It didn't seem like there would be the need to change much when the Champion Golden Flashes began their defense of the Division III state softball championship.
With several players returning from last season, including pitcher Lindsay Swipas, coach Cheryl Weaver could seemingly put it on cruise control and see if the ride would take the Flashes to Akron for the state tournament.
Things aren't always that simple, even for a team that has it all. There were position changes that had to be made before the first pitch of the season.
One move wasn't really a position change. Darian Rogers missed last season with a torn knee ligament. When she returned to health, she easily slipped into her spot at third base.
One of the changes involved Haley McAllister, who moved from second base to shortstop. All she had to do was fill the shoes of the graduated Tawny Rogers, who played the position to near perfection last season.
Weaver then needed a second baseman. She looked to the outfield and moved Brooke Culler from center field to second.
The players adapted to the changes without the hint of a problem. Champion has committed just 11 errors this season, which is a big reason why it will play Black River for a regional championship today at noon at Community Park in Massillon.
"We brought Brooke in from center, and that made the infield really strong," Weaver said. "It was really surprising that it's worked so well. A lot of times you have to test things out to find out what works."
McAllister's move was more problematic than the other moves because of a knee injury she suffered during an open gym basketball practice last June. Shortstops are generally on the move more than second baseman.
McAllister has had no trouble with the knee. The injury certainly hasn't curtailed her aggressive streak. In the 2-0 win over East Palestine in the regional semifinals last Thursday, McAllister dove into second base for a double and later slid hard into third base on a play in which she scored the winning run after the throw from the catcher went into left field.
After breaking two knee braces, McAllister listened to the advice of her physical therapist and started playing without the device.
"See has a little more ground to cover and it seems that the ball is hit with a little more sharpness over there," Weaver said. "Braces slow you down. She covers more ground without the brace, and she runs the bases a little quicker."
Culler's addition to the infield was the missing piece to the offseason puzzle. There was never a doubt about her skills at second base.
"Brooke is one of the girls that can play about anywhere," Weaver said. "She is a fabulous athlete when it comes to that. She plays a beautiful outfield, and she can play shortstop also."
The Flashes (21-2) will get their first look at Black River, which advanced last Wednesday with an 11-6 win over Canton Central Catholic. Black River pitcher Dagmar Smith left the game in the sixth inning after putting an 11-0 lead into peril.
"The (East Palestine) pitcher we faced (Karly Pence) was a drop-curve girl and kept the ball down and away, and that's exactly what this pitcher is," Weaver said of Smith. "She's a junk-ball thrower. I didn't see many fastballs or changeups."
Black River has a 22-9 record.