The Hilliard Darby High School softball team may not have produced the type of season it had hoped for, but first-year coach Erin McClincy was gratified by the way the Panthers overcame obstacles all season.

The Hilliard Darby High School softball team may not have produced the type of season it had hoped for, but first-year coach Erin McClincy was gratified by the way the Panthers overcame obstacles all season.

Darby finished 15-14 overall after losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 10-5 in a Division I district semifinal on May 18. That comes one year after reaching a state semifinal and finishing 22-9. Tri-Valley went on to win a district title.

But the Panthers lost their top two pitchers from a year ago to first-year Hilliard Bradley. Entering this season, Renee Nieman, the top junior varsity pitcher last year, took over for Kellie Roudabush and Tayler Young but was injured just past midseason.

"Tara Woods is a sophomore who was a j.v. B pitcher last season," McClincy said. "She did a real good job and gained valuable experience and learned to gut things out. She couldn't come out of a game in a tough spot because she was the only pitcher we had. She showed maturity and mental toughness and will come back stronger next year."

McClincy said no matter who was pitching, it was going to be difficult to replace Roudabush, who was second-team all-state in Division I last season and first-team all-state in Division II this year.

"Losing a pitcher like that changes the entire dynamic of the team," McClincy said. "It not only puts tremendous pressure on our pitchers, but it changed our approach on offense and defense.

"Offensively, we knew we needed to score more because we weren't going to win those 1-0 and 2-1 games all the time. Then the girls start pressing to do more. Defensively, there were a lot more balls in play and the infield grounders were hit sharper than last year. We had to work a lot more on defense and offense than in the past."

Still, the six seniors - Ellie Brady (LF), Sarah Bush (OF), Katie Davis (3B), Danielle Groh (DH), Simone Luzader (2B) and Nieman - helped guide the Panthers to a winning record despite the changes.

"This group has played together through summer and travel ball and it's a laid-back group off the field and a very focused group on the field," McClincy said. "Most of them were one-sport athletes and they provided great leadership. Groh is a four-year starter and four of them played key roles last year when we went to state. So making sure we followed that up with a winning record will give them great memories of the past two seasons."

Darby finished fourth in the OCC-Central Division at 7-7, behind Upper Arlington (12-2), Central Crossing (11-3) and Davidson (10-4) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (6-8), Dublin Coffman (4-10), Westland (3-11) and Worthington Kilbourne (3-11).

Davis was first-team all-league and Luzader was on the second team. Groh was special mention, and Nieman was the team's scholar athlete.

Davis led the team in batting (.319), runs (16) and RBI (17). Groh hit .299 with nine RBI, followed by Nieman (.294) and Luzader (.270 with 14 runs and 11 RBI). Nieman was 6-5 with a 2.15 ERA in 78 1/3 innings.

Sophomore Cheyenne Hamaker is expected back to catch Woods. Also expected back are junior starters Abby Kennedy (SS) and Mollie Obert (1B) as well as classmate LeeAnne Chumita (OF). Kennedy (10 runs, 9 RBI) was honorable mention all-league. Hamaker and Obert both had 10 runs and Obert drove in nine. Woods finished 7-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 95 2/3 innings.

At a glance

•Record: 15-14 overall, 7-7 (fourth) in OCC-Central •Seniors lost: Ellie Brady, Sarah Bush, Katie Davis, Danielle Groh, Simone Luzader and Renee Nieman •Key returnees: LeeAnne Chumita, Cheyenne Hamaker, Abby Kennedy, Mollie Obert and Tara Woods