The Upper Arlington High School softball team put together a memorable rsum the last two seasons.
The Upper Arlington High School softball team put together a memorable resume the last two seasons.
After going 26-2 and winning their first OCC championship since 1994 in 2009, the Golden Bears went 21-5 and advanced to a Division I district final last spring for the first time since 1997.
The last two seasons also marked the first stretch in which UA has won back-to-back OCC titles.
Without several of the key components from those two teams, the Bears know it will be a challenge to duplicate that success this spring.
"We're a very young team," said fourth-year coach Todd DelBoccio, whose team opens Tuesday, March 29, at home against Grove City. "We lost some key players that have been playing with us since their freshmen years. We've got a lot of big shoes to fill, but we've got a lot of talented juniors. We'll have some players on varsity for the first time, so we realize there will probably be a learning curve."
The biggest question mark is at pitcher.
Juniors Mandie Abbruzzese and Margo Bennett and freshman McKinley Vazquez are the top contenders to see time in the circle.
Abbruzzese went 5-1 with one save in eight games with a 0.51 ERA last season and made second-team all-OCC and honorable mention all-district. Vazquez is the sister of 2010 graduate Kasi Vazquez, a University of Dayton signee who made second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-OCC at catcher a year ago.
That trio of candidates will be faced with replacing first-team all-state, all-district and all-OCC pitcher Audrey Plant, an Ohio State signee who went 16-4 with a 0.67 ERA and 279 strikeouts in 178 innings a year ago.
Junior Stephanie Turner is expected to take over at catcher, with senior Brooke Hauser and junior Fallon Brown also seeing time at the position.
Hauser, who was honorable mention all-OCC last year, will play first base when she's not behind the plate. Senior Sarah Watson and junior Julia Zwayer are vying for playing time at second base, with junior Mimi Bair playing shortstop and senior Sarah Garrett and junior Emily Duhigg vying for time at third base.
Abbruzzese will play center field when she's not pitching. Brown, senior Kasey Bennett and juniors Montana Henry and Erica Sollitto are others who should time in the outfield.
"It's hard to adjust since we did lose six starters, but I think we'll do fine," Hauser said. "I think we have better hitters than we did last year. Last year only the top of the lineup could hit."
The Bears won the OCC-Central Division last year, going 12-2 in league play to finish ahead of Central Crossing (11-3), Hilliard Davidson (10-4), Hilliard Darby (7-7), Thomas Worthington (6-8), Dublin Coffman (4-10), Westland (3-11) and Worthington Kilbourne (3-11).
During the district tournament, seventh-seeded UA beat Logan 5-0 and 10th-seeded Mount Vernon 1-0 before falling to second-seeded Gahanna 1-0 in 11 innings in a district final.
The other starters whom the Bears lost to graduation were Jesse Barlow (OF), Katie Luciano (SS), Taylor Miley (3B) and Kelsey Shalvoy (OF). Luciano made first-team all-district and all-OCC last year.
"I think there's a lot of pressure because all of the other teams are shooting for us," Hauser said. "Everyone wants to show that we're not any good anymore. We want to keep it going."