Second-year Wellington School softball coach Me-chelle Burkhalter understands why outsiders might believe her team is going to be down this season, considering that it lost seven starters to graduation.
The Jaguars are out to prove their doubters wrong.
Wellington, which finished 8-10 last season after losing to Grove City Christian 7-6 in the first round of the Division IV district tournament, entered the week 2-2. The Jaguars opened April 3 with a 26-2 win at Brookhaven and beat Harvest Prep 13-9 on April 4 before losing to Millersport 14-2 and Centennial 13-8 on April 6 and Delaware Christian 4-0 on April 8.
"A lot of people are overlooking us because we lost seven seniors and they expect us to struggle this year," Burkhalter said. "But the 15 girls we have this year have a higher softball IQ, so I'm excited about this season because we're starting out not far behind where we ended last year. Last year, it took us all season to find our cohesiveness, and this year the girls already know their roles and are jelling."
The Jaguars return four starters in senior Erin O'Neil (2B/3B) and juniors Emily Hammett (CF), Katie King (C) and Abby Fleeter (P). Fleeter and King were honorable mention all-district last year.
Junior Donnette Cox is starting at first base and junior Gabrielle Smith and sophomore Casey Hansen will start at second base, shortstop or third base, depending on where O'Neil plays.
Junior Emily Swartz also is starting in the outfield.
Rounding out the roster are junior Anne Hulthen (OF), sophomores Molly Anderson (utility), Charlotte Brewer (OF/2B) and Kate Miller (P) and freshmen Madison Hyzdu (utility), Zoe Mak (OF) and Sydney Snow (OF/3B).
"I'm proud of how we played last season coming off a not-so-stellar (4-13) record (in 2011)," Burkhalter said. "Our battery is better than it was last year, so we want to improve on our record and go deeper into the tournament. Our challenge will be our bats again"
Depth should help baseball team
The baseball team returns 10 players who started at least one game last season, when it finished 12-10.
Those players are seniors Christian Braddy (LF) and Shawn Meddock (P/3B), juniors Grayson Ashby (P/3B), Joe Campbell (C), Anthony Davis (CF/P), Josh Leino (P) and Josh Roseler (RF) and sophomores Linus Beatty (1B), Elliott Fite (2B) and Zach Kauffman (SS/P).
Last year, Ashby led the team with a .451 batting average and 19 RBI and had a 6.60 ERA, and Kauffman batted .260.
Sophomore Matt Conger is expected to platoon with Roseler in right field.
Rounding out the roster are senior Billy Brisk (DH/P), sophomores Henry Bacha (OF) and Luke Hogan (OF) and freshmen Obinna Adams-John (2B), Preston Fuller (C/DH) and Will Taylor (3B).
"Our pitching is solid and we expect to be strong on defense," eighth-year coach Craig Jones said. "We have a bigger pool of athletes to draw from off the bench and we have more depth than usual at a number of positions."
Wellington opened April 2 with a 15-9 loss to Walnut Ridge but bounced back to beat Columbus West 10-0 on April 4 and sweep Harvest Prep in a doubleheader on April 6, winning 38-3 and 20-9.
Against West, Ashby pitched a two-hitter with 17 strikeouts.
Last season, the Jaguars beat Millersport 11-0 in five innings in the first round of the Division IV district tournament, marking only their third postseason win in the past 11 seasons.
Wellington, which posted its other two postseason wins during that span in 2002 and 2008, ended last season with a 10-0, five-inning loss to top-seeded Newark Catholic in the second round.
"Our goals are to bring our best every single day and to become a more respectable team in the Division IV tournament," Jones said. "We'd like to become the first Wellington team to reach a district semifinal and final."
Sweeney, Ficek lead way for tennis team
The boys tennis team has returned its top two singles players from last season, when it finished 2-9.
Wellington, which opened April 3 with a 5-0 loss to Columbus Academy before beating Whetstone 5-0 on April 4, returns sophomore Nick Sweeney at first singles and junior Lincoln Ficek at second singles.
Freshman Temidayo Dairo and junior Lucas Rooney will split time at third singles, with senior Vishal Sharoff and junior Shabach Tyus paired at first doubles and seniors Will Gross and Nick Mayne playing second doubles.
"Our singles players are more experienced this year and we have more-experienced doubles teams as well," third-year coach Tom Haddow said.
Last year, Ficek and Sweeney teamed up to play doubles in the postseason and advanced to the Division II district tournament at Academy, where they defeated Watterson's Mark Guza and Michael Guza 6-0, 6-0 in the first round before losing to Academy's Langston Hughes and Abram Schottenstein 6-2, 6-0 in the second round.
Ficek and Sweeney qualified for district by placing second in a sectional tournament at Columbus School for Girls by losing to Bexley's Max Schottenstein and David Seckel 6-1, 6-1 in the final.
"I think we can be one of the stronger Division II teams in the city because we've got more experience at singles and we've got older guys playing doubles," Haddow said.