The Worthington Christian High School softball team's learning curve last season has begun to pay off this spring.
The Warriors finished 6-17 overall and 1-7 in the MSL-Ohio Division a year ago, but had no seniors and three freshmen among their top players.
A year older and with another crop of freshmen added to the roster, Worthington Christian won three of four games during a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in late March, and the winning has continued back in Ohio.
The Warriors were 7-2 overall and 3-0 in the league after beating Bexley 14-4 on April 8.
"The girls played really well in Myrtle Beach," fourth-year coach Matt Heidorn said. "We played really good competition. We were 6-17 last year, but we did win four out of our last five games so they were starting to understand the game and were playing a lot better. We have our deepest team since I've been here one through nine. They all execute and can score runs."
Center-fielder Kate Tomallo, who bats leadoff and was named first-team all-league last season, and shortstop Sophia Hevel, who also serves as the No. 2 pitcher and has committed to play for Cedarville University, are the only seniors. Tomallo hit better than .600 in league play last spring.
Sophomore Lilly Heidorn returns at pitcher and also plays shortstop and third base.
Junior Natalie Opava (LF) and sophomores Kylie Doon (RF/C), Abby Lanker (C/3B), Mia Schoonover (2B), Izzie Slaughter (1B) and Julia Todd (OF/2B) also are returnees.
Junior Naysa Dunlap is serving as courtesy runner, while Sydney Fowler (1B/OF), Mia Godorhazy (OF), Olyvia Scholl (3B/C) and Paige Tomallo (OF/2B) comprise the freshman class.
"We want to win the league this year," coach Heidorn said. "We should be in the mix for sure. Having a young team, we're just trying to get some level playing. I think we're going to have a pretty solid season. The girls really learned last season. They're athletic and a good group of girls that work hard."
Vallangeon to lead boys track team
The boys track and field team has returned only one of its six athletes who competed at last year's Division III state meet in senior Taylor Vallangeon.
A state qualifier in cross country each of the past two seasons, Vallangeon placed 11th in the 3,200 meters (9 minutes, 45.22 seconds) at state last spring.
The Warriors have a new coach in Mark Mousa, whose daughters, Caroline and Audrey, are on the girls track team. Mousa replaced Rod Zody, who headed the boys and girls programs for four seasons.
"We're a small team this year with about 55 girls and boys, and we're also very freshman-heavy," Mousa said. "We just don't have a lot of seniors. Taylor is a premier distance runner who ran at the state meet. He's been battling some injuries so he hasn't run as much as he would have liked to, but he probably feels fresher because he doesn't have the (offseason) miles in. Taylor also may do the (3,200 relay)."
The other senior boys are Michael King, Jonah Anderson and Jacob Nowak. King, who has committed to play football at Indiana Wesleyan, is a returning sprinter and Anderson and Nowak are first-year sprinters.
Other returning sprinters are juniors Dillon Fulks and Montell Edwards.
Junior Jake Thompson is competing in the high jump and long jump and also is part of the sprint corps.
Juniors David Rettstatt, Sam Spires and Noah St. John and sophomore Tommy Rettstatt are the team's top middle-distance runners.
Junior Alex Harrison competes in the high jump and hurdles, and junior Cole Rettstatt is the top returnee in the shot put and discus.
King was among the Warriors' fastest athletes last season along with 2018 graduates Jordan Jackson, Kyle Smith, Luke Smith and Ethan Crary.
The 3,200 relay of Jackson, Kyle Smith, Luke Smith and 2018 graduate Jake Bertelsen won the state title in 7:50.65, Kyle Smith was state runner-up in the 800 (1:55.68) and Jackson placed second in the 400 (49.04).
The 1,600 relay of Jackson, Crary and the Smith brothers also placed second (3:21.87) as Worthington Christian finished third (38 points) behind East Canton (64) and Smithville (40) as 72 teams scored.
"I'm excited to be back coaching and with the group we have," said Mousa, a teacher in the Dublin school district.
Girls track team building around Hall
Junior Ashley Hall is the top returnee for the girls track and field team after placing fourth in the 100 (12.34) and sixth in the 200 (25.57) and running on the seventh-place 800 relay (1:46.24) in the Division III state meet last season.
The Warriors placed fourth (61) in the 11-team Zuber Relays behind champion and host Liberty Union (97) on April 6.
"We've got a lot of good runners, especially on the girls side," Mousa said. "We're a young team, but in some events we'll still be pretty good."
Senior Caroline Mousa and freshman Audrey Mousa both are competing in middle distance along with freshman Sydney Dietrich, while juniors Maddie Patrick, Joy Pitzer and Maddie Skidmore are competing in the distance events.
Freshman Grace Hall, Ashley's sister, is another top sprinter.
Sophomore Oyinda Oladejo-Lawal is competing in the long jump and high jump.
Juniors Isabelle Gilham (middle distance), Jaclyn Hamilton (discus) and Anna Opava (shot put, discus) are other returnees.
The only other seniors in the program are Liz Mason (sprints), Jamie McCree (sprints) and Hannah Smilges (distance).
"They're young, but very enthusiastic," coach Mousa said. "Part of track is not just building throughout the season, but building year to year, so it's exciting to have the number of freshmen out that we have. We've got 12 girls and 10 boys, which is the biggest class by far, so that bodes well for the future of the track program at Worthington Christian."
Below are the coming schedules for the Worthington Christian baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 13 -- Home vs. Madison Plains and Mount Gilead
*April 15 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
*April 17 -- At Columbus Academy
April 11 -- At Utica
April 13 -- At Fairfield Christian
*April 15 -- Home vs. Grandview
*April 17 -- At Bexley
*April 11 -- Home vs. Wellington
April 12 -- At Buckeye Valley
April 13 -- Marion Pleasant Invitational
April 15 -- At Village Academy
*April 16 -- Home vs. Bexley
TRACK & FIELD
April 15 -- At Thomas Worthington with Westerville Central