Brent Shannon can sense an upbeat atmosphere in his first season as Westland High School baseball coach.
Although the Cougars were just 2-5 overall before playing Whitehall on April 11, Shannon has seen positives on and off the field.
"This definitely is a 10-win team," he said. "There are many things that we do right and many things that we do wrong. However, just the encouragement that we have around the school, the change of what's happening here is great. We have a really good ball team. We have a lot of young guys and some older guys also. If we could find a way to get the bats awake, we're going to pull off a lot of wins."
Westland was competitive through four innings against perennial OCC-Central Division power Dublin Coffman on April 10 before the visiting Shamrocks pulled away for an 8-0 win.
Westland turned in several solid defensive plays, including a diving catch by senior center fielder Bryce Murray to end the fourth.
Longtime Coffman coach Tim Saunders talked with Shannon after the game and commended him on the program's progress.
"It makes me feel good, especially when we're doing what we've been preaching here all this time," Shannon said. "It's showing that it is working. If the kids could make more adjustments, this team could be very good and one of the best this school has seen in a long time on the baseball field."
The Cougars, who were 0-3 in the OCC-Central before playing Coffman on April 12, played two close league contests with Marysville, losing 11-7 on April 5 and 3-1 on April 8.
Shannon earned his first win with a 12-6 victory at Briggs on April 4. The Cougars scored seven runs in the seventh inning.
Junior Nevada Swackhammer was the winning pitcher.
"It made me feel good, but they couldn't make it easy," Shannon said. "We had last-inning drama. We scored seven in the final inning to win, which says a lot about our team, down and on the road going into the final inning."
Westland also defeated visiting Franklin Heights 2-0 on April 6 in the first game of a doubleheader. Freshman Franklin Ramirez went the first five innings, allowing one hit and striking out five to earn the win.
The Cougars lost the second game 15-9.
While Shannon has been pleased with the pitching and defense, he hopes his team's offense improves. Westland had just three players batting over .300 through seven games, led by senior Billy Holland at .429.
Senior Zach Mon was hitting .417 with a double, triple and five RBI, and Ramirez was hitting .407 with three doubles, a triple and a team-high nine RBI.
"This team is getting better, but we have to win some of these games," Ramirez said. "We're not winning because we need to wake the bats up."
Ramirez also spoke with Saunders after Westland's first game against Coffman.
"He was telling me that I'm a really good pitcher and I should keep working on it, keep getting my speed up," Ramirez said. "It makes me feel good on how everybody is seeing me out here playing. He told me I have a good arm and I have talent."
Softball team opens league play with loss
The softball team opened OCC-Central play April 10 with a 15-0 loss in five innings at Marysville.
The Cougars managed just two hits and committed six errors.
Westland was 5-3 before playing Coffman on April 11 in a league contest.
Sophomore pitcher Kayla Miller tossed a four-hitter in a 1-0 win over Whetstone in the first game of a doubleheader April 6.
The Cougars won the second game 7-4.
Westland also defeated Franklin Heights 10-0 in five innings April 5. Sydnee Avila hit a two-run home run in the second.
Miller had two hits in the Cougars' 8-2 loss at Johnstown on April 9.
Track teams compete at Grove City quad
Track and field coach Tim Eckard was pleased with the boys team's effort in a quad meet April 9 at Grove City, as the Cougars finished second (84) behind the host Greyhounds (94.5) and ahead of Teays Valley (54.5) and Ready (22).
Abdi Aden won the 110-meter hurdles (17.39 seconds) and 300 hurdles (44.04) and was second in the long jump (18 feet, 7 3/4 inches).
Bakar Dabo won the shot put (45-6), Kevin Delgado finished first in the long jump (18-10 1/4) and Kyle West, Jack Little, David Chambers and Artie Washington won the 800 relay (1:38.3).
"The boys team is advancing a little faster than we thought," Eckard said. "We're 10 points away from beating Grove City at their place and we're very young, so I like the direction that we're going. Some of our top point-getters are freshmen. We have some seniors that are really doing well and Abdi is winning about everything, so that's good to see."
The girls finished fourth (24) behind Grove City (104), Teays Valley (64) and Ready (61).
Aja Nathans won the 1,600 (6:10) and was second in the 3,200 (13:26).
"The girls are ... all working their tails off and getting better," Eckard said.