Stronger Bears ready for another title run


The Olentangy Berlin softball team came agonizingly close to securing a league title last year.

This spring, with virtually the entire team back, the goal is to finish the job.

“We had a tight run last year for OCC, but the last couple games got away from us,” Berlin coach Jenna Haskins said. “This offseason, we focused on working together and gaining more chemistry and strength. We have a great strength and conditioning program that collaborates with the coaching staff to focus on softball-specific skills … we’re hoping to build on that and become an offensively explosive team this spring.”

Syd Davis and Izzie Wilson — a pair of offensive and defensive standouts — headline the list of returning starters while Haskins expects big things from junior first baseman Ava Kresak and sophomore catcher Adelynn Young. Third baseman Payton Caldwell will also return to her starting spot at the hot corner while Jocelyn Franz has looked good at second, the coach said.

Addie Davis, Elizabeth Sprecher and Ella Erwine — all players who picked up plenty of experience as first-year starters a season ago — should be even better now that they have a year of experience under their belt. Erwine will be the leader in the circle as the only retuning pitcher, with junior Grace Kemper expected to add some depth at the position.

Others expected to contribute at the varsity level include Jaelynn Bleeks, Paige Miles and Sheridan Paykoff. Bleeks is a lefty who has speed and can play in the middle infield and outfield, Miles is a versatile player who has worked hard in the preseason and Paykoff will add depth in the outfield, Haskins said.

Obviously, with so many players back, experience is a strength.

“With only losing one person last year, we have almost an entire squad that has played at this level before,” Haskins said. “We also have a tremendous number of hardworking individuals who thrive on constructive criticism. They are always hungry for more, looking for ways to improve.”

Again, the Bears have a loaded schedule which features some of the area’s top teams, including Westerville Central, Teays Valley, Gahanna Lincoln and Hilliard Bradley. Then, in league play, there’s Marysville.

“Our goal for this year is to go after the league leaders and finally claim that OCC title we’ve been so close to getting each year,” Haskins said. “Our focus is one pitch at a time, only looking 60 feet in front of us and getting 1-precent better each day. This team has big goals, but we know it’s important to focus on what’s important now, and that’s mastering all the small stuff before we begin playing.”

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