With no seniors on her roster, first-year Westland High School softball coach Sarah Shellenbarger not only is looking for improvement, but pointing to what she hopes is a bright future.
Since defeating Northland 11-1 in five innings in their opener March 28, the Cougars have struggled, but Shellenbarger believes they eventually will prosper.
"They're growing," she said. "We're young and we just lack experience. I know the scores don't reflect it, but they really have made improvements from the first time they stepped on the field. We're getting there. It's going to take some time. They're working hard and they're growing, and that's a positive."
Westland was 1-4 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Dublin Coffman on April 13.
The Cougars opened league play April 12 with an 11-1 loss in five innings at Marysville.
Shellenbarger, who was an assistant at Linden-McKinley the past seven seasons, is looking forward to her team's first meeting this season with Central Crossing on Thursday, April 20. The Comets were 9-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Central before playing Marysville on April 13.
Last season, Central Crossing defeated Westland 11-1 in five innings and 6-0. The Comets went on to win their first Division I district title since 2012.
Shellenbarger hopes to someday get her program to Central Crossing's level.
"I'm excited to see it because I've heard the girls talk about it," Shellenbarger said of the rivalry. "Hopefully we will come with a good mindset. I am looking forward to it."
Shellenbarger said she has seen several positives so far this season, led by the combination of pitcher Emily Spohn and catcher Noelle Salyer. Both are juniors.
Spohn has been pleased with the team's effort and development.
"You can definitely tell that each practice (and) every time we step on the field, everybody is giving it 110 percent and giving it their all just to try to get better and improve," she said. "(Shellenbarger) came in with her mindset on getting this team ready, getting us to where we need to be, and she's pushing us hard."
Shellenbarger said Salyer, Spohn, junior Emily Smith and sophomore Madison Green have been solid contributors offensively.
Westland has been affected by bad weather and poor field conditions, as five of its first 10 scheduled games were postponed. With a relatively young team, Shellenbarger said getting her players as much game experience as possible is crucial.
"We just want to get out and play because that's what they need," she said.
Baseball team gets
Baseball coach Neil Bittel not only is looking for progress on the field, he's hoping his team earns respect from opponents.Video •Westland baseball coach Neil Bittel addresses his team after a 14-1 loss at Dublin Coffman on April 11.
After a 14-1 loss in five innings at Coffman on April 11, the Shamrocks' coaching staff complimented Bittel on the Cougars' determination and sportsmanship.
"It makes me feel great," Bittel said. "I take a lot from (Coffman coach) Tim (Saunders). One of the things that we harp on is the hustling in and hustling out before and after the game and having a good mental approach before the game."
Westland lost to Coffman 7-0 on April 5 after trailing just 1-0 in the fifth inning.
"We probably played the best game since I've been around," Bittel said. "It's part of the process. I feel there are days where we haven't done anything the last three years with our effort and attitude and there are other days where I feel we can hang in the OCC. We have to cross that threshold."
Bittel graduated from Coffman in 2008 and was named first-team all-state, all-district and all-league as a pitcher in his senior season.
The Cougars were 2-6 overall before playing Briggs on April 23. They are 0-5 in the OCC-Central.
Westland lost to Upper Arlington 11-0 on April 10 and 20-1 on April 12, both in five innings.
"Our team is definitely changing and preparation and hustle are definitely changing for our program," sophomore Zach Mon said. "The coaches definitely have played a huge part in our improvement, preparing everything for us and just telling us physically how to improve and mentally how to improve."
Track teams compete
at Fairfield Union
The track and field teams competed in the Fairfield Union Invitational on April 8.
The boys finished ninth (24 points) of 14 teams behind champion Teays Valley (118) as E.J. Rondez was third in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 5.2 seconds), Trent Bott was fourth in the shot put (45 feet, 4 3/4 inches) and Mamadu Nabe finished fourth in the long jump (18-3).
The girls finished 15th (3.5) of 15 teams behind champion Thornville Sheridan (89) as Vanessa Evans was seventh in the 100 hurdles (18.89) and eighth in the high jump (4-5), and Payton Compton was eighth in the 800 (2:40.32).
Two winter sports
coaches step down
Scott Vayansky has stepped down as boys basketball coach and Chas McCutcheon said he will officially step down as wrestling coach this week.
Vayansky coached the Cougars for three seasons and served as an assistant under Seth Martin in the 2013-14 season.
Under Vayansky, the Cougars went 9-60 overall and 3-35 in the OCC-Central.
"It was a tough decision," he said.
"We definitely didn't win as much as we wanted to, that's the bottom line. You have to get wins, that's what you're judged by, and we didn't get enough wins. We worked hard."
Vayansky said he plans to join the Pickerington North boys basketball staff as an assistant and also spend more time watching his daughter, Megan, play basketball and volleyball for North.
McCutcheon was the wrestling coach for three seasons after serving as an assistant the previous four under Bret Busby.
The Cougars went 1-18 under McCutcheon in OCC-Central matches.
Athletics director Mike George said McCutcheon will step down to pursue an administrative position, but could remain with the program in some capacity.