Big Walnut High School softball coach Jeff Hatfield knows what the chill of late-March and early-April can do to run production. Apparently, his players haven't been paying attention to Mother Nature.
The Golden Eagles' offense erupted in a 15-5 victory over Canal Winchester in their OCC-Capital Division opener April 12 to improve to 4-2 overall.
Through six games, Big Walnut was averaging 10.6 runs, with double digits runs in wins over Whitehall (14-7 on April 5) and Sparta Highland (16-8 on March 31).
"This is probably the best-hitting team I've had out of the gate," Hatfield said. "You take a look at how we traditionally have been, we always come on strong at the end."
Last season, Big Walnut started 1-5, averaging just 2.8 runs in those six games, before winning 15 of its last 18 contests. Through six games this year, the Golden Eagles were batting .401 with seven doubles, seven home runs and 39 RBI.
Five players were hitting better than .400, led by third baseman Hailey Krinn (.476, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 10 RBI). The others were outfielder Jocelyn Lucas (.429, 3 RBI), pitcher Stacey Walters (.421, 2 home runs, 4 RBI), outfielder Emma Schwinne (.417, 4 RBI) and catcher Molly Sharpe (.412, 1 home run, 5 RBI).
While those numbers have impressed Hatfield, he's most concerned about a defense that continues to develop.
The infield has new faces, including freshmen Arielle Brown and sophomore Maggie Blackburn competing for playing time at second base and sophomore Alyssa Tarney and Brown vying for time at shortstop.
Walters has assumed duties as the No. 1 starter in the circle with the departure of 2017 graduate Alex Thomas, who was 10-5 with a 2.57 ERA, 89 strikeouts and 30 walks in 100 2/3 innings last season.
Hatfield expects Walters to continue to improve. The senior picked up the win against Canal Winchester and, through six games, had a 5.44 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 13 walks in 18 innings.
Her best performance prior to facing the Indians may have been a 9-7 victory over Olentangy on April 6. Big Walnut had not defeated the Braves since 2014.
"You look at the linescore and see they had eight walks and we had eight walks and you think, 'Man, that was a terrible pitching performance,' and it really wasn't," Hatfield said. "That was probably Stacey's best game."
Walters can throw hard and likes to use the entire plate.
"When I am pitching, my focus is to keep the hitters off balance by pitching high, low, inside and outside and using changeups and other pitches," she said. "But everybody has been hitting the ball so well, and that's taking a lot of pressure off the pitcher, too."
Boys track team wins Golden Eagle Relays
For the fourth consecutive year, the boys track and field team finished first as host of the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays.
With strong performances in the field events, Big Walnut scored 94 points in the 12-team meet April 7 to edge runner-up Westerville Central (87). Grove City (65.5) was third.
Brandon Mosher (152 feet, 5 inches), Mark Ruffing (114-4) and Luke Apple (110-8) combined to win the discus relay, while Mosher (52-3), Ruffing (44-2 1/2) and Brandt Ebright (41-3) won the shot put relay and Mitchell Truax (11-0), Josh Halbakken (10-0) and Nick Spangenberg (9-0) won the pole vault relay.
The Eagles also won the 800-meter sprint medley, as Dante Chhuom, Devon Bingman, Shane Swartzentruber and Tim Rumas finished first in 1 minute, 37.29 seconds.
Placing second were the 800 relay of Ramey, Mitchell Embaugh, Swartzentruber and Rumas (1:34.31) and the shuttle hurdle relay of Colin White, Brody Lawhun, Dawson Brehm and Blake Conner (1:07.3).
The girls team finished third (75) of 12 teams in the Golden Eagle Relays, behind Westerville Central (104) and Delaware (79).
Finishing first for Big Walnut were the discus relay of Maddie Swank (98-10), Grace Weber (87-10) and Cindy Schlaegel (80-11) and the 6,400 relay of Colbi Borland, Chloe McKenzie, Alina Pecci and Adelee Gartner (23:49.9).
Placing second were the 3,200 relay of Borland, Kaitlin Meade, Becca Bogantz and Gartner (10:45.45), the lap medley relay of Bogantz, Grace Unger, Meade and Borland (13:06.89) and the pole vault relay of Julia Wood (7-6), Annika Anderson (7-0) and Abby Spangenberg (6-0).
Baseball team looking to get on roll
Four of the baseball team's first nine games were decided by one run, including victories over DeSales (8-7 on March 27) and Canal Winchester (1-0 on April 2).
The Golden Eagles lost to Hilliard Bradley 3-2 on March 31 and Canal Winchester 1-0 on April 5.
Big Walnut improved to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Capital with a 7-1 win at Newark on April 11. The Golden Eagles had won two games in a row before playing host to Newark on April 13.
In a 6-4 win at New Albany on April 10, Connor Gerren, Nathan Lawyer and Noah Sprowls each had multiple hits and Colten Lee earned the victory on the mound, allowing six hits and four runs with two strikeouts in four innings.
Moore steps down as wrestling coach
Luke Moore has stepped down after 11 seasons as wrestling coach.
"This decision was not easy and has weighed very heavily on my mind for quite some time," he said in a statement. "However, with where I am with my career and family, I feel it is time for a change in responsibility and time commitment. I have truly put my heart and soul into this program, but I feel it is best for my family that I make this change."
During Moore's tenure, the Golden Eagles produced two state placers, 10 state qualifiers, 17 district placers and 66 district qualifiers and won the OCC-Capital Division championship in 2007-08.
Big Walnut had two state qualifiers this past season in seniors Bailey Munday, who finished 40-5 at 132 pounds, and Cole Foster, who was 41-10 at 132.
"Coach Moore had a positive impact on the lives of many athletes over the last 11 seasons," athletics director Brian Shelton said. "Coach Moore made it a priority to connect with the alumni as is evident by how many former wrestlers would attend matches and senior night. Coach Moore is your role model coach who does everything the right way."
Moore will continue to assist the program in offseason workouts until his successor has been hired, Shelton said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
*April 16 -- At Franklin Heights
*April 18 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
*April 20 -- Home vs. Groveport
April 21 -- At Upper Arlington
April 16 -- Home vs. Johnstown
April 21 -- Home vs. Jonathan Alder
*April 17 -- Home vs. Westerville South
April 19 -- Home vs. Gahanna
April 21 -- Hinsdale (Ill.) Central and Worthington Kilbourne in Hannigan-Galipault tournament at Thomas Worthington
*April 16 -- At Newark
*April 18 -- At Franklin Heights
*April 10 -- Home vs. Groveport
April 20 -- Home vs. Westerville North
April 21 -- At Westerville South
April 16 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley
*April 17 -- At Franklin Heights
*April 19 -- Home vs. Groveport
April 20 -- At Westerville Central
TRACK & FIELD
April 17 -- Home vs. Kilbourne
April 20 -- Fulton Relays at Lancaster