The Central Crossing High School softball team faces a difficult task coming off last year's breakthrough season.

The Central Crossing High School softball team faces a difficult task coming off last year's breakthrough season.

The Comets captured the OCC-Central Division title, won the school's first district championship with a 2-1 victory over Dresden Tri-Valley and were ranked third in the final state poll. They finished 25-3 overall with a 4-3 loss to Gahanna in a Division I regional final.

"The returnees were fortunate enough to play last year with some talented seniors who set the bar pretty high," said third-year coach Rona Dorsey, whose team opens Saturday, March 24, with games at Hartley against the host Hawks and Pickerington Central. "This year's team is learning they're more than capable of doing as well or better than last year. We're working hard to get them to that point."

The Comets lost five 2011 graduates, including outfielder Dakota Pyles and shortstop Allissa Turkovich. Pyles was first-team all-league and all-district and second-team all-state. Turkovich was first-team all-league and all-district and honorable mention all-state.

However, Dorsey said she has some strong players coming back. "They're hungry to play again," she said. "They're showing leadership and stepping up to the challenge."

Senior Savannah Dorsey, who has signed with Ohio University, is the No. 1 pitcher. Last season, she was the Player of the Year in the OCC-Central and the Central District, and she was selected first-team all-state.

Sophomore Abby Rhodes also will pitch as well as play in the outfield. Other key players are seniors Sara Baker (2B), Jourdan Hager (3B), Rachel Primmer (utility player), Paige Rhodes (1B) and Ciera Williams (SS/OF) and sophomore Michaela Dorsey (C/SS).

Paige Rhodes, who has signed with Dayton, was second-team all-district and special mention all-league last season after batting .434 with 23 RBI and a .988 fielding percentage.

"One of our strengths is going to be our depth defensively," coach Dorsey said. "With several seniors who have played the past three years, we have experienced leadership."

Also looking to contribute are juniors Kristen Merz (2B) and Shelby Sewards (OF) and sophomores Allison Amos (1B/OF), Jackie Fowler (OF) and Hunter Taylor (C/3B).

Central Crossing won the OCC-Central last season at 13-0, finishing ahead of Thomas Worthington (10-3), Worthington Kilbourne (10-4), Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Hilliard Darby (5-8), Upper Arlington (4-10), Dublin Coffman (3-11) and Westland (2-11). League games between the Comets and Thomas and Darby and Westland were canceled because of bad weather.

"We want the kids to believe they could be where we were last year," coach Dorsey said. "When girls take leadership and ownership of the team, it sets the tone for the season."

Greyhounds to rely on pitching, defense

After losing six seniors from a team that finished 28-5 and lost to Massillon Perry 10-0 in the 2010 Division I state final, Grove City wasn't expecting to do much last season.

The Greyhounds ended up surprising coach Ted Williams by going 19-9 overall. They lost to Teays Valley 8-5 in a Division I district semifinal.

"I was pleasantly surprised with getting 19 wins, but getting knocked out of the tournament before the regional or the state (bothered me)," said Williams, who begins his 12th season as coach when Grove City opens with an OCC-Ohio game Monday, March 26, at home against Lancaster.

"We should be pretty solid defensively," Williams said. "We have the athletes, but we just have to put them in the right positions that will benefit the team the most."

Senior Amber Bova (RF), who has committed to Muskingum University, senior Taylor Hottman (LF) and junior Ashton Salyers (CF) return. Salyers batted over .400 last year.

Grove City should have some depth in the pitching circle with the return of senior Lindsae McConnell and sophomore Jordan Kennaw and the addition of sophomore Emma Cornell.

"We have a power pitcher (Kennaw), a drop-ball pitcher (McConnell) and a left-hander (Cornell)," Williams said. "I just have to make sure I use them right. I could throw any one of those three out there and feel comfortable."

Senior Madison Hottman (1B), sophomore Rachael Ash (3B) and freshman Kennedy Beach (C) anchor the infield. Ash batted over .400 and Madison Hottman hit over .375 last season.

Seniors Kaitlin Rice and Brooklyn Staten, junior Haylea Garner and freshman Destini Ewing are competing for time in the infield.

Last season in the OCC-Ohio, the Greyhounds went 8-6 to finish fourth behind Groveport (13-1), Gahanna (11-3) and Pickerington Central (10-4) and ahead of Pickerington North (6-8), Newark (4-10), Lancaster (4-10) and Reynoldsburg (0-14).

"We're still trying to find an identity within our team," Williams said. "If our pitching is solid and we stay away from giving up the lead-off walks, we'll be all right."