After taking over as Watterson softball coach last October, Shawn Bray quickly realized that he didn't have to worry about how focused his team would be in the midst of a transition.

Moira O'Reilly, one of the team's three seniors and the expected No. 1 pitcher before the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, helped settle any concerns he may have had.

"She's more of a lead-by-example (player) and definitely my hardest-working kid," Bray said. "We had a transition when I was coming in when (former) coach (Emily Manahan stepped down) and she kind of took the team under her wing and kind of organized that stuff. She helped organize keeping the other girls working out, kind of the glue that kept it together during the transition. She's a great kid who comes from a good, strong family."

Watterson was coming off a season in which it went 17-10 and reached a Division I district final for the first time since 2013.

The Eagles were seeded 15th for the district tournament but upset fifth-seeded Marysville 9-6 in a district semifinal before falling to ninth-seeded Gahanna 4-0 in a district title game.

O'Reilly was on junior varsity as a freshman and served as the No. 2 pitcher as a sophomore before moving into a more prominent role last spring, when she went 12-4 with 166 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings as Watterson improved from 14-10 in 2018.

With Watterson holding an 8-6 lead, Marysville loaded the bases in the seventh inning with no outs before catcher Rachel Reuter caught back-to-back foul-tipped strikeouts and O'Reilly retired the final batter.

"At the beginning of (last season), (2019 graduate) Nicole Funge pitched more and kind of as the year went on, I was the No. 1 toward the end of the year," O'Reilly said. "I pitched in every game in the tournament. In the (district semifinal), that game was awesome. The bases were loaded in the last inning and we still won. That was probably my favorite memory from last year."

Reuter, a senior who was expected to be one of Watterson's top hitters after batting .377 with a team-high four home runs and 17 RBI last season, worked out with O'Reilly at times early this spring before the season was canceled.

O'Reilly, whose family resides in Clintonville, spent much of April, though, resting as she recovered from mononucleosis.

"I was throwing once or twice a week with Rachel Reuter, who was our catcher, but I wasn't able to do anything for a while," O'Reilly said. "I'm feeling better now. We got to use the hitting (indoor practice facility at Watterson) that (the Urban and Shelley Meyer Family Foundation) funded, which I think made a huge difference. Even before preseason, I was throwing two to three times a week for a long time and getting the amount of reps helped. Last year was a good group of people and we would always hang outside of softball together, which really helped."

O'Reilly has committed to play for Babson College, a Division III program in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Babson is known for its business program, according to O'Reilly, which helped her settle on the school after she previously had planned to attend John Carroll.

Babson was 3-1 this spring before the NCAA canceled the spring sports season March 12. The Beavers finished 25-15 in 2019.

"They have a pretty good softball team," O'Reilly said. "They were going to be really good this year with seven or eight seniors."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek