Dublin Coffman High School softball coach Kevin Finan is optimistic about the 2011 season because of the fact that his team returns nine starters from a year ago, including four who are third-year starters.

Dublin Coffman High School softball coach Kevin Finan is optimistic about the 2011 season because of the fact that his team returns nine starters from a year ago, including four who are third-year starters.

The fifth-year coach also is excited about his squad's improved speed on the base paths.

"We've got eight seniors, and this team is much more mature, stronger and faster than it was last year in addition to that extra year of experience the girls have," said Finan, whose team finished 10-17 overall last season. "A year makes a huge difference when you're talking about high school kids, and we're way ahead of where we were at this point last year. The most exciting thing about this team is it is very fast. I like to be aggressive with the way I coach, and if we can get our girls on base, they've got the speed to cause problems for other teams in terms of things like stealing bases, bunting and taking extra bases."

The returning starters are seniors Stacy Axner (SS), Kimmi Bussell (1B), Linda Cardozo (P), Jen Carney (DP), Rachel DeRosa (CF), Meghan Glynn (2B), Cassi Ladina (3B) and Georgi McNutt (LF) and junior Kayla Whitehouse (RF).

Newcomers who are pushing the starters for playing time are junior infielders Courtney Colles, Lauren Tillman and Maggie Watson, junior pitcher/third baseman Alex Meisner-Rathbun, sophomore outfielders Emily Barber and Meredith Mockler, and freshman infielder Kellen Hickle.

Leading Coffman in hitting last season were DeRosa (.358, 8 RBI, 21 runs), McNutt (.347), Ladina (.309, 9 RBI, 13 runs), Carney (.307, 11 RBI, 10 runs) and Glynn (.273). In the circle, Cardozo was 7-11 with a 3.19 ERA.

"It feels like we're ready to have our best year because we've got a huge amount of talent," Glynn said. "We have eight seniors who know how to play together and we all know each other's games, so we're progressing so much quicker and faster than most years."

Coffman, which opens Monday, March 28, with an OCC-Central Division game at home against Thomas Worthington, got off to a 7-7 start last season, including a 7-0 win at Hilliard Davidson, which was ranked fifth in the Division I state poll at the time.

But the Shamrocks lost 10 of their final 13 games en route to finishing sixth in the OCC-Central at 4-10, behind Upper Arlington (12-2), Central Crossing (11-3), Davidson (10-4), Hilliard Darby (7-7) and Thomas (6-8), and ahead of Kilbourne (3-11) and Westland (3-11).

Coffman, which finished with a .251 team batting average and an .858 team fielding percentage, then lost to Kilbourne 11-9 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

"In the OCC, Davidson is always good and Central Crossing looks like they're going to be real good, too," Finan said. "I think we should be a lot more competitive in the OCC because of the progress our girls have made during the offseason. Linda did a great job in the weight room and is much stronger now, and we should be better defensively at almost every position."

Schedule

*March 28 - vs. Thomas Worthington

April 2 - vs. Watterson

*April 4 - vs. Central Crossing

*April 6 - at Westland

April 7 - at Mount Vernon

April 9 - at Dublin Scioto

*April 11 - at Hilliard Darby

*April 13 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

April 14 - vs. Jonathan Alder

*April 15 - at Worthington Kilbourne

*April 18 - vs. Upper Arlington

*April 20 - at Central Crossing

April 21 - at Dublin Jerome

*April 25 - vs. Westland

*April 29 - vs. Hilliard Darby

April 30 - at Newark with Heath

*May 2 - at Hilliard Davidson

*May 4 - vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*May 6 - at Upper Arlington

May 7 - vs. Canal Winchester and Liberty Union

May 14 - at Westerville North with DeSales

*OCC-Central game