With central Ohio's often chilly start to the high school baseball season, the bat stings a little bit more and runs can be at a premium.
Hundreds of miles away in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Big Walnut opened the season with hot bats in 60-degree temperatures, scoring 40 runs in its first three contests at The Ripken Experience.
"I know this: We will hit the ball this year," third-year coach Jack Schone said. "We will be aggressive in every game, and we will play as a team."
Big Walnut was 2-1 before finishing its spring break trip against Hunting Valley University School on March 28 and New Kensington (Pennsylvania) Valley on March 29. The Golden Eagles will play Dublin Jerome in their home opener Wednesday, April 3, before opening OCC-Capital Division play Friday, April 5, at home against Canal Winchester.
Big Walnut tallied 14 hits in an 11-10 loss to Springfield (Pennsylvania) Cardinal O'Hara in its opener March 24, with senior second baseman Matt Evans hitting a three-run home run.
Senior Ryne Conley pitched a one-hitter and senior third baseman Nathan Lawyer had two triples and a home run in a 19-1 victory over West Carrollton on March 25, and senior Carson Becker allowed just one hit in an 11-1 win over West Liberty (Kentucky) Morgan County on March 26, with senior catcher Sam Medley and senior outfielder Jacob Daniels each producing two hits.
"We have a strong group of seniors once again, and all 10 will see playing time over the course of the season," Schone said.
Big Walnut had 12 seniors last season when it finished 16-12 overall and 12-3 in the OCC-Capital to secure its first league title since 2012. The Golden Eagles fell short of their fourth consecutive district championship, however, as they lost to New Albany 6-5 in a Division I district semifinal.
Schone was trying a number of different lineups in Myrtle Beach, including Becker at first base, senior Wes Coey at first base and third base and junior Viktor Girodano at shortstop.
Seniors Caleb Meade and C.J. Rockwell also are competing for infield spots, while juniors Jacob Krous, Craig Norman and Ken Schneider are competing with Conley and Daniels for outfield positions.
On the mound, Big Walnut must replace 2018 graduate Austin Becker, a right-hander who now plays at Vanderbilt.
"Pitching will be the wildcard for us this year," Schone said. "We are expecting big things from three returning (letterwinners) in (Carson) Becker, Conley and Coey. All three saw significant innings last year."
Schone expects Daniels and Lawyer to be the primary relievers.
Offense to lead softball team
The softball team expects to have a strong lineup this season under 13th-year coach Jeff Hatfield.
Big Walnut opened March 27 with a 17-5 victory over Whitehall, as senior first baseman Taylor Schulz went 2-for-3 with a three-run home run and sophomore shortstop Arielle Brown and senior outfielder Jocelyn Lucas both had three hits.
"This is a really good offensive team," said Hatfield, whose team was 1-0 before playing Dublin Scioto on March 30 and opens OCC-Capital play April 10 at home against Canal Winchester. "I'm excited. This might be the most athletic group we've ever had."
The Golden Eagles averaged nine runs and batted .412 as a team last season, when they finished 12-13 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Capital and reached a Division II district final before losing 20-3 to Jonathan Alder.
"In our first scrimmages, we struggled a little bit, but as we went on, we started seeing the ball a lot better," junior second baseman Alyssa Tarney said.
Big Walnut returns five starters in Brown, Lucas, Tarney, junior catcher Molly Sharpe and junior third baseman Hailey Krinn. Junior Maggie Blackburn and sophomore Karley Becker are starting in the outfield along with Lucas.
The Golden Eagles lost their top two pitchers from a year ago in 2018 graduates Vanessa Sharpe and Stacey Walters. They have been replaced in the circle by two varsity newcomers in juniors Autumn Imhoff and Sierra Perry.
Imhoff allowed eight hits against Whitehall.
"It comes down to the same thing every year: What are we going to be like in the circle?" Hatfield said. "It's going to come down to them throwing strikes. We averaged 4.8 walks per game last year."
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, track & field and boys tennis teams:
April 3 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
*April 5 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
April 6 -- Home vs. DeSales
April 2 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*April 4 -- At Westerville North
*April 4 -- Home vs. Westerville North
April 1 -- Home vs. Olentangy
April 2 -- Home vs. Whetstone
April 3 -- At Olentangy Orange
April 6 -- At Olentangy Berlin with Grandview
TRACK & FIELD
April 2 -- At Westerville Central
April 6 -- Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at home
April 1 -- At Worthington Christian
April 2 -- Home vs. Olentangy
April 3 -- Home vs. Delaware
April 4 -- At Marysville
April 6 -- Watkins Memorial Doubles Tournament at Reynoldsburg with Newark