Softball: Groveport Madison Cruisers progressing with inexperience, versatility

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Groveport junior Kendyll Cahill will be the team's primary pitcher this season. As a freshman, she batted .385 with 31 RBI as the Cruisers finished 20-7 overall.

Groveport Madison softball coach Chris Downing prepared color-coded charts for each of his team’s five scheduled scrimmages, listing what player would play which position in a given inning.

With only one returning varsity player from the 2019 season, that versatility and uncertainty underscored that the Cruisers entered this year still learning who fits best where – a process Downing acknowledged might take a few weeks or more to complete.

“I hate to use the word ‘young’ because we’re not young, but we’re inexperienced,” said Downing, who is in his fifth season. “None of those seven seniors have any varsity experience. It could be that way for a lot of teams in central Ohio. Nobody has a scouting report because we haven’t seen each other in two years.

“I hope I don’t have to experiment too much, but if I do, I’m comfortable with that.”

Junior Kendyll Cahill (P/DP) batted .385 with 31 RBI as a freshman, helping the Cruisers finish 20-7 overall and 9-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to win their third consecutive championship. 

Groveport, which was 28-2 in league play from 2017-19, now is in the OCC-Buckeye and will open league play April 15 at home against Reynoldsburg.

“As a freshman (Cahill) was used more in spot duty pitching-wise, but she’s a very strong bat from the left side. She’s being recruited not just for pitching but for her bat,” Downing said. “I expected the hitting part. Freshmen tend to do pretty well because the other teams don’t know about them at first. In practice, I kid her all the time that in this situation or that, I’d walk her (as an opposing coach). And as a pitcher, it’s all on her shoulders now.”

Seven seniors dot the roster, led by outfielders Akasha Henry, Mikala Mullins and Grace Seipel. Junior Hannah Cline and freshman Addison Cothern will split catching duties, and the rest of the infield was in flux as the season began.

“The entire team has an infield position to learn. That will sort itself out,” Downing said. “The way things are this year, nobody has a scouting report on anybody else.”

INSIDE THE CRUISERS

•Coach: Chris Downing, fifth season

•Next game: April 3 home vs. West Chester Lakota West and Westerville Central

•Key athletes: Kendyll Cahill, Hannah Cline, Akasha Henry, Mikala Mullins and Grace Seipel

Peters, Zungri among

leaders for Indians

Canal Winchester returns its top two pitchers from 2019 in seniors Samantha Peters and Samantha Zungri, and both also were among the team’s top hitters.

Zungri, a Wittenberg recruit who also plays in the outfield, batted .446 with 33 hits and 14 RBI and was 6-3 with a 4.02 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 30 walks in 55 2/3 innings in 2019. Peters (P/utility) finished with a .432 average, 32 hits and a team-high 22 RBI two years ago when the team finished 12-11.

Third-year coach Casey Whitlatch expected that Zungri would be the Indians’ primary pitcher.

“We’re thinking Sam Zungri will chew up a lot of innings in the circle. We’d like to see her do that,” Whitlatch said. “If (junior catcher) Abby (McIntosh) goes to third, we can move Sam Peters over (to shortstop). 

“(Peters) is just solid. She’s an asset because she knows the game. She’s a senior, and she’s been around the game. When we play doubleheaders, she might throw the second game. She’s a jack of all trades.”

Also among the Indians’ six seniors are Olivia Kolikohn (2B), Alayna Moore (C/utility) and Dani Skinner (CF). Classmate Brooklyn Best (P/1B) will miss the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in mid-March.

Other expected contributors include juniors Katie Bryant (1B) and Julia Nein (OF) and sophomores Emma Kamerer (utility), Riley McNeely (OF), Delainey Six (SS) and Lindsay Stadwick (utility).

“We can be competitive in this league. We have the ability to do that,” Whitlatch said, citing Big Walnut, Delaware and Westerville North as other potential contenders to win the OCC-Capital. “We want to improve on those 12 wins, and whether that’s 16 (wins) or something, we have a legitimate shot.”

INSIDE THE INDIANS

•Coach: Casey Whitlatch, third season

•Next game: April 3 at Grandview with Millersport

•Key athletes: Katie Bryant, Olivia Kolikohn, Samantha Peters, Dani Skinner and Samantha Zungri

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave