Coach Mike North and his Westland High School softball team hope to improve on last season's 9-16 overall record and last-place finish in the OCC-Central Division.

Coach Mike North and his Westland High School softball team hope to improve on last season's 9-16 overall record and last-place finish in the OCC-Central Division.

The Cougars' optimism stems from the return of senior pitcher Ashley Collins and three other key players.

"I think we're athletic enough," said North, who is in his ninth season. "If we just get better, we'll win games."

Westland opens Wednesday, March 28, at Pickerington Central and begins league play April 2 at home against Hilliard Davidson.

Last season, Westland defeated Watkins Memorial 2-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament before losing to third-seeded Groveport 4-0.

Against Watkins Memorial, Collins pitched a two-hitter to win her first district tournament game. She earned the win in all nine of the Cougars' victories last season.

"Ashley will be fine," North said. "She's a lot better, a lot stronger."

Also back is junior catcher Michaela Williams, who led the team in hitting at .324 and was second in RBI with nine. She was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Senior Brooke Harris will start in center field and serve as the team's reserve pitcher.

Junior Ashley Haulter returns and will play first base.

"We have a lot of new, young players, but they're pretty good," Harris said. "They seem like they know what they're doing. They got up on it early."

Other returning players are senior Chelsea Lyle (2B) and junior Hollie Hawse (SS).

The remaining players are new to the team.

Senior Kayle Dale is expected to split time at shortstop with Hawse.

Others looking to contribute are junior Taylor Silcott (OF) and sophomores Alexis Carius (3B), Marina Gooch (OF), Taylor Wegman (OF) and Kaitlyn Willming (C/INF).

"We are young," North said. "Of the 12 kids on this team, six of them have never played varsity. It's always a challenge every year trying to take different pieces and putting them together, and do the best we can to make sure the kids have a successful season and give them an opportunity to be a better ballplayer than they were last year."

Westland lost eight players from last year's team to graduation, including third baseman Courtney Kimmel, who led the team with 10 RBI.

Last season, Westland went 2-11 in the OCC-Central to finish behind Central Crossing (13-0), Thomas Worthington (10-3), Worthington Kilbourne (10-4), Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Hilliard Darby (5-8), Dublin Coffman (4-10) and Upper Arlington (3-11).

The league wins came against Coffman 9-6 and UA 7-2.

"It's going to be tough again," North said of the league. "We just have some good softball schools in that division, plus these schools have some good softball players and good athletes."

•The school held a ceremony March 21 to recognize Rachel Anderson and Brady Willis, who will compete in athletics at the collegiate level.

Anderson will play golf at NAIA Division II Mount Vernon Nazarene College and Willis will play baseball at NCAA Division III Otterbein University.



March 28 - at Pickerington Central

March 30 - vs. Ready

*April 2 - vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 4 - at Dublin Coffman

*April 9 - vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*April 11 - at Thomas Worthington

*April 13 - at Upper Arlington

April 14 - at Westerville Central and at Westerville South

*April 16 - vs. Hilliard Darby

April 17 - at Olentangy Liberty

*April 18 - at Central Crossing

April 19 - at Centennial

*April 20 - at Hilliard Davidson

*April 23 - vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 25 - at Worthington Kilbourne

April 28 - at Grove City (DH)

*April 27 - vs. Thomas Worthington

*April 30 - vs. Upper Arlington

May 1 - vs. Dublin Scioto

*May 2 - at Hilliard Darby

*May 4 - vs. Central Crossing

May 5 - vs. Franklin Heights and Groveport

*OCC-Central game

At a glance

Below are the coming schedules for the Westland baseball, boys tennis and track & field teams:


March 26 - At Johnstown

March 27 - At Westerville South


March 28 - Home vs. Ready

March 29 - Home vs. Circleville


March 31 - Newark Invitational