NTL SOFTBALL: NEB HAS HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR 2021 SEASON
(2021-03-29)BY CHRIS MANNINGNorthern Tier Sports Report
Northeast Bradford softball may have a new coach, but expectations remain: they’re the defending NTL Division-II champions and they plan on defending that title this year, even if they only have one 4-year senior.
“We have a young team filled with underclassmen,” said coach Tilden Franklin. “So it’s going to be a young group, but it’s a good, talented group.”
He boasts 13 players, eight of them who are freshmen or sophomores. However, though over half of them haven’t played one at bat of varsity softball, they all know what type of program NEB is.
“They don’t look at it as pressure,” said Franklin. “They look at it as they have to step up, do it again next season.”
They’ve won division titles the last four years they’ve had a season - 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 - going 32-0 in the division over that span. In fact, their worse overall season during that run was in 2019 when they went 14-6, but still finished 10-4 in the NTL.
Their last Small School loss was to Williamson on May 8, 2015, though they did lose to CV in a playoff game that same year on Mary 26. Either way, NEB has been in a class of their own when it comes to divisional play.
“It’s a great program,” said Franklin.
They return catcher Emily Susanj, who hit .600 two years ago with 34-RBI and five home runs. She was one of the most feared batters in the district, let alone the league.
And in the field senior Julianna Susanj had an .886 fielding percentage, while Maisie Neuber had an .871. Julia Brown rounds out the returnees from two years ago.
Other than that it’s going to be a lot of new faces, but talented faces, beginning with Emily Susanj and sophomore pitcher Thailey Franklin.
“My battery should be one of the best in the league,” said Franklin. “They’ve been playing together for 3-4 years now. (Thailey) couldn’t play last year because we didn’t have a season, but she’ll be making that up this year.”
With so much ground to cover after missing the 2020 season, Franklin is making sure they have the basics down pat.
“I’m a coach that likes fundamentals, and I teach that in the beginning,” he said. “Eventually, it will be routine, and automatic as soon as they get into play.”
And while Emily Susanj is his big hitter returning, he doesn’t believe she’ll have to carry them.
“I hate to single out one person because there are about 4-5 girls that are pretty solid,” he said. “The freshmen are still establishing themselves.”
They don’t have their sights set on just a league title, but also a district one, and Franklin believes cross-over games against the Large School will be key there. While they went 8-0 in Small School last year, they were just 2-4 against Large School.
“It’s usually where we like to set our sights,” he said. “Because once we get into district play, they’re just the same as a Large School.”
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