With a cast of talented players, the winning tradition once enjoyed by C. Milton Wright's softball program during the 1980s has seen a revival this season.
Thanks largely to new arrivals Melinda Siler and Heather Ruleau, the Mustangs are again near the top of the league at 10-2 overall, 4-0 in the county and they are building toward staying there over the next few years.
C. M. Wright starts just two seniors, but it has not played like an inexperienced team. Instead, the Mustangs have been aggressive, scrappy, productive (averaging just under 11 runs a game) and sound defensively. The real test will come May 8 when they meet John Carroll which, if all goes as planned, likely will be for the county title.
Siler, a freshman, has shown great composure and control as the Mustangs' ace pitcher. She has not lost a decision since the fourth game of the season and her 10-2 record ranks her among the best in the metro area. In her last 42 innings, Siler has allowed just eight runs.
"We knew to expect her to come around, but we didn't know all that was included in the package," said head coach Joe Dunch. "Not only does she have the physical skills, but she also brings a real competitive attitude and I think that has affected the rest of the team. She's been a terrific surprise."
Siler said, "I feel really comfortable now because I know my defense is behind me and I know that if I give up a run, my team is there to back me up and bring runs in."
The Mustangs have given Siler plenty of runs to work with (they have outscored opponents 131-47) and Ruleau, a transfer student, has been a major producer.
Ruleau, a sophomore catcher, has put a punch in Wright's lineup that few teams have in the county and she leads the team in every offensive category, including hitting with a .462 average. Of her 18 hits, nine have been for extra bases -- three for home runs -- and she is second in the metro area in RBIs with 26.
"My concentration and knowing you have a good supporting team behind you is really helpful," said Ruleau. "It is just knowing what you have to do and just doing it."
Said Dunch, "In the preseason, Heather just impressed us from the start and it was almost like after a couple days, we knew we had a special kid."
Senior and leadoff hitter Kim Ditmer has provided the necessary leadership with a steady bat (.400) and glove at third base, and juniors Julie Rivas and Angie Sherman (12 RBIs) have come on strong to raise their averages to .382 and .353, respectively.
"I thought we had potential, but I really didn't think we would do this good," said Ditmer, who has a team-leading eight stolen bases.
Dunch said the team's success does not suggest it is playing over its head.
"They are playing to their potential and I think it's confidence and having that combination takes the pressure off," said Dunch. "We run the bases well and that gets us some runs we wouldn't get otherwise. We take advantage of what they give us."