The Upper Arlington High School softball team's 14 wins last season were its most in almost a decade, and the fact that the Golden Bears return seven starters tells second-year coach Terry Streng that they're capable of exceeding that total.
Streng is encouraged by more than just his team's experience, however.
"We're very balanced," Streng said. "We have a very, very good defense, we put runs on the board and I have a good battery. Overall, we're extremely balanced, which I think will be our biggest strength."
Senior shortstop Olivia Carlton, who hit a team-high six home runs last year, leads a group of returning starters that also includes seniors Kaylee Ballou (3B), Sabrina Good (CF), Jackie Kasai (RF) and Becca Turner (C/1B), junior Megan Harold (C) and sophomore Maxine McCraw (P/3B).
UA was 2-1 before playing Watterson on April 2.
The Bears went 14-9 overall last year, their best record since going 21-5 and finishing as a Division I district runner-up in 2010.
"I think we're going to be a much better hitting team this year. All of us can hit through the entire lineup. That will show all season," Carlton said. "(Having) a lot of (returning) starters on the field is just helpful in getting the team back up if we're down. We know what we're capable of. We're learning quicker."
UA opened March 26 with a 3-1 win at Watkins Memorial and lost 13-5 at Lancaster the next day before defeating Dublin Jerome 12-2 on April 1 at Fred Beekman Park as Ballou, Carlton and Harold all hit home runs.
McCraw struck out nine and allowed five hits against Watkins Memorial and sophomore Sophie Leohner (P/2B) hit a solo home run in the fifth inning.
According to Streng, Leohner and senior Demi Sauter will be UA's second and third starters in the circle, in some order, behind McCraw. Sauter also is an outfielder.
"(McCraw) throws the riseball very well. She is a smart pitcher. She throws hard and she hits her spots well. She can put a charge into the ball, too," Streng said. "Megan is an extremely good catcher and great defensively. We have a solid battery."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Katie Brothers (OF), Logan Hiller (OF) and Madison Pritchett (P/INF), juniors Jess Hogan (utility) and Evelyn Kretzer (INF/OF), sophomore Avery Cobb (INF/P) and freshman Caroline Langmeyer (utility).
UA begins OCC-Central Division play Wednesday, April 10, against Central Crossing at Fred Beekman Park. The Bears, who are playing home games at Fred Beekman Park because of construction for the new high school, finished third (6-4) in the league last year behind champion Marysville (10-0).
"Our expectations are to win the OCC (-Central) this year and get a lot further into the (district) tournament," Carlton said. "We believe we can. We think we have the pieces to do that."
Baseball team experienced, deep
Baseball coach Sam Clark saw some things he liked and some he didn't in the team's 4-3 season-opening loss at Pickerington North on March 28.
Senior pitcher Charlie Fleming had a solid day on the mound, striking out four and holding the Panthers scoreless for 5 2/3 innings before giving up four runs on two two-run hits. Junior infielder Jacob Leve smacked a three-run home run in the top of the seventh, but the Bears struck out 11 times against North starter Brock Vinci and reliever Jake Glanzman.
"The bats always come out slower than the arms. Pitching always seems to be ahead at this point, but I want to see better approaches at the plate," Clark said. "We've gotten looks outside, but you can't really simulate a game. We'll learn and get a lot of opportunities to be better all around."
UA was 1-1 before playing Watkins Memorial on April 2. The Bears got their first win of the season April 1, edging host Jerome 6-5 as Fleming struck out 11 in six innings of work.
Fleming, a Denison commit, is among five college-bound players on the team. Senior Tommy Dilz (1B/P) will play at Bellarmine, senior Sammy Sass (C) has committed to Wright State and senior Andrew Whetsell (SS/P) will play at Marietta.
Senior Ben Krimm (OF/P), who led the Bears in batting average (.386) and home runs (5) last season, will play football at Pennsylvania.
Last season, Dilz batted .364 with 32 hits and senior Ethan Hammerberg (INF/P) batted .317 with four home runs as UA went 21-8 overall and 10-5 in the OCC-Central.
Clark was named coach in July, replacing Tom Marker, who now coaches at Olentangy Orange. Clark, a 2011 UA graduate, coached the freshman team from 2015-17 and the junior varsity last season.
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Steven Bair (OF), Jake Cannon (OF/P), Cody Darling (OF/P) and Daniel Jaskot (INF), juniors John Ford (utility), Cole Gamber (P), Matthew Green (OF) and Bailey McNamara (P) and sophomores Dominic Chiavaroli (1B/P), Joe Hendrix (C/1B) and Philip Vilardo (P).
"The top end of our rotation is deep. We have a lot of innings back from last year," Clark said. "Those guys have a lot of experience. We will lean heavily on them and we also have experience back at the plate as well."
UA begins OCC-Central play Friday, April 5, against Central Crossing at Grandview. The Bears finished second in the league last year behind Hilliard Davidson (13-2) and lost to Lancaster 8-5 in a Division I district final.
Because of construction, UA is scheduled to play three home games at Fred Beekman Park and two at Grandview.
Volleyball team sees early progression
The boys volleyball team sought its first win when it visited New Albany on April 2, but first-year coach Chris Van Arsdale was more focused on the growth he'd seen throughout the past month from a team that includes four first-year players.
UA was 0-2 before playing the Eagles. The Bears opened March 26 with a 25-15, 25-17, 25-13 loss at Watterson and fell to Pickerington North 25-22, 25-21, 25-16 two days later in their home and OCC-Ohio opener.
"I look at it from the standpoint of improvement. From our first match to our second match, we've gotten considerably better, a whole lot more competitive," Van Arsdale said.
"We are getting more comfortable with each other. We have guys doing things that they weren't asked to do last year and we have some new guys on the floor, too. For guys who were playing just the second match of volleyball in their lives, we're doing really well."
Seniors Omar Alghothani (middle hitter) and Michael Edgington (right-side hitter) are the only returnees from last season, when UA went 12-8 overall and 6-6 in the OCC-Ohio with 10 seniors on the roster.
Seniors Thomas Buck (middle hitter) and Dylan Reed (middle hitter/right-side hitter) and juniors Shaun DuPont (setter/right-side hitter) and Philippe Nguimbous (middle hitter/right-side hitter) are first-year players.
"That's a substantial number of players," said Van Arsdale, who was hired in December to replace Greg Holowchak, who coached the Bears for four seasons. Van Arsdale has been the girls volleyball team's coach since 2015.
Rounding out the roster are senior Will Mattis (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and juniors Blake Dean (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Jack Plahuta (defensive specialist), Kyle Shafer (setter) and Joshua Warner (outside hitter).
"From where we started with brand new guys to guys that are being asked to do different things, I am very pleased," Van Arsdale said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 5 -- Central Crossing at Grandview
April 6 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Reds Youth Academy
*April 8 -- At Central Crossing
*April 10 -- At Hilliard Davidson
*April 4 -- At Pickerington Central
April 6 -- At Pittsburgh Mount Lebanon
April 7 -- At Wexford (Pa.) Mount Allegheny
*April 10 -- Marysville at Wellington
*April 4 -- Pickerington Central at Tremont Elementary
April 6 -- At Winnetka (Ill.) New Trier
April 6 -- At Glenbrook (Ill.) North
*April 9 -- At Marysville
April 4 -- Mount Vernon at Fred Beekman Park
April 5 -- At Olentangy Orange
April 6 -- At DeSales with Olentangy Liberty
April 8 -- At Reynoldsburg
*April 10 -- Central Crossing at Fred Beekman Park
April 4 -- At Columbus Academy
April 5 -- Home vs. Waverly
April 6 -- Cincinnati Sycamore and Mason at New Albany
April 8 -- At Olentangy
*April 9 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
TRACK & FIELD
April 5 -- Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby
April 8 -- At Thomas Worthington
*April 4 -- At Dublin Coffman
*April 9 -- At Gahanna
*April 10 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg