Jenni “Merf” Allerding
Jennie Allerding, better known to her family, friends, and the softball world as “Merf,” helped make Loudonville-Perrysville girls sports one of the most recognized athletic programs in the state of Ohio in Division III during the early 1990s. Merf and her teammates accomplished what was recognized at the time as the only girls’ team to appear in three consecutive championship games in separate sports in Ohio high school athletic history.
As a three-year letter winner in volleyball, Merf helped lead the team to the Division III state championship in 1991. A setter and a captain, she attained All-District status as well as being named to the All-Mohican Area Conference (MAC) First Team.
Five months later, the Redbirds found themselves in familiar territory when they journeyed to Columbus to appear in the Division III girls basketball state championship game where they finished runners up. As a four-year letter winner on the basketball team, Merf was an All-MAC First Team selection as a forward her senior season, a team captain, and a member of the 1991-92 MAC championship team.
Although Merf was successful in both volleyball and basketball, it was on the softball diamond that she excelled and made her mark. In her three-year career as a varsity pitcher, she was twice named All-Ohio First Team (1991, 1992) and All-District First Team (1991, 1992), was a three-tines Ashland Times-Gazette Pitcher of the Year (1990, 1991, 1992), was named Ashland Times-Gazette Player of the Year (1991), was three-time MAC Player-of-the-Year (1990, 1991, 1992), a two-times Northeast Ohio Fastpitch Coaches Association First Team member (1991, 1992), and an OHSFSCA Scholar Athlete Award winner in both 1991 and 1992. Merf led the 1991 softball team to the state championship game where they finished runner up. Along the way, Merf etched her name in the state record books by pitching a no-hitter in the state semi-finals. With the Ashland area’s tradition of talented pitchers, Merf’s records and accomplishment are still considered to be the benchmark for pitching excellent.
Merf was not only recognized for her athletic accomplishments, but she also excelled academically and as a representative of the Loudonville-Perrysville High School student body. She was a three-year member of the National Honor Society, class officer, a Best Citizen Award winner, a Girls State representative, Homecoming Queen, and a recipient of the Jack Augenstein Outstanding Student Athlete Award. During the summer of 1990-92, Merf traveled all over the United States while playing for the Ohio Bandits 16 and Under fastpitch travel team. In 1992, Merf graduated with honors from Loudonville-Perrysville High School and because of her athletic and academic successes, she received a full scholarship to play softball at Kent State University.
Merf made an immediate impact her freshman season leading the pitching staff in all categories and was one of two freshmen in the entire Mid-American Conference (MAC) to be named all-league first team. High expectations of Merf’s sophomore season were quickly dashed as she suffered a season ending knee injury during a fall practice. After knee reconstruction for a torn ACL, Merf received a medical red shirt enabling her to have three years of edibility remaining.
She was able to come back strong and have a solid sophomore campaign where she was selected for the Academic All-MAC Honorable Mention team and also was awarded Academic All-District Second Team honors. In her junior year, Merf had an outstanding season pitching a perfect game against Miami University on May 3, 1996. She was also named to the All-MAC second team while leading the conference in strikeouts, earned-run average, and saves. She also was honored by her teammates be being named Most Valuable Player for that season. That same year, Merf was also Named Academic All-MAC First Team, the Academic All-District IV First Team, and became only the third person in Kent softball history to be named to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American First Team.
In 1997, Merf’s much-anticipated senior season found her sidelined with elbow tendonitis. Although she only pitched in ten games, Merf was named to the Academic All-MAC Honorable Mention Team, the Academic All-District IV First Team, and was honored by being chosen to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American Third Team. To round out her senior year, she was the recipient of the Janet Bachna Award, which is awarded most outstanding senior female athlete at Kent State.
Merf ranks in the top three in all career pitching categories at Kent State University, listing second all-time in both earned average (1.21) and strikeouts (437). She ranks third in both victories (49) and shutouts (21), and holds the single-season strikeout mark with 157.
In December of 1997, Merf graduated Magna Cum Laude from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. After spending the 1998 season as head coach at Orange High School, Merf joined the Kent State coaching staff where she sill be entering her third season as an assistant softball coach.
Merf considers her time spent as a Redbird representing Loudonville-Perrysville and the Ashland area as the most memorable and exciting time of her life. She wishes to thank all of her teammates, coaches, friends, and fans for all of the support tat allowed her to fulfill her dream of playing softball at the NCAA Division I level.
Merf is the daughter of Jeff and Cheryl Allerding of Loudonville, and four brothers and sisters: Jeff (27); Jackie (23); Jerrica (210; and Jarrod (20). She was married to Tyler Bishko on June 9, 2000, and they reside in Munroe Falls, Ohio.
Nominator: Gail Mowry