DARKE COUNTY – A pair of Greenville athletes who have their sights set on trips to state are this week’s Daily Advocate athletes of the week.
This week’s Daily Advocate athletes of the week are Greenville softball player Allison Minnich and Greenville boys track and field athlete AJ Frens.
After losing Ally Russell to graduation, Minnich has stepped up for the Greenville softball team as its new ace. She’s already shown herself to be a dependable pitcher for the Lady Wave with a 5-1 record and a 1.18 ERA in her first six games.
“Having been a three-year starter and major player at first base and with the bat, she gets her chance to run the show this year on the mound,” Greenville softball coach Jerrod Newland said.
Minnich has struck out 25 batters in 41 2/3 innings so far this season.
“Allison is our first real lefty pitcher and is starting to learn how to spin the ball,” Newland said. “We knew she would be good, but after last summer we knew she would excel as the horse on the hill. We tend to throw a lot on the pitchers’ shoulders here.”
The Greenville senior already has had some big-time performances. She combined with Sydney Grote to throw a perfect game against West Carrollton. She also pitched 10 scoreless innings against Lebanon in a game at Wright State to lead the Wave to a 1-0 victory.
“The 1-0 10-inning win at WSU was a statement for her, and I look for her to have a few more,” Newland said.
Offensively Minnich has a .304 on-base percentage in seven games and has not struck out. In 18 at-bats the future Sinclair Community College softball player has a double, two RBIs and has scored two runs.
“Minnich works hard at her game,” Newland said. “She is a great teammate always looking out for everyone. Great all-around student-athlete.”
Along with fellow seniors Ashton Kester and Jazzlyn Petry, Minnich is determined to lead the Greenville softball team to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state final four in Akron.
“The opportunity is there, and she is determined to take advantage of it,” Newland said. “Her, Jazz and Kester are three great leaders, and they are on a mission for the 2016 spring.”
Last year Frens qualified for the OHSAA Division I state track and field meet. He cleared 15 feet in the pole vault and finished fifth in the state.
This past month Frens competed at the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches indoor state championships. The Greenville junior cleared 15 feet 3 inches and finished as the state runner up.
So far this spring Frens is continuing to get even better. He set a personal best of 16 feet when he won the pole vault at the Greenville Triangular on March 29.
Usually vaulters don’t set personal bests in the first couple weeks of the season, but Frens is doing just that.
“It’s just incredible,” Greenville track and field coach Bill Plessinger said. “You usually don’t get up to what you did the previous year for a month, especially with the weather.”
In the statewide statistics compiled by http://oh.milesplit.com, Frens’ 16 foot vault is the best in the state this track and field season.
“He’s probably one of the top five pole vaulters in the state of Ohio, maybe the top two or three,” Plessinger said. “It’s really exciting to think where he will be at season end at the rate he’s progressing.”
Even though he focuses on pole vault, Frens could excel in any event Plessinger said.
“AJ probably would be the best on our team at any event he attempted,” the coach said. “He could be so good at so many events in track.”
Last year Frens was working to become a member of the 4×200 meter relay team until he tweaked his ankle.
“He’s just so good at vault that it’s not worth the risk of getting him hurt,” Plessinger said.
In addition to being a natural athlete, Frens also is a great person.
“There’s no better kid,” Plessinger said. “AJ is such a great kid. It couldn’t happen for a better kid.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.