The Big Walnut softball team has some big shoes to fill … big shoes in big spots.
Alex Thomas and Jess Coletta had monster senior seasons last spring. Thomas, the Golden Eagles’ starting pitcher, was a second team All-Ohio pick while Coletta, Thomas’ batterymate, nabbed first team All-District honors for her work behind the plate.
With both gone, BW will obviously look a bit different this year.
Senior Stacey Walters, who does have some varsity innings under her belt, will step into the starting pitching role while sophomore Molly Sharpe will take over for Coletta behind the plate.
“Stacey pitched quite a few innings last year … we’re excited to have her in the circle,” BW coach Jeff Hatfield said. “Molly has excellent work ethic, a strong arm and great defensive skills.”
Others Hatfield has penciled into the starting lineup include seniors Lexy Bullock (first base), Emma Schwinne (right field), Meredith Thomas (left field) and junior JoJo Lucas (center field).
“Lexy is a four-year starter at first … she’s a great team leader,” Hatfield said. “Emma is making the transition from second base to right field, JoJo is a two-year starter in center field and Meredith transitioned from shortstop to outfield last year.”
Newcomers include Hailey Krinn (sophomore), who will take over for All-OCC performer Taryn Hammond at third base, infielders Alyssa Tarney (sophomore), Arielle Brown (freshman), Maggie Blackburn (sophomore) and Taylor Schulz (junior), outfielder Karley Becker (sophomore) and pitchers Autumn Imhoff (sophomore) and Vanessa Sharpe (senior).
Hatfield said Tarney, Brown, Blackburn and Schulz are competing for spots at shortstop and second base while Imhoff and Vanessa Sharpe will provide relief for Walters in the circle.
Overall, Hatfield said he likes the blend of youth and experience.
“We have a good mix of returners and newcomers,” he said. “I also like that they have excellent work ethic and are athletic.”
Hatfield said keys to making 2018 a successful one will be pitching and how quickly the newcomers come up to speed hitting wise.
The sooner the better considering the OCC-Capital Division looks to be solid once again.
“I think our league will be tough,” Hatfield said. “Groveport (defending district runner-up) should be the front-runner, and New Albany will be tough, but I think we’ll be right in the mix.”
Big Walnut opens the regular season Monday against host St. Francis DeSales. First pitch is slated for 5:15 p.m.