The Delaware Hayes softball team has been a force in league play since the day Mark Thomas took over as head coach.
This year, Thomas said he doesn’t see any reason for that to change.
“If we play like I know we are going to play this season, we will control our own destiny,” he said. “In my heart and mind, we will win the Capital Division. That’s just our expectation every year … to win an OCC title.”
Thomas is a confident guy in general, but a lot of that confidence comes from the caliber of Pacers he has in the sable. Four-year letter winners Myaih Cloud and Kami Slayton lead the way. Cloud will catch and hit second or third while Slayton will play third and bat third or fifth.
Lauren Tompkins, a three-year letter winner, will play shortstop and look to set the table as the lead-off hitter while Brianna Richey, another three-year letter winner, will hit ninth and play one of the corner outfield positions. Other returners include Olivia Nelson (first base), Maddie Kiss (pitcher) and Rylea Gist (centerfield). Nelson and Kiss are both three-year varsity players while Gist is a two-year letter winner.
Newcomers who Thomas sees contributing include freshmen Bronwynn Leighty (pitcher) and Zee Brown (second base); sophomore Kim Ferrell, who Thomas said is the fastest player he’s ever coached; and senior Kassy Stefanski (pitcher/first base), who moved into the district from Independence over the offseason.
Thomas said Kiss and Leighty will pitch most of the innings, with Stefanski coming in for relief.
“Defensively, we are going to be strong, especially on the left side,” Thomas said. “Nelson will be strong and first base, Brown will get there at second (she caught in junior high and travel ball) and we will be quick in the outfield with very good arms.”
Hayes shouldn’t have any trouble scoring runs, either. It certainly hasn’t been a problem in recent years.
“We are going to be very strong at the plate,” Thomas said. “The girls have worked very hard in the hitting facility over the winter and we’re going to bring a lot to the plate this year … home runs, hit-and-run, squeeze and bunting the ball all over the place.”
The pieces are in place. Now, according to Thomas, the players just need to be themselves.
“We have to stay within ourselves,” he said. “We have the opportunity to be very good, but we need to stay level-headed and not get ahead of ourselves. We need to stay positive behind our young pitching and score a lot of runs.”
The Pacers open the season this weekend in Florida. They’re set to take on Oak Harbor in a double header slated to get underway Sunday at 10 a.m.