Unlike the school’s baseball team, which started the spring without a single player with any varsity experience to speak of, the Olentangy Berlin softball team has an experienced piece or two to lead it into its historic first-ever season.
“We are laying our foundation this season,” Bears coach Jenna Haskins said. “We have some juniors who have all been helping lead the charge in developing this program and school (which opened its doors for the first time last fall).”
One of those juniors, Kirsten Kracht (shortstop/second base), has more big-game experience than the rest of the team combined. She was a middle-of-the-order hitter at Olentangy last year — a key piece for a team that made it all the way to the Division I regional championship at OSU. Kracht even had a hit in that game.
“Her ability to overcome adversity and excel at any position is just a testament of what she can do for our team,” Haskins said. “She is a true ‘brick wall player’ who will do anything for her team.”
Haskins singled out Heather Higgins (third base/first base) as another of the young team’s leaders.
“Heather has a bright outlook and positive attitude throughout everything she faces,” the coach said. “She has also been asked to play a few different positions and is more than willing to do so. Her bat will be one of her key contributions this year as she’s been working hard in the offseason to improve her hitting ability.”
As for the list of returners who earned varsity letters at their previous schools, that’s it. Two players. The rest, though, are ready to earn their spots at Berlin.
“We have two fantastic catchers, Blythe Beaumont (junior) and Maia Crumb (sophomore), who will take command behind the plate this season,” Haskins said. “We will also be introducing two freshmen pitchers this year, Kali Batemen and Ally Siegrist, who both have strengths in their individual pitches.”
Others who will look to make some noise at the varsity level include junior Lexie Lewis (centerfield/left field), sophomores Autumn LeFevre (outfield), Remy Camp (second base/shortstop/outfield), Sydney Cain (outfield) and Alli Burkhart (first base/second base) and freshman Syd Billy (left field/center field/second base).
As is the case with any new program, this year’s bunch of Bears has an opportunity to shape it into what they want it to be.
“These girls have an opportunity to shape and mold a program that will continue way past their two, three or four years spent at Berlin,” Haskins said. “A lot of our girls have really bought into the culture we’ve been developing.”
It’s a great opportunity, for sure, but one that will come with some challenges.
“Putting together a group of athletes who were all once playing in previous programs — shifting away from old traditions and making our own — has been a challenge,” Haskins said. “But I believe our response to those challenges has been very strong, foreshadowing how our season will go.
“We need to keep our goals in sight and remind ourselves daily that it’s about the process, not immediate results. We all want to win every game, but we know that in this game of failure you need to prepare for those letdowns. It’s all about how the team responds to those failures and works its way past them to the next play … or next game.”