Stellar seasons often are difficult to duplicate.

Stellar seasons often are difficult to duplicate.

But it seems as though the Hilliard Darby High Schoolsoftball team will have the ability to do just that, as the Panthers return seven starters from a team which finished 23-6 and reached a Division I regional semifinal last season.

"We're excited and there's definitely the potential here to have another strong season," coach Kevin Moody said. "Our goal is always to get better every day. All the other stuff will take care of itself if we can just adhere to that philosophy and reach that goal. We don't set the bar at league championships or district championships or any of that."

After winning the OCC-Ohio Division at 9-1, Darby went on to capture a district title by beating Westerville South 4-3. The Panthers lost to Grove City 1-0 in a regional semifinal.

The top pitcher and top hitter are among the returnees.

Sophomore Kellie Roudabush was 16-3 with a 0.79 ERA and was second-team all-state. Opponents batted .131 against her and she struck out 169 hitters. Roudabush also batted .413 and was named the team's Most Valuable Player.

Senior center-fielder Hiedi Graessle led the team with a .424 average and was first-team all-OCC and first-team all-state. She earned the team's Top Gunner Award.

"Kellie has great, great speed and she has more movement and confidence this season so we expect a real big season from her," said Moody, whose team opens April 2 at Marysville. "She's the type of top-notch player who comes along rarely.

"Hiedi has signed with Wright State and she covers a lot of ground out there. She has picked up her intensity and is just a real joy to watch. She has a great arm, but hitting is her strength."

With senior Alivia Nikolaus back at shortstop and senior Mary-Kate O'Shea returning behind the plate, Darby is solid in the middle of the field.

Junior Katie Davis is back at third base, with senior Simone Luzader returning at first base. Also returning is sophomore Abby Kennedy, who started in right field last season but will play second base this season.

Moody said there remains a battle in right field and left field, and he could end up platooning players in those positions. In right, freshman Cheyenne Hamaker and sophomore Jordan Camp are competing. In left, senior Marissa Kabbaz and junior Ellie Brady are battling.

Rounding out the roster are junior Danielle Groh (C/DH) and sophomore Tayler Young (P).

Moody is beginning his 12th and final season at Darby after spending the previous 12 at Hilliard. He will be coach at Bradley next season.

"I will be the math facilitator at Bradley and it's nice to have the new challenge," he said. "I'm approaching this season the same as every season. I'm going to work my butt off the same as usual to help get these girls better every day."

Despite the talent returning and his departure after this season, Moody said he isn't putting any added pressure on himself or the team.

"Every team, every senior class is special in its own way," he said. "I'm going to approach this season like every other. We just need to get better every day."

At a glance

•Coach: Kevin Moody, 24th season

•Opener: April 2 at Marysville

•Key players: Katie Davis, Hiedi Graessle, Alivia Nikolaus, Mary-Kate O'Shea and Kellie Roudabush