The Delaware Hayes softball team has been on the cusp of district dominance in recent years, just hasn’t been able to get over the hump.
But after falling in extra innings to Pickerington Central in last year’s Central District championship, and to Gahanna in the title game two years prior, this season’s group is hoping to zero in on that elusive regional birth.
Pacer coach Mark Thomas said he certainly has the horses to make a deep postseason push.
All-Ohio standout Mikayla Cooper, a senior who nabbed OCC-Capital Division Player of the Year honors while leading last year’s squad to a 24-4 overall mark, an 11-3 league record and a share of conference runner-up honors is back in the fold.
“Again, we’re looking for Mikayla to bring experience and leadership to the team,” Thomas said. “She will probably play at short most of the time, and be a big bat in the middle of our lineup. Her game is as good as ever, but the biggest difference in her this season is her mental approach. She has been a lot more positive, and is really helping her teammates.”
Other returning standouts include senior catcher Kaitlyn Woerner, senior second baseman Lindsey Blair, senior right fielder Chandler Fields, junior center fielder Jordan Osborne, sophomore ace Maddie Huck and sophomore outfielder Kaitlynn Schuette.
“Kaitlyn (Woerner) has been a four-year catcher for us,” Thomas said. “She will be the field general out there and we will be looking for her to be more vocal this year. She, like Mikayla, is another leader for us and has been working a ton on her game. Lindsey is a four-year letter winner who has improved her all-around game, Chandler has really worked on her conditioning and has come in a little faster, Jordan has really worked on her speed, Maddie will be our work horse in the circle — we look to her to lead us where we want to go — and Kaitlynn (Schuette) is a solid defender for us.”
The seniors are all four-year contributors, making this year’s group an experienced one to say the least.
“Experience is first on our list of strengths,” Thomas said. “The girls know what it takes to win and have been working hard, hitting in the facility since October.”
The hard work comes with a price, though: Lofty expectations.
“We have four goals this season,” the coach said. “We want to win every home game, our next goal is to win every game, then we want to win the league and the district tournament to get into regionals.”