Coming off a 20-win season, the Hilliard Davidson High School softball team has a new look this spring.
The Wildcats lost six players to graduation and three others who did not return after finishing 20-5 overall and placing second in the OCC-Central Division last season. In 2016, Davidson finished 23-3 and won the league title.
"This is a brand new group," sixth-year coach Katie Speakman said. "We only have one returning starter from last year's program. Four are freshmen and the rest are sophomores. There are no juniors on the roster. We're working hard every day, but they're learning to play at the varsity level. We have kids who are dedicated, so we're happy with what we have."
The only returning starter is senior second baseman Abby Sheets. Last season, she hit .381 with 17 RBI and three home runs and was named special mention all-league.
"It's definitely something new for our program," Sheets said of having an inexperienced team. "We haven't had this kind of dynamic change between a low amount of seniors and a lot of underclassmen, but I'm really excited to take on a leadership role and I'm excited to be a captain and show them the way that we do things around here."
The only other returnees are senior center fielder Brooke Sommers, who hit .333 with 14 RBI last season, and senior first baseman Makayla Cordle.
The remaining players are sophomores and freshmen.
Sophomores Addison DeJesus (P/OF) and Kayla Michael (P) will split time in the circle in place of 2017 graduate Erica Buchanan, who was named first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state last season after going 20-5 in the circle with a 1.72 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 150 1/3 innings. She is now playing at Ohio Wesleyan.
Freshman CiCi Keidel is the starting shortstop but could see time at catcher.
Other players include sophomores Abby Mullins (C/utility) and Natalie Myers (3B) and freshmen Kami Graham (utility), Marissa Korbini (OF) and Lauren Runals (utility).
"It's a lot more fundamental-type things and focusing on the little things," Speakman said.
Davidson was 1-2 before playing Bradley on April 4. The Wildcats opened March 26 with a 7-3 loss to visiting Dublin Scioto before splitting a pair of games March 31 at home, defeating Darby 6-5 and losing to Watkins Memorial 15-5.
Sheets hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning against Darby.
The Wildcats, whose games against DeSales on March 28 and Olentangy Liberty on March 29 were postponed because of bad weather, begin OCC-Central play Wednesday, April 11, at home against Dublin Coffman.
Last season, Davidson went 8-2 in the league to finish second behind champion Central Crossing (9-1).
"(The league is) going to be competitive as it always is," Speakman said. "We still have some great pitching in the OCC. Central Crossing is going to be a top team. Marysville is a top team. The rest of the teams will be just as competitive as they always are, so we're going to have to compete to be in it."
Baseball team looks to build on last year
The baseball team is looking to build on last season, when it finished 15-9 overall and won the OCC-Central title.
The Wildcats were 2-1 before playing Dublin Scioto on April 3. They opened league play with a 1-0 win over visiting Coffman on April 2 as senior pitcher Carson Curnutte tossed a two-hitter.
Last season, Davidson went 11-4 in the OCC-Central to edge runner-up Marysville (10-5).
"We set the standard last year. It's where we wanted to be," fifth-year coach Justin Swallie said, referring to the league title. "It took us a few years to get back on track, but the guys are building off that. The important thing is they expect to do big things. They've worked hard and they've done a good job so far. We're looking forward to (the season)."
The Wildcats opened March 24 at home with a 10-0, six-inning loss to Olentangy before bouncing back to defeat visiting Medina Buckeye 3-1 on March 26 as sophomore Nick Dymek (SS/P) was the winning pitcher.
Leading the returnees is Curnutte, who was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last season after going 5-1 with a 1.39 ERA, 17 strikeouts and two walks in 45 innings.
Junior Christian Sweet (C/INF) was second-team all-league and senior Ben Wright (LF) was honorable mention all-league. Curnutte, Sweet and Wright are returning starters, as are seniors Brett Kodger (RF) and Andrew Steele (CF).
"We definitely have a target on our backs because last year we had a good year, winning the OCC," Wright said. "We're looking to go back-to-back this year."
Also back are seniors Alex Gonzalez (P), Jordan Hall (P), Nathan Mix (2B), Jon Suarez (OF) and Keegan Wolfinger (INF). Rounding out the team are juniors Austin Conrad (P), Grant Cowan (OF), Nathan DeWeese (C/INF), Jason Harris (3B/P), Efrain Lopez (1B/P), David May (OF), Chase Miles (3B), Nate Porter (INF), Joey Sheets (OF/P), Jack Vellky (OF) and Drew Yoder (1B) and sophomore Dylan Bunyak (C/INF). Lopez moved from Venezuela.
"We return a lot of guys from last year's team, but it's still a different team, which is what makes coaching so great," Swallie said. "Every year is different things that you can do."
March 24 -- vs. Olentangy
March 26 -- vs. Medina Buckeye
March 31 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 2 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
April 3 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*April 4 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 6 -- at Upper Arlington
*April 9 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*April 11 -- at Central Crossing
*April 13 -- vs. Central Crossing
April 14 -- vs. Westerville North (DH)
*April 16 -- vs. Westland
April 17 -- at Bradley
*April 18 -- at Westland
*April 20 -- at Marysville
*April 23 -- vs. Marysville
April 24 -- at Darby
*April 25 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*April 27 -- at Upper Arlington
April 28 -- at Logan (DH)
*April 30 -- at Central Crossing
*May 2 -- vs. Westland
*May 4 -- at Marysville
May 5 -- at St. Charles
March 26 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
March 28 -- at DeSales
March 29 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
March 31 -- vs. Darby and Watkins Memorial
April 4 -- vs. Bradley
April 5 -- vs. Olentangy
April 7 -- at Olentangy Orange with New Albany
April 9 -- at Westerville North
*April 11 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*April 12 -- at Upper Arlington
April 14 -- vs. Newark and Westerville Central
*April 16 -- at Central Crossing
April 17 -- at Westerville South
*April 18 -- vs. Westland
*April 19 -- at Marysville
*April 23 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 25 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*April 26 -- vs. Central Crossing
April 28 -- at Logan (DH)
*April 30 -- at Westland
*May 2 -- vs. Marysville
May 3 -- at Watterson
Below are the coming schedules for the Davidson boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis and track & field teams:
*April 5 -- At Dublin Coffman
April 9 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*April 5 -- Home vs. Coffman
April 9 -- At Chillicothe
April 10 -- At Gahanna
*April 5 -- Home vs. Coffman
April 9 -- Home vs. Bradley
*April 10 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
April 11 -- At Lancaster
TRACK & FIELD
April 6 -- Panther Invitational at Darby
April 10 -- At Worthington Kilbourne