Baseball team eager to play
Senior pitcher and outfielder Steven Gonzalez is among the top returnees for the Westland baseball team, which plays host to Franklin Heights on Monday, April 1. Buy This Photo
In his 10th season as coach of the Westland High School baseball team, Dave Daniels has learned not to be phased by things he can't control.
Like most area teams that didn't head south for spring break, the Cougars had to spend their first four weeks of preseason practice in the school gymnasium because of snow and cold temperatures.
Westland opened March 30 with a doubleheader against London and will play host to Franklin Heights on Monday, April 1.
"I'm always an optimist," Daniels said. "I can't wait to get outside to see what we can do on a real dia- mond and just to start playing games. I've been playing or coaching my whole life, and games are a lot more fun than practice. I just want to start."
Westland returns only two letterwinners from last season, when it finished 7-18 overall, went 2-11 in the OCC-Central Division and lost 9-0 to Olentangy Liberty in the first round of the Division I district tournament. The Cougars lost 11 players from a year ago to graduation.
The returnees are senior Steven Gonzalez (P/OF) and junior Daniel McBee (2B/OF). Daniels expects Gonzalez, who had a team-best .293 batting average last season, to be the team's top pitcher.
Also on the team are seniors Tim Ayers (C/OF), Dylan Bivens (C), Zack Brady (utility player), Korey Browning (P/INF), Eric Byers (utility player/C), Aaron Hatfield (P/1B) and Jeff Hirsch (P/OF), juniors Nick Green (OF) and Zach Riley (P/3B) and sophomore Nolan Lee (P).
"We've been practicing pretty well," Daniels said. "The boys are enthusiastic."
Last season, Westland tied Central Crossing for seventh in the OCC-Central, behind Thomas Worthington (11-3), Hilliard Darby (10-4), Upper Arlington (8-6), Worthington Kilbourne (8-6), Dublin Coffman (7-7) and Hilliard Davidson (7-7).
As part of realignment last summer, Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal and Liberty and Marysville switched to the OCC- Central.
Westland opens league play April 8 at home against Marysville.
Softball team is young, athletic
Softball coach Mike North is hoping that his team's athleticism will help offset its inexperience.
"We're young, but we're athletic," said North, who is in his 10th season. "Right now, we're working on the little things and trying to make sure that we put the right people in the right positions and the kids that have never played varsity ball make sure that they understand the pace of the game because it's a different pace compared to what they're used to playing."
Westland, which opens Wednesday, April 3, at Hilliard Darby, finished 3-15 overall and 2-10 in the OCC-Central last season. The Cougars lost to Pickerington North 4-2 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Among the players from a year ago who graduated was pitcher Ashley Collins, who batted a team-best .368 and was named second-team all-league.
Senior Ashley Haulter, who played third base and hit .304 last season, takes over for Collins in the circle.
Other returning starters are senior Michaela Williams (C) and junior Alexis Carius (OF/1B).
"We need to focus on if we do make a mistake, then let it go and not focus on that mistake because there's a whole game left," Williams said. "We tend to get down on our mistakes and that's the worst thing you can probably do. We just need to focus on getting better instead of what we've done wrong so far."
Also back are juniors Marina Gooch (INF/OF), Taylor Wegman (INF/OF) and Kaitlyn Willming (INF/OF).
North expects freshmen Kaylee Barber (SS) and Maria Hamilton (2B) to be starters. Rounding out the team are sophomores Hunter Hay (P/3B), Brianna Taylor (3B) and Aly White (C).
"We have two pitchers (Haulter and Hay) that have never pitched a varsity game, so we're still behind the eight ball on that," North said. "They've worked hard and they've come a long way. That's going to help."
Last season, Westland finished eighth in the OCC-Central, behind Central Crossing (13-0), Thomas (11-2), Kilbourne (9-4), Davidson (6-8), Coffman (4-9), Darby (4-10) and Upper Arlington (4-10).
The Cougars had league games against Central Crossing and Coffman canceled because of bad weather.
"We're going to be a lot better than last year just because of the mere fact that we're more athletic," North said. "We're going to be a better hitting team."
The Cougars open league play April 8 at home against Marysville.