Pacers look to return to championship form


Last season, the Delaware Hayes softball team lost just twice in league play, finishing 20-2 overall. Still, the two losses were enough to keep the Pacers from an OCC-Capital Division crown — something they’d become accustomed to winning year in and year out.

This spring, despite a younger team than in the past, the goal is to get back to the top of the league standings.

“League wise, everyone in the Capital is getting better,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “We’ll all fight for a league title. The teams we have circled are all of them, but especially Westerville North … they beat us last year to stop us from winning our fourth straight title. So, that’s the team with two circles around it.”

Hayes graduated four starters who were critical parts of the lineup, both offensively and defensively, but Thomas said he has plenty of potential back in the fold.

Key returners include seniors Lauren Tompkins and Rylea Gist, juniors Maddie Kiss and Zee Brown and sophomore Bronwynn Leighty.

“Lauren is a three-year letter winner with a lot of experience,” Thomas said. “She’ll slide over to third from shortstop and has hit very well in the past … I look for another great year with the bat.

“Rylea will be the general in the outfield. She’s a very good communicator and is hard-working. Maddie will be in the circle and right field. She’s an all-around leader and I expect another good year from her in the circle, in right and on offense.”

Leighty will pitch as well while Brown will move from second to behind the plate.

“Bronwynn had a good year in the circle as a freshman and I’m looking for a better year because of all the experience she got last spring,” Thomas said. “She’ll switch between the circle and right field as well, and is a really smart left-handed batter that can lay down a bunt or even hit for power.

“Zee played behind first-team all-state catcher Myaih Cloud last season … she has big shoes to fill, and I have no doubt that she will. Zee, who will also be one of our offensive leaders, loves challenges.”

Beyond those five, the Pacers are young … but getting better with every rep in practice.

“We are inexperienced and raw,” Thomas said. “But, we are working very hard and practicing very well right now to get rid of the raw part. We still have the same goals as always: win a league title and go to districts.

“Keys to obtaining those goals are to keep working hard on our fundamentals, doing the little things right and cutting down on mental mistakes.”

The Pacers open the season with six games in Florida before getting into the meat of the league slate. They’ll finish with perennial powers Hilliard Bradley, Marysville and West Jefferson in the final week of the season to get ready for tourney time.

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