Despite having some new faces in its lineup, the Hilliard Bradley High School softball team believes it has the firepower to remain one of the area's top teams.
Senior shortstop Jaiden Bryant leads the Jaguars, who finished 17-5 overall last season and won a second consecutive OCC-Cardinal Division title by tying Delaware for first place at 10-2, ahead of third-place Darby (9-3).
Bryant, a fourth-year starter, led the team in batting average (.474), home runs (9), RBI (40), runs scored (44), doubles (15) triples (5), stolen bases (12) and on-base percentage (.613) and was named honorable mention all-state and first-team all-district and all-league last season.
"It's going well and we're playing great as a team," said Bryant, an Akron signee. "Honestly, we are playing really well even though we lost a lot of good players from last year. We have picked it up. A lot of people have stepped up and we should do well this year."
Another key returnee is senior second baseman Annika Murray, a third-year starter who batted .379 with 10 RBI and 25 runs and was second-team all-league last season.
"For Jaiden and I, we need to show the younger players how Bradley plays softball," Murray said. "They might not have been on varsity for four years like we have, so we have to show them how we play ball."
One player stepping into the spotlight is junior pitcher Macie LoParo, the daughter of football coach Mike LoParo. In limited varsity play last spring, the left-hander was 4-2 with a 4.59 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 22 walks in 38 1/3 innings.
LoParo has taken over for 2018 graduate Lexie Hilling, who was 13-3 with a 2.29 ERA, 102 strikeouts and 32 walks in 107 2/3 innings and batted .469 with three home runs, 31 RBI, 10 doubles and a .552 on-base percentage last season. Hilling, who was first-team all-district and all-league, now plays at Wright State.
"Macie realizes this team will go as she goes," 10th-year coach Kevin Moody said. "She hit the weight room, joined Bo Jackson's (Elite Sports) and played on an elite travel team over the summer. I have full confidence in her.
"And she's a coach's kid, which makes a ton of difference. In the past, kids who have dads or moms who are coaches at the varsity level come in with something extra. They have heard conversations in the kitchen and have heard expectations coming out of their parent's mouth for years and years. She definitely is a coach's kid and soaks everything up."
The rest of the infield includes sophomore Makenzie Hilling at catcher, senior Michaela Medich at first base with sophomore Laura Powell backing up and junior McKenzi Shultz-Apps at third base.
The outfield consists of junior Amanda Nashalsky in left, freshman Kenna McClellan in center and junior Molly Starinsky or sophomore Autumn Wilkinson in right.
"We graduated a lot of talent from last year's squad, but we still have some good talent back," Moody said. "They will train the kids how to work. We have good senior leadership, which kind of rolls in one after the other and they set the expectations for the kids."
The Jaguars opened March 28 with a 6-5 loss to Central Crossing. Shultz-Apps had a double, a single and an RBI.
Bradley opened OCC-Cardinal action April 1 with an 11-1, five-inning win over Thomas Worthington.
Moody earned his 600th career win and LoParo tossed a no-hitter.
Baseball team looks to gain experience
The baseball team has several holes to fill this season.
The Jaguars have only one starter back at the position he played last season in senior shortstop Drew Donaldson, who split time there and at third base. The Lake Erie College commit batted .315 with 10 RBI, 20 runs and 13 stolen bases and was honorable mention all-league last season when Bradley finished 17-11 overall and 7-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Dublin Scioto for second behind Darby (9-3).
The Jaguars also return senior pitcher Luke Barren, who was 6-1 with a 1.26 ERA, 29 strikeouts and seven walks in 55 2/3 innings last year. The Otterbein commit was second-team all-district and all-league.
"It's an interesting situation because Drew is our only player back at a position he played last season and we return one of the best pitchers in central Ohio," second-year coach Nate Hillery said. "Other than that, we have brand new guys all over the field. The talent is there, but it will come down to how quickly we pick things up and how we execute."
The Jaguars were 3-3 after defeating Marysville 2-0 on April 1 and begin OCC-Cardinal play Monday, April 8, at home against Thomas.
Bradley opened March 23 with a 7-4 win over Davidson before heading to Tennessee for a spring-break trip. The Jaguars lost to Munford (Tennessee) 12-2 in five innings March 28 before losing to Manchester (Tennessee) Coffee County Central 6-4 and defeating McMinnville (Tennessee) Warren County 8-7 on March 29. They then lost to Nashville Christ Presbyterian Academy 10-6 on March 30.
The rest of the infield consists of junior Cameron Medley at catcher, senior Dalton Planck at first base, junior Pat Custer or junior Luke Wolfgram-Evans at second and Barren, junior Matt Ritch or sophomore Caleb Jenkins at third.
Planck is a Bluffton commit.
In the outfield, Nathan Weita is in center and juniors Brandon Edwards, Zach Komlosi and Dillion Ysseldyke and sophomore Justice Ross are competing for playing time at the corner positions.
Barren, Jenkins and Weita are expected to be the team's top three pitchers, with Donaldson, Komlosi, Wolfgram-Evans, Ysseldyke, senior Brandon Tuller and junior Wade Troutman rounding out the staff.
Bradley is missing three key performers from last season. Senior outfielders Pat Day and Jack Duffer did not return in order to prepare for walking on to the Bowling Green football team, and junior pitcher Adam Wolfe will miss the season after having hip surgery.
"We're really inexperienced, but when we get off the bus, the guys believe we can win," Hillery said. "I think we can be good, but at what point and time does it click for us."
Below are the coming schedules for the Bradley boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
April 5 -- Home vs. St. Charles
April 6 -- Home vs. Macedonia Nordonia
*April 8 -- Home vs. Thomas Worth-ington
April 9 -- At Teays Valley
*April 10 -- At Thomas
*April 4 -- At Dublin Scioto
April 6 -- At Wooster
*April 9 -- Home vs. Thomas
*April 4 -- Home vs. Scioto
April 5 -- At Beavercreek
April 6 -- At Centerville
April 8 -- At Pickerington North
*April 9 -- At Thomas
*April 4 -- At Olentangy Berlin
April 5 -- Home vs. Jonathan Alder
April 8 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*April 9 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
April 10 -- Home vs. St. Charles
*April 4 -- At Kilbourne
April 5 -- At Davidson
April 6 -- At Marysville with Westerville Central
*April 8 -- Home vs. Delaware
*April 10 -- At Dublin Jerome
TRACK & FIELD
April 5 -- Panther Invitational at Darby
April 8 -- At Thomas with Grandview and Upper Arlington
*April 4 -- At Kilbourne
*April 8 -- Home vs. Delaware
*April 9 -- At Jerome