The Whitehall-Yearling High School softball team entered the season looking to atone for a disappointing 2017 campaign.

The Rams finished 10-16 overall, but with seven returning starters from last season and a senior who started as a freshman and sophomore before not playing last spring, sixth-year coach Brian Anderson is confident his team will bounce back.

Whitehall opened March 26 against Newark and begins MSL-Ohio Division play Monday, April 2, at home against Bexley.

"We think we have a very good team on paper," Anderson said. "We have seven seniors returning and eight starters returning. We're doing some good things now, but we still have a way to go. Just because we're good on paper doesn't mean we're going to be good on the field. They still have to go out and prove it."

The top returnee is senior Trinity Johnson, who has moved from the outfield to shortstop to replace 2017 graduate Rebecca Maxstead, who hit .358 and scored 26 runs last season and was second-team all-league.

"It's my final year, so I'm very excited for the season," Johnson said. "I'm having a great time. Basically, it's the only thing I look forward to in high school. ... It's definitely a challenge (moving to shortstop). I've been rusty. I have to learn the position again."

Johnson was first-team all-league and second-team all-district in Division II last season, batting .391 with 27 RBI, 23 runs, 12 stolen bases and three homers.

"After three years of starting in the outfield, Trinity is moving in to play shortstop," Anderson said. "It's a work in progress, but Trinity is a tremendous athlete and I know she'll figure it out."

Also back is senior outfielder Kayna Wooten, who batted a team-high .507 with four home runs and 26 RBI last season and was first-team all-league.

Another key returnee is senior pitcher Makayla Barber, who batted .325 with six homers and 23 RBI and was 4-6 in the circle. She was second-team all-league.

"We're going to go as far as her arm can take us this year in the circle," Anderson said.

Sophomore Kayla Daugherty (OF), who hit .420 with 28 runs, is another returning starter. She was honorable mention all-league.

Other returning starters are seniors Taylor Ford (1B), Autumn Rains (2B) and Amanda Stewart (3B).

Senior Madison Stiffler, who was the starting catcher her freshman and sophomore seasons before opting not to play last year, returns behind the plate.

"It's huge," Anderson said of Stiffler's return. "Kayna did a great job stepping in and catching for us last year, but Maddie is just the difference-maker back there with all her tools and her intelligence of how to play the game. Offensively, she's just flat out one of our best hitters, so having that bat back in the lineup is huge."

Junior Aly Shoemaker is expected to start in the outfield.

Other players are sophomores Sammie Cottrell (INF) and Kamdon Pauley (C) and freshmen Kylie Brown (C/OF) and Mackenzie Schmittauer (INF).

"I consider these girls like my sisters," Johnson said. "Nothing compares to any other sport the love that we have for each other and the bond is just a different feeling."

With an abundance of veterans on the team, the Rams hope to contend for their first league title since 2000 and first district title since 2006.

Last season, they went 3-7 in the MSL-Ohio to tie London for fourth behind co-champions West Jefferson and Worthington Christian (both 8-2).

West Jefferson has moved to the Ohio Heritage Conference.

"The league is pretty wide open this year," Anderson said. "A lot of the coaches think it's probably going to be between us and London. I'm not buying into that until we actually see the girls have some success. It will be up for grabs with just about everybody this year."

The team has remained in Division II for the postseason.

Baseball team hopes to take next step

The baseball team is looking to build on last season's strong finish.

The Rams defeated Linden-McKinley 9-1 in the first round of the Division II district tournament before challenging top-seeded and eventual district champion Jonathan Alder in a 4-3 loss in the second round.

Whitehall, which has moved to Division I, finished 5-18 overall.

"Obviously, that provides an added challenge to what we hope to accomplish this season because there are so many quality teams in (Division I) in the Central district," said coach Bill Welsh, who is in his sixth season. "We have to focus on the things we can control, continue to improve as the season unfolds and be ready to perform come tournament time."

The Rams, whose season-opening doubleheader at Northland was postponed March 24 because of bad weather, begin MSL-Ohio play Monday, April 2, at home against Bexley.

Senior Josh Travis (OF) and junior Justin Peck (INF/P/C) both were honorable mention all-league last season. Peck was 2-2 with a 2.41 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Travis and junior Mitchell Webb (INF/P) tied for the team lead in RBI with 14.

Sophomore Garin Barnes (INF/OF/P) tied 2017 graduate Marquel Key for the team lead in runs with 13.

Other returnees are senior Kadin Pauley (INF/P), junior Chris Snider (INF/P) and sophomores Michael Adkins (C) and Bradley Buchert (OF/C).

Other players are senior C.J. Strickland (OF/1B/P), junior James Reed (1B), sophomores Avery Crouse (C), James Lehew (INF/C), Drevon Pickney and Corey Snider (INF/P) and freshman Jace Peck (OF/P).

"We've seen some good things and we have things we need to work on," Welsh said. "We've seen improvement from game one to game three (in our scrimmages)."

Last season, the Rams went 2-10 in the MSL-Ohio to finish seventh behind champion Bexley (10-1).

"The MSL is always tough," Welsh said. "Numbers are down a little bit all the way around, so that's going to be challenging for a lot of teams. Anybody has a shot at it. Obviously, with Columbus Academy and Bexley, they seem to reload, so our goal is to put ourselves up there with them."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 24 -- at Northland (DH)

March 27 -- at Briggs

March 28 -- at Hartley

March 29 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy

March 31 -- at Reynoldsburg (DH)

*April 2 -- vs. Bexley

*April 4 -- at Bexley

April 5 -- vs. Briggs

April 7 -- vs. Westland (DH)

*April 9 -- at London

*April 11 -- vs. London

April 14 -- at Madison Plains

*April 16 -- at Grandview

*April 18 -- vs. Grandview

April 21 -- at Hamilton Township (DH)

*April 23 -- vs. Worthington Christian

*April 25 -- at Worthington Christian

April 26 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

April 28 -- vs. Caledonia River Valley (DH)

*April 30 -- vs. Columbus Academy

*May 2 -- at Columbus Academy

May 3 -- at St. Charles

SOFTBALL

March 26 -- vs. Newark

March 27 -- vs. Heath

March 28 -- vs. Centerburg

March 29 -- at Reynoldsburg

*April 2 -- vs. Bexley

*April 4 -- at Bexley

April 5 -- at Big Walnut

April 7 -- at Licking Valley (DH)

*April 9 -- at London

*April 11 -- vs. London

April 12 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

April 13 -- at Hartley

*April 16 -- at Grandview

*April 18 -- vs. Grandview

April 19 -- at Hamilton Township

April 21 -- Lancaster in Battle for a Cure at Miller Park

*April 23 -- vs. Worthington Christian

*April 25 -- at Worthington Christian

April 26 -- at New Albany

April 28 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy and Westland

April 30 -- vs. Lakewood

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys tennis and track & field teams:

BOYS TENNIS

*April 3 -- At Bexley

TRACK & FIELD

March 31- Newark Invitational

April 3 -- At Grove City with Canal Winchester

*League contest