The Olentangy Berlin softball team had its best season yet, and it could just be an appetizer to the main course next year.
The Bears finished 16-6 overall after going 14-12 last spring. They were runners-up (8-2) to Marysville (9-1) in the OCC-Cardinal Division, handing the Monarchs’ their lone league loss, 8-4 on May 4.
Although eighth-seeded Berlin dropped its Division I district tournament opener 5-4 to 12th-seeded Upper Arlington in the second round May 12 at home, it loses only one player to graduation in pitcher Kali Bateman.
“We’re a fourth-year program, but we only have had three seasons (with 2020 canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic),” coach Jenna Haskins said. “On our leaderboard, we broke 12 of the 15 records. We have just continued to grow every year.”
Bateman had a strong campaign, setting single-season program records for wins (9) and ERA (3.06). She was 9-4 with one save, 54 strikeouts and 14 walks in 87 innings.
Expected to take over in the circle next season is sophomore Ella Erwine, who was 7-2 with one save, 42 strikeouts, 26 walks and a 5.22 ERA in 52 1/3 innings.
“In losing Kali, there will be a little bit of a void for us,” Haskins said. “Ella has been on varsity for the last two years, and we have a couple of other girls that I believe can help us as well.”
Junior Syd Davis (SS) hit a program-record .549 with 31 RBI, 22 runs and 11 stolen bases while striking out only three times.
Junior Izzie Wilson (CF) batted .519 with 23 RBI and set program records for home runs (5) and triples (7). She also led in runs (34), stolen bases (14), on-base percentage (.584) and slugging percentage (1.000).
“We have a good feeling from this season because we have so many people (expected) back,” said Wilson, who has committed to Ohio University. “One thing that we can take from this season is staying focused on our goals throughout the season. We needed to focus on one thing at a time, and this season we started to look ahead at times.”
Sophomore Ava Kresak (1B/OF) batted .365 with a program-record 32 RBI as well as three homers, four triples and 24 runs, and junior Jocelyn Franz (2B) batted .314 with three homers, 22 RBI and 24 runs. Freshman Addie Young (C/3B) batted .389 with eight RBI and 24 runs, and sophomore Elizabeth Sprecher (OF) batted .389 with one homer, six RBI and 11 runs.
“The biggest takeaway is that we have worked extremely hard to build a program that is supportive and developmental, and we have gotten to see the benefits of that,” Haskins said. “We had a lot of buy-in, and the girls worked hard. The girls really clicked, and we could see the benefits of hard work.”
•Delaware Hayes coach Mark Thomas couldn’t help but be disappointed after the Pacers fell short of a couple goals. But that didn’t stop him from being optimistic about the future.
Seeking its first district championship since 2005, Delaware finished 19-4 overall with a 12-3 loss to Olentangy Orange in a Division I district semifinal May 17 at Pickerington North. It was the Pacers’ ninth consecutive appearance in the district semifinal round.
The Pacers went 12-2 in the OCC-Capital, losing both games to Westerville North (14-0) to miss out on their goal of winning a league title.
“We had a good season,” Thomas said. “We didn’t have a great season because we didn’t win the league and we didn’t go to the district championship. But if a down year for us is 19-4, I’ll take it every year.”
Delaware featured a talented senior class of nine players, including Myaih Cloud (C), Olivia Nelson (1B), Brianna Richey (OF), Kami Slayton (3B) and Kassy Stefanski (P).
Cloud batted .605 with nine doubles, 10 home runs and 42 RBI, and Slayton batted .506 with six doubles, two triples, two homers, 24 runs and 23 RBI. Both have committed to Fairmont State, and Stefanski has committed to Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Nelson hit .492 with 11 doubles, eight home runs, 29 RBI and 23 runs.
“It’s a huge hit (to the roster),” Thomas said. “I believe that I haven’t had to replace this many quality starters. Just their overall playing ability, their leadership on and off the field, the examples they set (will be tough to replace).”
Stefanski worked her way to becoming the main starting pitcher after last year’s primary starter, Maddie Kiss, now a junior, battled an arm injury much of the season.
In 15 games, including eight starts, Stefanski went 8-0 with a 0.88 ERA. She struck out 104 and walked only eight over 63 2/3 innings.
“(Stefanski) was a big plus for us, especially when Kiss was battling an injury over half the season,” Thomas said. “It exceeded the expectations I had for her. She was really a huge asset to our team this year. The spin she has on her pitches is crazy and it is very difficult to hit off of her.”
Stefanski had a no-hitter through four innings against Orange, surrendering her first hit on a leadoff single in the fifth. Stefanski was lifted after the hit and Orange rallied for eight runs in the inning.
“I think they were timing her up and I wanted them to see a totally different type of pitcher to throw them off,” Thomas said. “Hindsight is 20/20.”
The top expected returnees are Kiss and classmates Lauren Tompkins (SS) and Rylea Gist (OF) as well as freshman Bronwynn Leighty (P/OF).
Leighty was 8-1 in 12 appearances (10 starts) and had a 4.90 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 50 innings. She also hit .478, and Tompkins batted .507 with 12 doubles, five home runs, 35 RBI and 28 runs.
“It’ll be tough to match everything (the senior class) has given us,” Thomas said. “Delaware’s going to look like Delaware (next year). We’re going to rebound and the younger girls are going to work their (hardest) over the offseason just like they have in the past and Delaware is going to be back to the same old Delaware.”
•Record: 16-6 overall
•OCC-Cardinal standings: Marysville (9-1), Berlin (8-2), Olentangy (6-4), Dublin Jerome (4-6), Thomas Worthington (2-8), Hilliard Darby (1-9)
•Senior lost: Kali Bateman
•Key returnees: Syd Davis, Ella Erwine, Jocelyn Franz, Ava Kresak, Elizabeth Sprecher, Izzie Wilson and Addie Young
•Postseason: Lost to Upper Arlington 5-4 in second round of Division I district tournament
•Record: 19-4 overall
•OCC-Capital standings: Westerville North (14-0), Delaware (12-2), Dublin Scioto (8-6), Canal Winchester (7-7), Westerville South (6-8), Big Walnut (5-9), Worthington Kilbourne (4-10), Franklin Heights (0-14)
•Seniors lost: Ashlee Bennett, Hope Clark, Mahkella Curtis, Myaih Cloud, Olivia Nelson, Brianna Richey, Kami Slayton, Madison Stahl and Kassy Stefanski
•Key returnees: Rylea Gist, Maddie Kiss, Bronwynn Leighty and Lauren Tompkins
•Postseason: Def. Thomas Worthington 10-0 (6 innings); lost to Orange 12-3 in Division I district semifinal