The Dublin Coffman High School softball team will need to rely on several unproven players after losing seven starters to graduation.

The Dublin Coffman High School softball team will need to rely on several unproven players after losing seven starters to graduation.

Fortunately, senior pitcher Madison Hedderly has returned. Hedderly went 16-6 with a 1.55 ERA, 124 strikeouts and 17 walks in 135 innings last season as Coffman finished 19-9 after losing to Westerville South 1-0 in a Division I district semifinal.

The Shamrocks will open Monday at home against Buckeye Valley and will play Wednesday at Pickerington North.

"We have a lot of quality young players who are stepping up to fill our graduates' roles, but it remains to be seen whether they can hit varsity pitching," coach Kevin Finan said. "I'm confident that our younger players will meet the challenge, and it really helps that we still have Madison because pitching is such an important part of this game. Madison has grown stronger and improved each year, and we're hoping she will be one of the premier pitchers in the area this year."

Hedderly, who is being recruited by Savannah State and Youngstown State, has improved the speed of her fastball to about 60 mph and has added a curveball.

After graduate Ashley Byers pitched a one-hitter with a season-high 18 strikeouts and no walks to help eighth-seeded South beat 11th-seeded Coffman in a district semifinal last year, Hedderly has worked hard to try to become as dominating as Byers.

"We may not be as strong defensively as we were last year, but I'm going to try to pull an Ashley Byers and make my entire team better," Hedderly said. "She was an extremely good pitcher on a mediocre team, but she was able to beat us by herself. It shows that you need only a good pitcher to win. I'm not as good of a hitter as she was though, so I'll need a little bit of help in that area."

Coffman's other two returning starters are seniors Morgan Hall (SS) and Kats Mockler (CF). Hedderly batted .409 with 20 RBI and Mockler batted .303 with 18 runs and six stolen bases as the Shamrocks had a .321 batting average and scored 5.1 runs per game last season.

First-year starters are junior Anna Holliday (C) and sophomore Kimmi Bussell (1B).

Vying to start at second base are senior Allison Rubin and sophomore Meghan Glynn, and competing for the starting spot at third base are senior Kelsey Tiberi and sophomore Cassi Ladina.

Sophomore Linda Cardovo and Mockler also can pitch, and junior Lauren Barr is the backup catcher.

Senior Christina Fisher, juniors Allison Klusachek and Alysha Mashchak and sophomores Stacy Axner, Jen Carney and Rachel DeRosa are competing for playing time in the outfield.

"We have some kids who have really pounded the ball in practice, so we may have a little more power than we had last year," Finan said.

Coffman finished second at 7-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division last year behind Grove City (9-1) and ahead of Upper Arlington (6-4), Hilliard Davidson (4-6) and Westerville North and Reynoldsburg (both 2-8).

The Shamrocks now are in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Davidson, Hilliard Darby, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne.

"We got rid of Grove City, thank goodness, but Hilliard Darby's a top team, too, so the OCC is going to be tough again," Hedderly said. "Thomas Worthington and Upper Arlington are really good, too, so our goal is a top-three finish. People are picking us to finish last in the OCC online, so we'd love to prove them wrong."

At a glance

•Coach: Kevin Finan, third season

•Opener: Monday vs. Buckeye Valley

•Key players: Morgan Hall, Madison Hedderly and Kats Mockler