Tigers facing the unknown in Western Reserve

Less than 24 hours before his team was to make its regional tournament debut, Seneca East coach Steve Coppes didn’t bluff when asked what he knew about today’s opponent.

Maybe “nothing” isn’t the right word, but the coach candidly said he hasn’t found out much about Berlin Center Western Reserve, beyond the team’s record and the fact it was the No. 1 seed in its district.

“We haven’t been able to find anybody who knows anything about them,” Coppes said. “We’re going into it kind of blind, it’s kind of nice.”

Coppus said he wants his players to focus on making themselves better. That strategy has worked well throughout the postseason so far. Coppes hopes it will work again at 5 p.m. today when the Tigers face the Blue Devils at Kent State University.

“I think they feel good knowing they’ve gotten better every game. If they play their game, they have a good chance of winning, but they have to make plays.”

The Tigers (17-10) also have shown the can win in numerous ways. Seneca East scored 18 runs over its first two postseason games before advancing to regionals with a 1-0 win over Mansfield Christian in Shelby.

Each of the Tigers’ district wins came by one run.

“I think we’ve peaked at the right time of the year, that’s what you need,” Coppes said.

As for Western Reserve, it comes into today’s game with a 20-2 mark and two outstanding starting pitchers. Aleah Hughes is in her first year with the Blue Devils, but already knows a thing or two about big games.

Four years ago, Hughes pitched on a Poland, OH team that advanced all the way to the Little League Softball World Series in Oregon.

She has carried that success over to high school.

Hughes has a 0.65 earned run average while hitting .545 with 48 RBIs. If the junior doesn’t start in the circle, it’s likely that sophomore Maddie Krietzburg will. She has a .518 batting average while collecting a 10-0 record.

The Blue Devils also have a number of other terrific hitters in third baseman Alexis Lude (.405, 20 RBIs), outfielder Gabby Stubbs (.398) and catcher Marley Oles (.502).

Going up against these players is likely to be Rachel Bauman, the Seneca East pitcher who Coppes said pitched “the game of her life” in shutting our Mansfield Christian Friday.

She’ll likely have to be just as good today.

“She has to go in there and not be afraid,” Coppes said.

The coach also is hoping the Tigers’ bats return to the forms they showed in the first two tournament games.

“We need to get the bats going; we’re preparing for them as if they’re the best team we’ll face all year,” Coppes said.