The Delaware Hayes High School softball team appears primed to have another strong season.

The Pacers return six starters from last season, when they finished 19-3 overall, shared the OCC-Cardinal Division title with Hilliard Bradley and reached a Division I district semifinal before losing to Mount Vernon 8-3.

"With almost every starter back this season with a lot of varsity experience, we should have very good year," 12th-year coach Mark Thomas said. "We will have to stay a tight team and not look too far ahead. We need to just focus on things game by game."

Five seniors are in the starting lineup for Delaware, which was 3-1 before March 28 during its spring break trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida, and opens league play Monday, April 1, at Hilliard Darby.

The returning starters are seniors Bobbi Adams (C), Alex Armstrong (CF), Chloe Barton (SS), Lexi Mattix (2B) and Laiha Slayton (1B) and junior Haley Osborne (P). Barton played third base a year ago and Slayton was the designated player.

Last season, Adams batted .554 with six home runs and 29 RBI and was named first-team all-league and all-district, Barton hit .463 with 39 runs scored and 28 RBI and was second-team all-league, Armstrong batted .410 with three home runs, 31 runs and 22 RBI and was second-team all-league, Mattix batted .438 with 26 runs and Slayton hit .414 with 21 RBI.

"Chloe and Lexi are four-year letterwinners and Bobbi, Laiha and Haley are three-year letterwinners," said Thomas, whose team went 10-2 in the OCC-Cardinal last season. "We have a lot of experience. Chloe has a good glove and arm and we'll use her speed in the leadoff spot. Lexi is a very good slap hitter and will bat second for us. They will set the table for us and I really like the look we have in the order."

Last season, Osborne was 18-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings and batted .397. She was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district.

"Having our battery back is a huge plus," Thomas said. "Haley probably had her best offseason yet. I have not seen her this focused before. She will keep the ball low, hit her spots and will let the defense behind her do their job.

"Bobbi is a very good catcher and will bat third for us."

Newcomers are juniors Taylor Call (OF) and Katie Fleshman (P), sophomores McKenna Campbell and Judaea Wilson (OF) and freshmen Myaih Cloud (OF) and Kami Slayton (3B).

"Kami has a very good bat offensively and will play a strong third base for us, and Myaih also brings a solid bat to the lineup and will be solid defensively," Thomas said. "We have new starters at first base, third base, left field and right field, but we have experienced players around them to balance that out."

Baseball team seeks early season success

Having lost eight players from a year ago to graduation, the baseball team entered this season with an inexperienced group.

The Pacers were 1-1 before playing a doubleheader against Bloom-Carroll on March 30. They opened March 23 by splitting a doubleheader with Caledonia River Valley, winning 3-1 and losing 9-1.

Delaware opens OCC-Cardinal play April 8 at Darby.

"With a relatively young team, it is important for us to get our feet under us quickly in the first few weeks of the year before we get into league play," sixth-year coach Ryan Montgomery said. "I think we need to start fast and continue to have success early to get us to where we want to be. We need to pitch and hit well and play exceptional defense."

Seniors Zach Price (P/1B) and Caleb Richardson (DH) and junior Alex Kelly (C) return after being starters last season and senior Ryan Murphy (P) will move from a relief role into the starting rotation for the Pacers, who finished 10-13 overall and 3-9 in the OCC-Cardinal last season.

Also back is junior Cory Richardson (P/3B), who played a utility role last season.

Last season, Price batted .406 with seven doubles, three home runs, 15 runs and 25 RBI and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, while Murphy had a 1.87 ERA in 15 innings as a reliever.

Price and junior Grant Singleton combined on a two-hitter in the win over River Valley.

"Zach is huge part of our team," Montgomery said. "He is a three-year letterwinner and has committed to Urbana University next year. He is going to be a workhorse for us on the mound and is our middle of the order power hitter. He led us in home runs and RBI last year. He is a guy that is proven and his teammates look to him for guidance and leadership. We will go as Zach goes this year.

"Ryan was the guy out of the bullpen last year. He is moving into a starter's role and we are expecting great things from him. We think he can be a dominate starter. Alex batted over .300 hitter and has great plate discipline and power to all parts of the field. Defensively, he really helped control the run game and he works with our pitchers really well."

Delaware will start freshman Brennan Helcher at shortstop and juniors Jacob Molina and Clay Taylor are expected to get starts at second base and third base.

"Helcher is experienced beyond his years," Montgomery said. "He swings the bat exceptionally well with great power, especially for a freshman, and has great hands and moves extremely well in the infield. He will really turn some heads this season. Jacob and Clay have great bats as well."

In the outfield, sophomore Drew Williams will start in center field and be flanked by junior Ethan Hazelton and Singleton. Senior Kyle Latulipe and juniors Cobbie Cribs, Zac Woolum and Callan Young also are seeking playing time in the outfield.

"Our outfield is completely new and we still have a few guys that are fighting for sports in the outfield," Montgomery said. "Drew has great range and can get to anything that is in the air in center."

Also looking to contribute are senior Kevin Brown (1B), junior Jacob Hunsaker (1B/P) and sophomore Nick Wildman (C).

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:

BASEBALL

April 6 -- Home vs. Licking Heights (DH)

BOYS LACROSSE

April 2 -- At Olentangy Liberty

*April 4 -- At Thomas Worthington

April 5 -- Home vs. North Oldham (Ky.)

GIRLS LACROSSE

April 2 -- At Centennial

*April 4 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

April 6 -- Home vs. Big Walnut and Buckeye Valley

SOFTBALL

*April 1 -- At Hilliard Darby

April 2 -- Home vs. Groveport

*April 3 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto

*April 4 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

BOYS TENNIS

April 1 -- At Gahanna

*April 2 -- At Hilliard Darby

April 3 -- Home vs. Big Walnut

*April 4 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto

TRACK & FIELD

April 2 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin

April 6 -- Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at Big Walnut

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

April 1 -- At Briggs

*April 2 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto

*April 4 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

*League contest