Big Walnut Roundup: Golden Eagles softball team answering coach's early questions
Veteran high school softball coach Jerry Hatcher asks three things of his players: Are they coachable, do they work hard and are they improving?
The first-year Big Walnut coach, who has been a longtime assistant with the program, already has the answers.
“It’s yes, yes and yes for these kids,” Hatcher said. “They’re fun kids to be around, they work hard and they’re serious about softball, and they’re getting better. From that standpoint, that’s all I can ask as a coach.”
Whether Hatcher’s checklist results in success on the field will depend on how fast the young Golden Eagles gain experience.
Just one starter, senior shortstop Arielle Brown, returns from the 2019 team that went 17-6.
Big Walnut opened March 31 at DeSales and begins OCC-Capital Division play April 7 at home against Delaware.
“With having only one girl with varsity experience we don’t really know yet,” Hatfield said. “The girls might look good in the batting cage with a pitching machine or even against their own teammates, but live pitching against another team is a different thing.”
Other seniors in the lineup include Audrey Justice (1B), Cassidy Joseph (3B), Abigail Clawson (C) and Allyson Truax, who will pitch and play second base and in the outfield.
Juniors Janel Hayes, Jordan Walters and Elizabeth Long are starters in the outfield, and freshman Quinn Kuhlman has earned a starting role at second base.
Senior Abigail Weiss will do most of the pitching.
“Abigail throws hard, and she’s clearly our No. 1, but (Truax) came in against Heath in our first scrimmage and shut them out for four innings,” Hatcher said. “They’re a strong team.”
Others expected to contribute are juniors Anna Lott and Alexis Westbrook, both of whom play first base.
Hatcher also has coached at Newark and Licking Valley. He replaced Jeff Hatfield, who resigned last June after the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Last season would have been Hatfield’s 14th at Big Walnut, where his teams went 201-145 and won OCC championships in 2008 and 2009 and a Division I district title in 2014. His teams reached a district final three other times.
Coach: Jerry Hatcher, first season
Next game: April 5 vs. Delaware
Key athletes: Arielle Brown and Abigail Weiss
Just getting back on the field after missing last season was a victory for the baseball team, according to fourth-year coach Jack Schone.
However, Big Walnut dropped its opener 10-6 at Johnstown on March 27. It begins OCC-Capital play against visiting Delaware on April 14.
“I’m optimistic for this year,” Schone said. “However, it will be an uphill battle. There are so many great teams and coaches out there, and everyone wants the same thing as we do.”
A large senior class led the Golden Eagles in 2019 to a 12-13 finish, with eight of those losses coming by one run.
Seniors also dominate this year’s lineup in lead-off hitter and outfielder Brady Hershberger; No. 1 starting pitcher Drew Beckner, who has committed to the University of Charleston; first baseman and designated hitter Kellan Miller; third baseman and outfielder Cameron Drake; and catcher Zane Sarcheck.
Schone said seniors Ethan Benjamin and Zach Willoughby are competing for playing time in the outfield, as is senior Austin Iatonna at first base.
Junior Owen Unterbrink or junior Carter Imertreijs will start at second base, and sophomores Drew Gaskins (SS) and Cameron Gladden (OF) have earned starting roles, Schone said.
“We will need to score a lot of runs,” Schone said. “We have a lot of speed this year and potential power.”
Others expected to contribute on the mound include junior Carson Leasure, Drake, seniors Matt Branzel, Mahlon Spangler and Frank Tackett, Benjamin, Unterbrink, Gaskins and Willoughby.
“This group is a close group, as most have grown up together in this area,” Schone said. “That alone will help steady the ship. ‘We before me,’ this must be our focus throughout the season.”
Coach: Jack Schone, fourth season
Next game: April 6 at St. Charles
Key athletes: Drew Beckner, Cameron Drake, Brady Hershberger and Zane Sarcheck