Softball: ‘Coachable’ Olentangy Berlin Bears driven to succeed

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Freshman Ella Erwine is one of four returning starters for Berlin and second-year coach Jenna Haskins. The Bears return to action April 8 at home against Orange.

The Olentangy Berlin softball team features six players returning from 2019, including four starters, as coach Jenna Haskins tries to make the most of a more experienced roster.

Senior first baseman Allie Burkhart batted .384 with two homers, 13 RBI and 16 runs as a sophomore, while senior Remy Camp and junior Syd Billy started at shortstop and second base, respectively. Junior Kali Bateman returns at pitcher, and senior outfielders Sydney Cain and Autumn LeFevre also saw varsity time.

“We have a nice blend of young players and veterans, and I think the girls have a willingness to learn and grow,” Haskins said. “They are open and coachable and constantly want feedback in order to get better. The girls are willing to stay after practice for reps, and they want to get better.”

Bateman will be throwing to sophomore catcher Payton Caldwell, with Burkhart at first and Camp and Billy in the middle infield. Sophomore Sydney Davis will play third.

Cain and LeFevre will be in the outfield rotation along with sophomores Jocelyn Franz and Izzie Wilson.

“I think the biggest difference from our first season is experience,” Haskins said. “Some of the younger girls play at a higher level, not just with returning varsity experience. A lot of girls have been playing on really competitive summer ball teams and we’ll be relying on that for our good sophomore group and help them in varsity play.”

INSIDE THE BEARS

Coach: Jenna Haskins, second season 

Next game: April 8 vs. Orange

Key athletes: Kali Bateman, Syd Billy, Allie Burkhart, Remy Camp and Izzie Wilson

Three starters

return for Braves

Whether having three starters back from 2019 provides Olentangy an advantage this season remains to be seen, but coach Alan Tharp hopes the experience they gained carries over.

Seniors Olivia Davidson (SS) and Brynn Kibler (P/2B) and junior Mackenzie Condon (3B/OF) all played prominent roles two years ago as the Braves went 11-15 overall and 4-6 in a competitive OCC-Buckeye Division led by eventual Division I state semifinalist Westerville Central.

Olentangy hopes to return to its regional runner-up form of 2018 in an OCC-Cardinal that now includes Hilliard Darby and Marysville, both of which were district semifinalists in 2019.

“We plan to continue to improve our pitching and defensive game. We anticipate that to be our strength,” Tharp said. “Olivia Davidson will start at shortstop and hit in the top of the lineup. Brynn Kibler will be one of the primary pitchers and play second base. (Seniors) Emily Prosser and Charlotte Prosser will help in the outfield.”

Junior Jaelyn Peterson is splitting pitching duties with Kibler, and sophomore Candace Walters, who also plays first base, is expected to throw some innings.

Tharp is excited about a freshman class that includes Lexi Bidwell (utility), Payton Kilrain (C/OF), Caleigh Peterson (OF) and Gabriella Ross (3B/C).

“Any one of them may earn a permanent starting role,” he said.

INSIDE THE BRAVES

Coach: Alan Tharp, eighth season

Next game: April 8 at Liberty

Key athletes: Mackenzie Condon, Olivia Davidson, Brynn Kibler and Jaelyn Peterson

—Dave Purpura

Patriots seeking 

league title 

With one of its top hitters from 2019 and a pitcher with previous varsity experience still in the fold, Liberty has a set of goals that includes battling for the OCC-Central championship. 

The Patriots were runners-up (8-2) in the OCC-Buckeye in 2019 behind Westerville Central (10-0), which is now in the OCC-Ohio. 

Upper Arlington and Dublin Coffman, both of which were district runners-up in 2019, also are in the OCC-Central. 

“We have some young players in our top and middle lineup that we’re very confident in,” coach Ty Kashmiry said. “The team has made goals for the season and one of them is to win our league title. Our league will be very competitive and we’re looking forward to the competition.” 

Liberty, which finished 17-7 in 2019, will be led by senior outfielder Dani Schoenly. An Ohio State commit in tennis, Schoenly batted .404 with two home runs, 17 RBI and 21 runs in 2019. 

Junior Lindsey Leeds is expected to be the No. 1 pitcher after serving in a backup role behind 2019 graduate Katelyn Wilhelm. 

Junior Ashley Chevalier is playing catcher after seeing time at multiple positions in 2019. 

Juniors Tyler Krohn, Lauren Shirilla, Lacy Thompson and Morgan Williamson and sophomore Luci Matteo will play on the infield, while freshmen Brooke Aberle, Allie Jenkins and Allie Motyka will be in the outfield. 

“We’re blessed that we’re on the field playing and our team is enjoying every moment,” Kashmiry said. 

INSIDE THE PATRIOTS 

Coach: Ty Kashmiry, second season 

Next game: April 9 vs. Delaware 

Key athletes: Ashley Chevalier, Tyler Krohn, Lindsey Leeds, Dani Schoenly, Lauren Shirilla, Lacy Thompson and Morgan Williamson 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

Pioneers trying to

find right combination

Orange returns three starters from 2019 in seniors Alli Rubal (OF/1B/3B) and Morgan Woycitzky (2B; Heidelberg commit) and junior Riley Jestadt (SS). Junior Morgan Powell (1B) also pitched as a freshman.

Rubal pitched as a sophomore but will play in the field this spring since she was recruited for that role at the University of Charleston. Sophomore Anna Wilming and freshman Sofia Terlesky will see time in the circle. 

“We have been practicing with a lot of girls playing all over the field,” coach Mason Robinson said. “The positions are all open and nothing is promised. We could have a different lineup every day. That will make writing the lineups difficult but fun because we can see different kids doing different things.”

Seniors Tristen Hatfield and Holly Yurkovich are catchers, senior Riley McCord plays at first and in the outfield and junior Katie Holmes is an outfielder. Sophomores Meghan Riley and Kensington Steele play the infield and outfield, with Steele also playing catcher. Kennedy Reed (INF/OF) and Madison Yanka (C/INF/OF) are freshmen.

“We’re working on meshing as a team,” Robinson said. “The girls are super-coachable and they have been holding each other accountable.

“A lot of these kids haven’t played together before. The juniors and seniors have played before, but now we have six freshmen and sophomores learning to play with the others. They are learning how to play together with all of the moving pieces.”

INSIDE THE PIONEERS

Coach: Mason Robinson, second season 

Next game: April 8 at Berlin

Key athletes: Riley Jestadt, Alli Rubal, Sofia Terlesky, Anna Wilming and Morgan Woycitzky

—Scott Hennen

sports@thisweeknews.com

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