Notebook: CiCi Keidel’s bat packs punch for Hilliard Davidson Wildcats softball team

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Senior shortstop CiCi Keidel has been crushing the ball for Davidson, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 26 runs while batting .508 through 19 games.

After losing her junior season, Hilliard Davidson softball player CiCi Keidel quickly turned her attention to preparing for her final campaign with the Wildcats.

She has delivered an impressive season at the plate, ranking among central Ohio leaders in home runs (11) and RBI (26) through 19 games. She also was batting .508. 

Keidel, the starting shortstop, credits rigorous training last spring and in the offseason as a key to her success. 

“I’m proud of myself,” she said. “During the (lost) COVID season (last spring) and in the offseason, I trained super hard and I’ve kicked it up a notch. I started lifting a lot more because I haven’t done that before and I was training a lot. Me and my friends would go all the time to Bo Jackson’s (Elite Sports Development) because it’s a great facility to go train at.” 

She also credited guidance and support from coach Katie Speakman. 

“I don’t know what I’d do without ‘Speak,’ ” Keidel said. “She’s an awesome coach. I always know that I have someone to rely on that has my back. She motivates me. She supports me in the best ways. She knows me inside and out. I love her.” 

Speakman credits Keidel’s dedication to the sport as the key to her development. 

“She’s really special,” Speakman said. “She’s devoted a lot of her time on her hitting. She spent quite a bit of time working on strength and hitting mechanics. She’s always been a line-drive, hits-the-ball-really-hard kind of hitter. A lot of her home runs are line drives. She’s really worked on her strength and power.” 

Davidson was 6-13 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central Division before facing Bradley on April 30. 

“Every day we’re trying to compete,” Speakman said. “We’ve done that a handful of times. We want to be competitive every day and score in multiple innings versus doing all of our scoring in one inning, and staying positive and staying consistent.” 

Keidel will continue to play the sport she loves at Ohio University. The Bobcats recruited her as an outfielder, but she’s willing to play anywhere they need her. 

She has played catcher and the outfield with her club program, the Ohio Lady Lasers. 

Keidel will play in college with Grove City senior center fielder Maddie Wilcox, and the two plan on being roommates. 

“We have a lot of kids go play Division II or III, but CiCi is the first one to get a ride to go play softball in the last eight to 10 years,” Speakman said. “It’s outstanding.”

•Sophomore Chloe Sayre has started to become more comfortable in the pitching circle for the Bradley softball team, which was 4-8 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Central before playing Davidson on April 30.

The sophomore was 4-4 with 28 strikeouts in 53 innings through 12 games.

“Chloe has had the lion’s share of pitching, and she’s starting to get more comfortable with it,” coach Kevin Moody said. “Coming in as a sophomore, she missed an opportunity last season to work with (2020 graduate and current Walsh player) Macie (LoParo) and learn from her.

“Kenzie Hilling has done a great job of calling pitches and they’re having a good relationship right now. Kenzie isn’t catching because she moved to shortstop to help us there. She’s calling the pitches from short.”

Hilling led the Jaguars with a .429 batting average as well as with six doubles and a .512 on-base percentage. The Bucknell signee also had two home runs and 12 RBI.

Kenna McClelland had a .385 average with a .419 on-base percentage, five doubles, two triples, two homers and a team-high 18 RBI. Kelly Conley was batting .333 with four doubles and a .471 on-base percentage, and Taylor Hopkins was hitting .314 with a .415 on-base percentage.

—Scott Hennen

Mason Heit (10) and Chase Ellis (25) have helped Darby enjoy a strong season. The Panthers were 10-3 overall before playing Olentangy Liberty on April 30 and 8-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before facing Worthington Kilbourne on May 4.

•While most coaches don’t like looking too far ahead, Darby boys volleyball coach Evan Bell admits he has a match in his sights. 

The Panthers will visit Thomas Worthington on May 13, looking to avenge a 19-25, 15-25, 25-16, 25-18, 15-13 loss to the Cardinals on April 12. 

“I personally have that one circled, and some of our guys are really looking forward to that,” Bell said. 

Darby was 10-3 overall before playing Olentangy Liberty on April 30 and 8-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before facing Worthington Kilbourne on May 4. 

The Panthers lost 25-19, 25-20, 25-11 to Bradley on April 28. 

Bell said middle hitters Paxton Schwandt and Chase Ellis, libero Aidan Kolb and setter Mason Heit have keyed his team’s success. 

“We’re gearing up hopefully for a league title,” Bell said. “That’s been our goal, and after that, hopefully, once we check that box, we’re moving on to the very next match. With this team being so inexperienced and on the younger side, we’re all about the next day.” 

—Frank DiRenna 

•The Davidson boys tennis team earned its first win under first-year coach Shannon Murlin, beating Worthington Christian 5-0 on April 28. 

The Wildcats were 1-7 through April 28 and finished 0-5 in the OCC-Central. 

“We had three very competitive matches with Reynoldsburg, Darby and Bradley (each 3-2 losses),” said Murlin, who has been impressed with the improved play of the team. 

Dylan Murlin was 4-4 at second singles, but coach Murlin said other players have made big strides this season.  

“Hayes Houseworth at first singles is showing better stamina and mental toughness on the court,” she said. “He’s been competitive in his matches. Matthew Crawford is developing key strategies at third singles and showing much improvement.” 

The doubles teams have been led by Michael Foster and Jonathan Goshima. 

“The doubles teams are healthy, coming off of sickness and injury, and vastly improving,” coach Murlin said. “Their communication and court placement gets better every match.” 

—Frank DiRenna

•Coach Colleen Baker said the Bradley boys tennis team was making the most of its match experiences.

“My players are doing a really good job learning from their wins and losses,” said Baker, whose team was 4-5 overall before playing Gahanna on May 4 and finished 1-4 in the OCC-Central. “They’re adapting during matches, trying new strategies and overall becoming more consistent. The more they play, they’re going to continue to learn and adapt to new situations. Each match they’re getting better.”

Baker has been impressed with the play of Adarsh Chitti and Alex Zakrewski at first doubles.

“They have great chemistry as a doubles duo,” Baker said. “They’re aggressive at the net and not afraid to take chances.”

—Scott Hennen

•Athletics director Chris Ludban announced April 22 that Chris Savage will be named Darby girls basketball coach, pending school board approval.

Savage most recently coached Upper Arlington. He resigned last August after 13 seasons in which the Golden Bears went 218-96, winning Division I district championships in 2014 and 2016. UA also was a district runner-up in 2013, 2018 and 2019.

“I took a year off to coach my daughter’s sixth-grade travel team, but we live in the district and when the job became open I was interested,” said Savage, who teaches International Baccalaureate psychology at UA. “I wasn’t looking that hard for a new job, but I live less than five minutes from the school, and hopefully I’ll be able to coach my daughter in a few years.”

Savage coached at his alma mater, DeSales, from 2004-07. The Stallions were 55-17 overall and 23-1 in the CCL during his tenure.

He replaces Tay Tufts, who led Darby for five seasons. The Panthers finished 9-14 this winter after going 7-16 in 2019-20 and 19-6 in 2018-19.

“Coach Savage brings with him energy, a passion for the game and a care for his student-athletes,” Ludban said. “We’re excited in the direction and the future of the program with coach Savage.”

—Scott Hennen

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