Softball roundup: Hayes hungry for another league title


The faces change, but the expectations don’t for the Delaware Hayes softball team.

Fresh off their ninth OCC-Capital Division championship, the Pacers have the pieces to nab another one this spring.

“We will control our own destiny,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “If we play like I know we are capable of, we’ll win the Capital Division. That’s just our expectation — year in and year out — to win an OCC title.”

With Westerville North and Dublin Scioto returning a ton of talent, though, Thomas knows it won’t be easy.

“North has a very strong pitcher coming back, with almost the entire lineup back. They will be tough to beat,” Thomas said. “Scioto also has a good lineup.”

Good lineups will be a theme in the Capital, as Thomas expects his to be solid, too.

“We have the potential to be very good at the plate this year,” he said. “The girls have worked hard in the hitting facility and we’re going to bring a lot to the plate … hit-and-run, suicide squeeze, bunting and maybe a few home runs. I know this … we’ll put the ball in play and make the other team have to play a strong defense against us.”

Seniors Kim Ferrell (outfield), Kami Pelletier-Harris (third base) and Addison Holt (outfield) are all back as key cogs in that lineup. Juniors Bronwynn Leighty (pitcher) and Zee Brown (catcher) return as three-year letter winners while classmate Grace Singleton (outfield) is back as a two-year letter winner.

Other returners include sophomores Lizzy Gould (shortstop/second base), McKenna Coleman (second base/shortstop) and Kasey Beswick (first base).

Newcomers include junior Abby Stahl, sophomores Hannah McAllister, Laurel Day and Taylor Flynn and freshman Lexi McCabe.

“Defensively, we should be good as well … especially in the middle and behind the plate,” Thomas said. “Lizzy and McKenna play very well at both middle positions and we don’t lose a step if we put in Lexi at either side of second. Zee will be starting her second year behind the plate and is getting better each and every day, Kasey will be strong at first, Kami is quick at attacking bunts and has a strong arm at third and we will be fast in the outfield, covering gap-to-gap with very good arms.”

Leighty, a Monmouth University commit, returns with the most experience in the circle. McAllister, Coleman and Stahl will provide pitching depth.

“We have to stay within ourselves,” Thomas said. “We have the opportunity to be good, but have to stay level-headed and not get ahead of ourselves. We have good pitching — they have to keep the ball low and let the defense play behind them to make outs and keep runners off base.”


Teams replace players every year.

Rarely, though, do they have to replace players as talented as the ones the Buckeye Valley softball team will be looking to replace this year.

Gone are ace Liz Hamilton, right fielder Kayleigh Cain and shortstop Mackenzie Hughes.

Hughes was named Player of the Year in the Barons’ division of the MSL and Hamilton, who is currently playing for Division I Central Connecticut State, was a three-time all-district honoree.

Fortunately, BV returns plenty of familiar faces — 10 letter winners looking to step up and fill the shoes of the departed standouts.

Pitchers Audrey Condit (first-team all-league) and Haden Allen (second-team all-league) are both back after seeing a lot of time while Hamilton was rehabbing from an injury last spring.

“This year’s team is a lot like last year’s, but another year older,” Buckeye Valley coach John Stuart said. “Last year our No. 1 pitcher (Hamilton) was injured three-fourths of the year, thus giving more pitching time to Audrey and Haden … I’m hoping that experience should help them this year.”

Other returners include centerfielder Sophia Richards, who had a .500 batting average and stole 30 bases; and third baseman Maddy Looney, second baseman Zoee Inglish and catcher Mari Defrancis, who all hit over .300 on their way to honorable mention all-league recognition last spring.

Senior left fielder Abby Margraff (.385 batting average), senior first baseman Lauren Haunhorst (.313), junior utility player Brianna Upchurch and sophomore Mak Bertke (.320) are also back.

Others looking to contributed include senior Tess Manning (outfield), juniors Jaden Hamilton (cather), Bella Brown and McKenna Hudson, sophomores MJ Cress (pitcher/outfield) and Kayleigh Matheny, and freshman shortstop Bailey Degen.

On paper, this year’s team has all the potential in the world.

“Top to bottom, this year’s team has the potential to be one of the best-hitting teams I’ve had since taking over back in 2020 … it all boils down to confidence and being consistent at the plate,” Stuart said. “This year’s team needs to hit teams with better pitching, that is something we did not do well last year. We have been challenging our girls to battle more at the plate and to take the pitcher-batter battle more personally.

“I like what I’ve seen in the cage so far this spring, all the girls seem to have an edge about them.”

The Barons will be playing in a new league this year — the Central Buckeye League. The goal, though, is the same.

“As always our goals are to win the CBL and to compete for a district title,” Stuart said. “I look for Bishop Ready, along with Worthington Christian and Bexley, to compete with us for the league title.”


The Olentangy Berlin softball team has a handful of returners back from last year’s squad, but they won’t all be returning to the same positions when they take the field this spring.

Junior Adelynn Young, for example, will play some shortstop after spending her first two years behind the plate.

“The last two years she was our starting catcher, but has been working hard to help us fill our gap at the position (short),” Berlin coach Jenna Haskins said. “We also have junior Jaelynn Bleeks, who was with us last year as an outfielder, who will be in the middle at second base.”

That’s not to say all the Bears will be in new spots.

First baseman Ava Kresak will return to her familiar position while Ella Erwine, another four-year letter winner, will return to the pitcher’s circle. Senior Grace Kemper will add depth to the rotation while junior Addison Davis returns to anchor the outfield in center.

Sophomore Paige Miles, who will slide in behind the plate while not at third base, is also back.

Newcomers include senior Melaina Roach, sophomores Afton Thomas and Evie Roberts and freshmen Madison Gorka and Addy DeVito — a pair Haskins likes for their versatility.

“Madison will help tremendously on defense, where she can play infield and outfield, but also in the lineup,” the coach said. “Addy will help round out our outfield, as well as help in the circle as our third pitcher.”

The Bears are looking to build on an 18-10 campaign in which they finished as Division I district runner-up.

With a lot of youth behind the handful of experienced returners, Berlin won’t start the season as a finished product. The plan will be to grow as the spring progresses.

“Half our team will be first-year varsity athletes, including two freshman who will likely contribute significantly,” Haskins said. “The keys for this group to find success are to continue to work hard in practice to prepare for the tough times ahead … and plan to rely on each other to make it through.”

The Bears may be a bit inexperienced, but that doesn’t change the fact they have a loaded scheduled. It includes Hilliard Bradley, the team they lost to in the district tourney; and Gahanna Lincoln, Upper Arlington and Teays Valley, teams which routinely make noise in the postseason.

“Overall, I believe strongly in a strength of schedule that will prepare you for some of the best opportunities for growth as a team,” Haskins said.


The Olentangy Liberty softball team was all business this offseason.

“Our team went through a 10-week mindset class,” Patriots coach Ty Kashmiry said. “They worked hard in the summer with practices and scrimmages, the fall and winter have been working on defense and hitting and the players were in the weight room all offseason.”

The Patriots return a lot, too.

Seniors back in the fold include Brooke Aberle, a Kent State commit who will be patrolling centerfield; Lizzie Kuczek, who will play first base; senior Allie Jenkins, who’ll play left field; senior Haley Colegrove, who will catch; senior Marissa DeLorenzo, who will spend time at first; and senior Allie Motyka, who will anchor the infield at second.

Other returners include junior Ryann Kelly (third base), and sophomore pitchers Kailey McGinnis and Emily Chevalier. Junior Caroline Lutwin, finally, will smooth out the outfield in right.

“Our strength is we’re drama free and have a lot of experience this year,” Kashmiry said. “We’ll have opportunities at the plate and on defense to reach our goals … and we’re always looking to win the league, which is one of the toughest in the OCC.”

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