Sarah Gibson admitted she doesn't dwell on the Upper Arlington High School softball team's trying 2015 season, but hopes the lessons learned last year provide a springboard to more success.

Sarah Gibson admitted she doesn't dwell on the Upper Arlington High School softball team's trying 2015 season, but hopes the lessons learned last year provide a springboard to more success.

Gibson is one of nine returnees for the Golden Bears, who opened March 28 with a 10-8 loss at Newark under first-year coach Brandon Twiss. UA ended last season on the same field, losing to the Wildcats 7-4 in the first round of the Division I district tournament to finish 6-18 overall.

"Last year was a good learning season. We've come back a lot stronger, and I think we're pretty supportive of each other," said Gibson, a senior first baseman and outfielder. "We have smart hitters and that shows in big situations. We're athletic and we have a lot of speed, strength and versatility. A lot of that is because we worked so hard in the offseason to get better."

UA has returned its top two hitters from last year in senior outfielder/catcher Elli Wachtman (.357 batting average, 14 RBI in 2015) and sophomore shortstop Gigi Danes (.350), as well as two of its primary pitchers in senior Hope Klingensmith and junior Ida Kegley.

Against Newark, Wachtman hit a two-run home run in the second inning and Gibson added a three-run homer in the seventh.

Twiss immediately set out to be his players' best support system when he was hired in September to replace Todd DelBoccio, who resigned in June after compiling a 116-95 record in eight seasons.

"I've coached a lot of places and never had a smile on my face this much," Twiss said. "The girls are great to be around, and they're coachable. They're all having a great time, and so am I, because we're on the same page and they have a great will to prepare. They know they can have a great season.

"I want to make sure we celebrate our successes, whether it's a big hit or a sacrifice bunt. You put in the effort, you want to make sure they enjoy the reward."

Twiss brings a wealth of experience at multiple levels to UA. A Canal Winchester native, he served as an assistant coach at Marshall University, Miami University and the University of Utah before returning to central Ohio several years ago, where he has been a head coach at Hamilton Township in addition to stints as an assistant at Bloom-Carroll, Liberty Union and Pickerington Central.

Twiss currently is a physical education and health teacher at Liberty Union, where he also is an assistant football coach.

Wachtman, who played center field each of the past two seasons, could share catching duties with junior Berit Borstad. Borstad also will play third base.

"She's our leader, our sparkplug," Twiss said of Wachtman.

Senior Kerra Mason, sophomore Sara Viernes and freshman Madison Pritchett round out the pitching staff.

"They're strong and each of them brings a little something different," Gibson said. "Each of them can control the game."

The rest of the roster consists of senior Kelly Strayton (2B/OF), junior Taylor Pritchett (1B/OF) and sophomores Molly Schweitzer (3B) and Amanda Ventresca (2B/OF).

UA's home opener is Thursday, March 31, against Pickerington Central.

The Bears begin OCC-Central Division play Monday, April 4, at Thomas Worthington.

Last season, UA went 2-12 in the league to place seventh behind co-champions Marys-ville and Olentangy Liberty (both 13-1).

Schedule

March 28 -- at Newark

March 31 -- vs. Pickerington Central

*April 4 -- at Thomas Worthington

*April 6 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

*April 8 -- vs. Central Crossing

*April 11 -- at Hilliard Davidson

*April 13 -- vs. Marysville

*April 15 -- at Westland

April 16 -- at DeSales with Northridge

*April 18 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 20 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

*April 22 -- at Olentangy Liberty

April 23 -- at Licking Heights (DH)

*April 25 -- at Central Crossing

April 26 -- at Westerville Central

*April 27 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 29 -- at Marysville

*May 2 -- vs. Westland

May 3 -- vs. Sparta Highland

*May 4 -- at Dublin Coffman

May 5 -- vs. Grandview

May 7 -- at Groveport with Fairfield Union

*League contest