Abby Stone is still on the receiving end of the battery but the multi-talented softball star has been on the delivering end of it occasionally this season for the Akron Tigers.
The results: Thirteen strikeouts in 10 innings of work. Still, the two-time All-Western New York catcher is best known for her work behind the plate and with the bat in her hand.
After setting the school record with 51 RBI last year, Stone is off to another scintillating start having driven in nine runs in five games. Six of her 10 hits have gone for extra bases. She's batting .588 with seven runs scored for an Akron team looking to take it at least one step further after losing to eventual Class B-2 champion Eden in the sectional semifinals last year. Junior Mattie Klein is the No. 1 pitcher for the 6-1 Tigers. She's struck out 51 in 38 innings and has a 1.84 earned-run average. Second-year starting shortstop Darion Jonathan, a sophomore, is hitting .346, while junior third baseman Neely Abrams is batting .350.
Akron's goal for the season?
The Tigers accomplished it over winter, when they delivered 7,500 pounds of used softball equipment they collected to needy girls in the Dominican Republic. The team held a clinic and helped set up a league during its visit. The Tigers' next goal is to return there in 2018 to check on the progress of the league, help build a community diamond and train coaches in CPR and concussion management, according to coach Marlene Stone.
Of course, Akron wants to return to the Dominican Republic as champion of the N-O. There's no shortage of contenders for the league crown, though, with Roy-Hart and Newfane also having one league loss like the Tigers. Medina, which split the season series with Akron, is 4-2. The Tigers beat Roy-Hart in extra innings. Roy-Hart beat Newfane. The contenders have top players to keep an eye on, including Roy-Hart shortstop Kayla Brown. Newfane returns senior catcher and All-WNY honorable mention Olivia Littman, who's committed to LeMoyne. Junior Destiny Satkowski boasts a .567 average for Medina.
What about the shield?
The Niagara Frontier League race should be very interesting, with defending champion Lewiston-Porter and Niagara Wheatfield sharing the lead with 5-1 records. N-W edged Lew-Port, 5-4, recently.
Kenmore West is 4-1 in the league. Niagara Falls and Lockport are each 4-2 in the league.
Lew-Port looks to build on a whole lot of firsts as the Lancers return five from last season's team that not only secured the program's first league crown but also its first Section VI championship.
One big returnee trying to help them return to the sectional final is Jenna Rhue, an All-WNY catcher and the 2016 NFL Player of the Year. She has 10 RBI and is batting over .300 through six games. Sophomore pitcher Riley Crum also returns. She has an ERA near 2.00 and also is Lew-Port's top hitter with a .420 average. Junior center fielder Emma Waechter leads the Lancers in runs and is batting .400 out of the lead-off spot.
Niagara Wheatfield plays solid defense, swings the bat and runs the bases well. The Falcons' top returnee is senior Madison Klidonas, an All-Western New York honoree last year. The versatile infielder is coming off a campaign in which she batted .460 with 29 hits and 22 RBIs. They also have strong pitcher in sophomore Mackenzie Quider.
Kenmore West does the little things right and boasts a strong pitcher of its own in Abby Borkowski. Niagara Falls and Lockport have solid hitters with sophomore Avianna Peterson leading the charge for Falls. Lockport junior Asja Johnson is one of the best players in the league, according to Lew-Port coach Chris D'Anna. Grand Island has a solid pitcher in Emma Richard who helps keep the Vikings in every game.