Upper Arlington News

Softball

Bears focus on winning season

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The Upper Arlington High School softball team opened its season with a perfect game -- in the field.

Recapturing that effort is at the front of the Golden Bears' minds, and they hope it will be the key to posting their first winning season in three years.

UA didn't make any errors in a 2-0 win over Westerville Central on April 3, but three days later committed six in an 8-5 win over New Albany. It has been an up-and-down season so far for the Bears, who were 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Central Division after losing to Hilliard Davidson 7-5 on April 17.

"We struggled (against New Albany), but then we had a serious practice and played a game called '21,' " senior second baseman Megan Miller said. "There are 21 outs in a game, so we had to make 21 outs without making an error. We had to start over every time we made an error. We made it to 21 just before practice ended, and I think it brought our team that much closer together."

Coach Todd DelBoccio, who called the win over Westerville Central his team's best defensive game in three years, hasn't been shy about his optimism for a team that is trying to earn its first winning season since finishing 21-5 in 2010. The Bears finished 10-16 last year after going 11-17 in 2011.

"Some of (the players) are very athletic, and now it's about turning that athleticism into being ballplayers," DelBoccio said. "These kids, they're asking questions. They want to get better. They're hard workers and they've re-energized the program to where it was a few years back."

After winning its first two games, UA lost to Teays Valley 10-0 on April 6 and lost to Thomas Worthington 13-5 in its OCC-Central opener April 8 before losing to Olentangy Liberty 8-6 in a league contest April 13.

The Bears had 11 hits against Thomas, including a three-run home run by junior pitcher McKinly Vazquez.

"The home run just came. I didn't try. It just happened," said Vazquez, who had allowed 23 hits -- 22 of which were singles -- and 10 walks through four games to go with eight strikeouts and was hitting .500 with five RBI. "(At) the top of the lineup, everybody has been making good contact."

Senior shortstop and leadoff hitter Laramie Abbruzzese, a Bowling Green State University signee, was hitting a team-best .600 (9-for-15) through four games with eight singles and a double.

While the Bears' lineup has fluctuated somewhat, the second spot in the batting order has rotated between Miller, sophomore outfielder Avery Brick and junior outfielder Annika Wachtman, followed by Vazquez and senior catcher Ava Esler.

"We have the luxury of trying to find the right pieces to the puzzle. Once we do that, we'll settle in," DelBoccio said. "We're hoping to do that by (this) weekend."

After playing host to Westland in a league game Thursday, April 18, UA will travel to London, Ky., for the Kentucky 5 Star Classic. The Bears open against Louisville (Ky.) Mercy Academy at 7:45 p.m. Friday, April 19, and will play Batavia Clermont Northeastern, Georgetown (Ky.) Scott County and Danville (Ky.) Boyle County on Saturday, April 20.

"It'll take endurance and good time management out of us to make sure we're ready for a big weekend like this," senior outfielder Hannah Benjamin said. "Mental preparation is the biggest thing. Doing well down there could be huge for our season."

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