With five returning starters and eight seniors in the lineup, the Dublin Coffman High School softball team may have been overconfident as it won just one of its first seven games.
But an improved work ethic led to an eight-game winning streak heading into last Tuesday's game against Watterson.
"There was a lot of talk in the preseason about this being the best team we've ever had, and I think that went to our heads," third baseman Christa Alvich said. "We have eight seniors and I guess we thought that winning was going to come naturally for us, but we've learned that we've really got to fight for it. The difference between our first seven games and our (next seven was) that we're playing a lot harder. It's that simple."
After batting .218 through seven games, the Shamrocks hit better than .400 during their next seven to improve their team average to .316.
Through 14 games, Samantha Woodall was batting .578 with six doubles, five triples and 15 runs scored, followed by Alvich (.362, 10 RBI), Madison Hedderly (.357, 1 home run, 3 doubles, 11 RBI) and Kats Mockler (.286, 12 runs).
"When we were slumping, our players started pressing at the plate and their heads got the better of them," coach Kevin Finan said. "Once we got some hits and got a little more relaxed, our hitting just started to flow. We've left 95 runners on base, and a lot of that happened when we were losing, or our record could be a lot better. We've been getting those timely hits lately."
Coffman had stolen 31 bases in 14 games, with Woodall (13) and Megan Knerr (7) leading the way.
"I like to stay active on the bases and to play small ball," Finan said. "We've got some speed so we try to use it, offensively."
The Shamrocks improved their fielding percentage to .895 after it was less than .800 through seven games.
"We made a lot of errors and mental mistakes early in the season, but we've really cut down on those things," Alvich said. "Our focus has just been sharper all-around."
Jordan Wilson started the majority of Coffman's games on the mound, with Hedderly pitching the closing innings.
Through 14 games, Hedderly was 8-4 with a 1.90 ERA, 60 strikeouts and nine walks in 62 innings and Wilson was 0-2 with an 3.20 ERA, 25 strikeouts and 16 walks in 36 innings.
"I'm convinced we need to use a two-pitcher rotation because when we use only one pitcher the other teams' hitters start to catch on to their timing by the fifth or sixth inning," Finan said. "Jordan is a junk-ball pitcher who keeps the ball down. Madison has a little more speed to her pitches, and when batters start to catch up to Jordan, that's when we put Madison in."
The Shamrocks, seeking their first league title, will play OCC-Buckeye Division games Monday at Upper Arlington and Wednesday at home against Hilliard Davidson. Coffman lost to UA 3-2 on April 9 and beat Davidson 6-4 on April 14.
"We can't lose any more games in the second round of OCC play if we're going to win our league," Alvich said. "We need to play better defense to beat Upper Arlington. Both of these teams have good players, but they've both got pitchers we can hit and we're a better team than the first time we played them."
Morgan Hall scores on a passed ball April 17 as Coffman rallied to beat Olentangy 14-8.
At a glance
Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Coffman softball team:
*April 14 -- Defeated Hilliard Davidson 6-4
*April 16 -- Def. Reynoldsburg 2-1 in nine innings
April 17 -- Def. Olentangy 14-8
Last Saturday -- Def. Jonathan Alder 6-5; def. Hartley 6-0. Madison Hedderly pitched a no-hitter and hit a home run against Hartley.
*Last Monday -- Def. Westerville North 9-5
*Last Wednesday -- Played Grove City
Today -- At Jerome. Coffman won 14-0 last year.
*Monday -- At Upper Arlington
Tuesday -- Home vs. Watterson. Coffman lost 5-1 last year.
*Wednesday -- Home vs. Davidson
Of note: The Shamrocks were 9-6 overall and 3-2 in the OCC before last Wednesday.