The combination of injuries and inexperience hindered the Upper Arlington High School softball team throughout its opening month of the season.

The combination of injuries and inexperience hindered the Upper Arlington High School softball team throughout its opening month of the season.

There's no questioning, however, the potential that has begun to shine through during a rebuilding season for the Golden Bears.

In addition to nine juniors who have taken on key roles this season, sophomore Laramie Abbruzzese and freshman Mckinly Vazquez have become immediate contributors during their first varsity seasons.

Abbruzzese hit .425 with 11 runs and a team-best four stolen bases over her first 40 at-bats while playing left field and batting leadoff. Vazquez pitched in 10 of the first 13 games, compiling a 4-1 record with 26 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.

"Laramie has been playing exceptionally well," coach Todd DelBoccio said. "There are some games she goes 3-for-4, and she's really been coming on strong for us. Vazquez has been taking on a lot of the pitching duties and has just been doing a great job. When she's in there, it always seems to help us."

DelBoccio believes the transition to playing varsity has been made easier for Abbruzzese and Vazquez by their older siblings.

Abbruzzese's sister, junior Mandie Abbruzzese, pitched 28 2/3 innings and had a 2.44 ERA through 13 games but was not able to pitch in a 9-0 loss to Lakewood on April 21 because of an arm injury. The Lancers won consecutive Division III state championships in 2008 and '09 and were the Division II state champions last season.

Vazquez's sister, Kasi Vazquez, is a 2010 UA graduate playing for the University of Dayton.

"(Laramie) Abbruzzese plays at a high level in travel ball and Mckinly has been around the game her whole life," DelBoccio said. "I think that has a lot to do with it. What we've had to fight through at the beginning has been getting them up to varsity speed.

"We have (nine) juniors that are very athletic, and we're excited about the progress they've all been making. In all of our wins, all of our kids have contributed something. It's exciting to see what the future can bring."

In addition to Mandie Abbruzzese, juniors Margo Bennett (P), Fallon Brown (SS/OF) and Montana Henry (OF) are others who have missed time with injuries.

Through 13 games, junior catcher Stephanie Turner was the team's leading hitter with a .463 average, four home runs and 15 RBI. Brown was hitting .440 and senior infielder Brooke Hauser had 12 RBI. DelBoccio is hoping that the Bears can get healthy enough to stay in the OCC-Central Division title race.

The two-time defending league champion, UA opened conference play with a 13-3 loss to Worthington Kilbourne on April 6 but bounced back to beat Westland 6-0 on April 13 and Hilliard Davidson 5-3 on April 15.

The Bears began a stretch of five league games in eight days April 27 against Hilliard Darby and still have makeup games from the first round of the league schedule to play against Dublin Coffman, Central Crossing, Thomas Worthington and Kilbourne.

"I think we're really starting to come together as a team," Laramie Abbruzzese said. "I know we lost a lot of seniors from last year, and it's almost like we have a whole new team this year with a lot of young people. (The Lakewood game) wasn't our best game, but we didn't give up, so I think it was a good experience to go up against them. It's going to help us in the long run."