When approached by Delaware Hayes High School softball coach Mark Thomas before the season and asked to switch positions, junior Mikayla Cooper saw a win-win opportunity for the team.
Cooper had been the Pacers' primary pitcher the past two seasons, helping them win back-to-back OCC-Capital Division championships. But she was asked by Thomas to give way to freshman Madi Huck in the circle and move to shortstop.
"It honestly makes me happy to have another good pitcher who can come in and throw strikes," Cooper said. "It's a relief because now I just concentrate on shortstop and hitting, and shortstop was a hole we needed to fill."
Thomas said moving Cooper, who was named second-team all-state in Division I last season, to shortstop has solidified an already strong infield.
"Coop is a natural shortstop and that's the position she plays on her travel team," he said. "She didn't do any pitching for her travel team last summer and she hasn't minded releasing the reigns.
"I think we have tremendous leaders behind Madi who have made her feel good and helped her adjust. Alaina Manor does a terrific job at third base and communicates all my calls to the defense and Lindsey Blair has been terrific at second base. Our defense is great."
Delaware won its first 10 games before losing to Olentangy 3-1 on April 22 in an OCC-Capital contest. The Pacers were 12-1 overall and 6-1 in the league before after defeating Mount Vernon 12-1 on April 25.
Through 12 games, Huck was 7-1 with one save and a 1.22 ERA.
"(Pitching at the varsity level) was a little nerve-wracking at first, but all the girls made me feel comfortable," Huck said. "They're very supportive and yet they're pushing me. We have a great defense and it makes me relax, because if I'm hitting my spots and (the opponents) put the ball in play, the defense will make the plays."
Cooper, who knows firsthand the pressure of being the primary pitcher at the varsity level as a freshman, still has had opportunities in the circle. Through 12 games, she was 4-0 with one save and a 1.01 ERA.
"It's hard to do as a freshman, but she's really doing very well," Cooper said of Huck. "She's keeping her composure and not getting down on herself, and that's the toughest thing to do as a freshman."
Following a 23-2 win over Watkins Memorial in the league opener April 8, Thomas talked to Huck about allowing the defense to do its job.
"I know she feels pressure, but she needed to know that she doesn't have to strike out eight to 10 batters a game," Thomas said. "I think she's getting to understand that now. She's come a long way since then. I just told her she needed to pitch her game and, if she doesn't agree with (junior catcher) Kaitlyn Woerner, she has the right to shake off some pitches, even as a freshman."
The on-field chemistry between Huck and Woerner continues to develop.
"It's my first year with her and she's really helping me because she sees things that I don't see as a freshman and she lets me know," Huck said of Woerner. "(When) we talk between innings, I let her know what I think is working and she gives me advice. I've got great leaders between (Cooper and Woerner) as well as all the seniors. It's been great so far, and I think we're coming along amazingly as a team."
Through 12 games, Huck had a team-high .390 batting average, followed by designated player Chandler Fields (.387), Manor (.367), Woerner (.362), Blair (.361) and Cooper (.359).
Cooper was leading the Pacers with 22 RBI, 17 runs and four home runs. She also had three triples and an .872 slugging percentage.
Huck had two home runs, four doubles and 14 RBI and Woerner had six doubles and 13 RBI. Manor had five triples, three doubles, 13 runs and 14 RBI and Fields had two home runs and 11 RBI.
Boys lacrosse team continues strong play
The boys lacrosse team has more losses than it did all last season, but coach Dick Sanfillipo is far from concerned.
Delaware went 18-2 a year ago on its way to winning the club state championship but was 7-3 before playing Gahanna on April 26.
The Pacers' losses this season have come against Pittsburgh Mt. Lebanon (12-6 on March 27), Westerville Central (10-9 in overtime on April 12 in an OCC-Central contest) and Pickerington Central (11-10 in double-overtime on April 19 in a league contest).
Six Pacers scored against Pickerington Central. Attacker Kyle Gabbert had three goals and attacker Griffin Kinney and midfielder Joseph Sanfillipo both scored two.
"We practiced real hard after some things went wrong against Westerville Central and we stressed staying out of the penalty box," coach Sanfillipo said. "We had some calls that didn't go our way, but we need to focus on the things we can control.
"(Westerville Central) tied the game with around two minutes left (in regulation). We had a great look to score with 40 seconds left, but they had a great save. We played most of the overtime a man down and struggled to move the ball across midfield."
Coach Sanfillipo has been pleased with his team's overall play, particularly on defense.
"Bryan Neitzelt, our long-pole midfielder, has been lights out," coach Sanfillipo said. "He's quick with a great stick and he's been causing havoc out there defensively. He's knocking the ball loose and getting after the groundballs.
"The entire defense has been sharp, from Michael Duffy in goal through Jordan Carlson, Andrew Ward and Jonathan Lindeboom. I've also been very pleased with our experience at attack and the midfield has been pretty strong. We've had a lot of different guys scoring, so I think our offense is beginning to catch up."
Boys volleyball team posts first OCC win
The boys volleyball team picked up its first OCC-Capital win April 18 when it defeated Pickerington Central 25-15, 25-23, 27-25.
The Pacers had lost to the Tigers 30-28, 25-17, 25-18 on April 2.
"It's nice to get a win the second time through the league because it shows the boys they can win," coach Josh Lee said. "It's positive feedback and maybe they can start believing in themselves and carry that over."
Lee said his core group of seven players had been showing progress, even before the win over Pickerington Central.
"Our ball control is the best that we've had in my three years with the program and our offense is improving by being scrappier," he said. "We have really had some real long volleys lately. Sometimes the ball is in the air 30, 40 and even 45 seconds. It's to the point that by the end of the point, tongues are dragging.
"We haven't had one person step up and carry us, but our top seven guys have all shown growth. I'm very thrilled about that. They're all working hard and it's showing."