt that all three of them had a chance to start and it was a matter of putting each one in one of those slots. I feel like they are our best defensive players and those are the spots they would have been competing for.
“That’s what made our practices so effective,” Foose said. “Just seeing them going at it, playing at such a high level, defensively, competing against one another in a friendly manner. It was enjoyable to watch them compete for those three sports.
“Brooklyn ‘Tex’ Devenport is a pitcher for us,” Foose said. “She was competing to get into the pitching rotation. She also is a second baseman. She’s got some speed; she has the ability to bunt and slap, offensively. ‘Tex’ can play in the outfield, too.
“Brooklyn Foose (Coach Foose’s daughter) kind of fits very similarly with ‘Tex’,” Foose said. “Brooklyn (Foose) is also a slapper; she’s a bunter. She’s our only natural left-handed batter on the team. Brooklyn would probably have been a first base/outfield option. She can also play second base.”
Having the two Brooklyns in the lineup, intermingled with more powerful hitters, is a definite plus, according to Foose.
“Emma Funari is another catcher option,” Foose said. “She saw a lot of time in left field last year. She’s another utility player. She can play second or third or really any outfield position if she’s not catching. I look forward to seeing her step into possibly filling that catching void with both of our seniors this year being catchers.
“Kearria Marcum and Marcelle Jones are our other juniors,” Foose said. “They were both outfielders for us, as well as options at third base. They were in the mix to get playing time at the varsity level. They both played j-v in years past.”
Kassidy Olsson has a lot of speed and creates havoc on the base paths, Foose explained.
“McKenna Knisley was our starting pitcher most nights last year on the varsity team,” Foose said. “She would have gotten a lot of time on the mound this year, as well. She’s a very strong hitter for us. She’s very consistent, as well as having a lot of pop in her hits.
“When McKenna is not pitching, she can play either corner position and possibly outfield,” Foose said. “She was Honorable Mention, All-District last year as a freshman.
“Meredith Pabst is another pitching option,” Foose said. “She has really developed as an offensive player. Going into this season, I was very optimistic that she might have been one of the best hitters in our lineup. Meredith was competing for time at first base or in the outfield.”
Pabst can also fill the designated player role, Foose said.
“I like to use 10 players in my lineup and utilize that flex/DP option a lot,” Foose said.
“All four of the sophomores are in their second year on the team,” Foose said.
“Mallori Tucker also has a lot of speed,” Foose said. “Between Mallori Tucker, Kassidy Olsson, Brooklyn Foose, Brooklyn Devenport, Corynn Chrisman and freshman Kalana Smith, we feel like we have a lot of speed on the base paths this year. We’re going to utilize some of our slappers and bunters, mixed in with our power hitters to create some difficulties for our opponents.
“Mallori is an option at second base,” Foose said. “She played there a little bit last year as a freshman. She’s also an option in the outfield. She can also bunt and provide us with speed on the bases.
“Kalana Smith is our fourth pitcher,” Foose said. “We have four pitchers and three catchers on the varsity. Kalana can play shortstop, third base and center field. She is one of our better defensive players. If she was not in the lineup, we could definitely use her as a courtesy runner.
“We had two j-v players that we were considering moving up to the varsity on days when we weren’t having a j-v game,” Foose said. “They are Jeleeya Tyree-Smith, an outfielder and Haven McGraw, because of her hitting power.” Those players were both sophomores.
“We had 35 girls come out this year,” Foose said. “It was highly competitive in the preseason. We cut that number down to 28. It’s probably the most difficult thing I have to do all season, to meet with the kids that we cut. We tell the girls (that are cut) to continue playing. We encourage them to get in a (recreational) league or find a travel team, just to get more experience.”
Foose gave an example of a player who did not make the middle school team, but stuck with the sport and made the j-v team in 2019 and 2020.
Foose gave a few thoughts on the competition in the Frontier Athletic Conference in 2020.
“This would have been the third year of the FAC,” Foose said. “Jackson won the first two years and, in all honesty, they were, in my opinion, the team to beat. They had a lot of experience and that goes a long way. They are the champs until someone knocks them off the pedestal. They would be my predicted top finisher in the league.
“As for everyone else, I love playing Trace, I love playing McClain,” Foose said. “Those two are both rivals of ours. Coach (Joe) Henry has had a very solid program the past few years. I know they graduated 10. A lot of teams will walk into that game against them a little overconfident, because they would be playing a younger team, in their opinion. I still think that they would be competitive.
“I think (McClain) has a lot of players coming back,” Foose said. “I think that they, too, will be competitive. I always love playing both of those teams.
“There are a lot of Trace girls who participate in our Cougars (a local travel team) program and in the local rec league program,” Foose said. “We always face a lot of the Greenfield McClain players — they have a team called the Yellow Jackets that we face in our travel competition — we’re very familiar with both of those teams (McClain and Miami Trace) and we really enjoy playing against both of them.
“I really don’t know much about who the returners are for Hillsboro and Chillicothe and what they bring to the table,” Foose said. “Summarizing the league, there’s Jackson and then there are the other five. Even though I don’t know much about them, I would say they will be just as competitive as ourselves, Miami Trace and McClain. Our league is very competitive. Jackson kind of stands out, but the other five teams are kind of average teams. We can win half of our games and lose half of our games and when we play each other, it’s a dog-fight, because you never know who’s going to win. It’s whoever pitches well and hits well on that given night. That’s really how I see the league as a summary.”
Washington went 3-19 last year, 2-8 in the FAC (tied for 5th place with Hillsboro).
“Our goal this year was to try and finish .500,” Foose said. “We felt like we could do much better than that with everyone we had coming back and the seniors who were returning to us.
“I just encourage the girls to get out and play this summer if they can,” Foose said. “If they feel comfortable doing so. There is going to be softball and baseball this summer. It’s going to look a little different with the social distancing.”
The following players were on the junior-varsity roster for 2020: juniors Anastasia Brickey and Lexi Stiffler; sophomores Cadie Cupp, Desarae Grim, Kassidy Hoppes, Abby Joseph, Haven McGraw, Jeleeya Tyree-Smith, Kassie Wiseman and freshmen Chelsey Dawson, Tia Farley, Madison Haithcock, Tristan Hammock, Ella Watson and Abby Wilson.