Canal Winchester High School baseball coach Jay Bartos figured his team might make some fielding mistakes early in the season given that it spent most of the preseason practicing indoors because of bad weather.
But he never imagined the Indians would struggle defensively as much as they have, as they committed 24 errors that led to 33 unearned runs in their first five games while getting out to a 2-3 start.
"We've been the most generous team in the Central District, giving away runs every game, and in the game of baseball, it's bad to be generous," Bartos said. "I knew there was a danger of making some mistakes early on because the ball bounces differently on a gymnasium floor than it's going to bounce outside on a baseball field, but the mistakes we've made have gone beyond anything I could have anticipated."
Canal Winchester committed six errors and gave up nine unearned runs in an 11-10 loss to Lancaster on March 30, had six errors and allowed 10 unearned runs in a 12-11 loss to Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's on April 4 and had four errors and gave up four unearned runs in a 5-4 loss to Bloom-Carroll in its MSL-Buckeye Division opener April 5.
The Indians had two errors and allowed one unearned run in a 3-2 win over Lancaster on March 30 and defeated Briggs 10-9 on April 1 despite having six errors and giving up nine unearned runs.
"These are slow-pitch softball scores, not baseball scores," Bartos said. "It's frustrating because we easily could be undefeated (through five games) if we had just made a few more routine plays."
Bartos said his team must improve its play in the field quickly if it wants to remain in contention for the MSL-Buckeye title. The Indians went 9-5 in the league last season to place second to Bloom-Carroll (13-1).
"We're just looking for some consistency on defense right now," Bartos said. "We definitely have the talent. It's just a matter of our guys fulfilling their potential. We want our guys to always think ahead so they can make correct decisions in the heat of the moment."
Meanwhile, Bartos was pleased with his team's hitting and pitching through five games.
"Our hitting has not been a problem," he said. "Colby Rapier, Dalton McKee and Kevin Ilich are hitting the ball real well and Matthew Cunningham and Isaac Pifer have been hitting the ball hard, too.
"Trevor Beerman has done a good job as our No. 1 pitcher, too. Our hitting and pitching have definitely been good enough to win games, and our defense should improve as the weather warms up."
Softball team out to strong start
Led by its offense, the softball team won three of its first four games.
Canal Winchester totaled 27 hits on March 30 in beating Licking Valley 6-2 and Olmsted Falls 5-2. It then defeated Lancaster 6-0 on April 4 before losing to Bloom-Carroll 6-4 in its MSL-Buckeye opener April 5.
Against Bloom-Carroll, the Indians were hitless through five innings against all-state pitcher Taran Alvelo before scoring four runs on seven hits in the final two innings. They stranded runners on second and third base in the seventh inning.
Leading the Indians offensively through four games were first baseman Taylor Griffin (.539 batting average, 3 doubles, 2 RBI), outfielder Jenna Carlisle (.500, 2 RBI), third baseman Bailee Faulkner (.462, 2 doubles, 2 RBI), Callie Coswell (.429), Paige Hughes (.417) and shortstop Kaleigh Whitlatch (.307, 3 RBI, 3 runs, 2 stolen bases).
Coswell and Hughes have been splitting time at second base.
"We can do a little better with our short game, but I've been pleased with the way we've hit the ball and scored runs this early in the season," coach Randy Hinton said. "Our team goal is to hit in the high .300s, and that's where we're at through four games.
"I could see that our girls were scared the first couple of times they went up to bat against Taran Alvelo. But Paige Hughes got us started with a hit and, once our girls decided they could hit her, we gained confidence and made it a good game."
Canal Winchester had only five errors through four games, but Hinton said his team can't afford any defensive mistakes when it travels to Teays Valley on Monday, April 15, for a key league contest.
Last year, the Indians split with the Vikings, winning 6-5 and losing 4-3.
"We want to bring our average down to less than one error per game, because in a close game one error can make all of the difference," Hinton said. "Teays Valley's one of the better teams in our league, and I want to see us play error-free against them."
Even though the starting lineup includes four sophomores in Carlisle, Griffin, Raven Hamilton (CF) and Carly Saberito (P) and two freshmen in Coswell and Faulkner, Hinton said the Indians are playing like a group of veteran players.
"Our freshmen and sophomores are giving us a boost instead of slowing us down in any way, and that's what we expected from them," Hinton said.