Pickerington Central Roundup: Tigers softball team hopes veterans provide advantage
Pickerington Central softball coaches would be thrilled to have seven players with starting experience or other varsity time returning any season, but they think that might be especially valuable after losing the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Thirteen of the Tigers’ 14 players are either juniors or seniors, and almost half of them played important roles on the 2019 team that went 17-7 and lost in a Division I district semifinal.
“There’s a lot of experience and a lot of good energy,” assistant coach Joel White said. “Just to see them bond and how they work together and how that will translate onto the field, that’s extremely valuable.”
Seniors Tori Angles (LF) and Kassidy Stanley (CF) were two of the team’s top hitters as sophomores. Angles batted .411 with 21 hits and five home runs, and Stanley batted .405 with 30 hits.
Also back are seniors Tristen Keuchler (1B), Kenzie O’Neal (P) and Sara Tailford (2B) and juniors Colleen Bare (3B) and Ellie Tressler (C).
“It’s good to have a core group of seniors and we’re close anyway as a team,” Stanley said. “We’re excited. We expect to go far. One of our biggest goals is to beat Lancaster and hopefully that means we’ll win the (the OCC-Buckeye Division). We expect to win district and that’s something we’ve struggled with in the past. We’re starting with our minor goals and then working up to the big ones.”
White and Joe Peterson oversaw the team in the absence of first-year coach Stephanie Peterson, Joe’s daughter, who was on maternity leave to begin the season.
Peterson, a 2007 graduate of DeSales who played at Toledo and Capital, later served as an assistant coach at her alma mater as well as Angelo State University in Texas.
Also looking to contribute are seniors Shayla Bailey (RF) and Sydney Vernadakis (C), juniors Grace Barnett (CF/P), Mia Doukakis (P), Kyndal Mangahas (SS) and Carmen Moore (3B) and sophomore Lilli Burns (1B).
“Defensively, we’ve been solid. We’ve been able to lay down bunts and get aggressive on base paths,” White said. “We have a lot of power up and down the lineup. We’ve worked on small ball, too. From corner to corner, we’re very strong.”
•Coach: Stephanie Peterson, first season
•Next game: April 5, at Olentangy Orange
•Key athletes: Tori Angles, Mia Doukakis, Kenzie O’Neal, Kassidy Stanley and Sara Tailford
Seniors to pace
Four players who were projected starters last year return for the baseball team in seniors Seth Kogge (P/INF/OF), Colin Maynard (P/OF) and Brandon Powers (INF) and junior Tyler Gillison (INF), and the three seniors received playing time in 2019 as Central went 12-13 and advanced to a Division I district semifinal.
“Even though we only return three players with actual varsity game experience, the players have worked extremely hard and are motivated,” second-year coach Colin Wilson said. “We’ve progressed on the defensive side as well as on our team chemistry. The biggest strength so far is our starting pitching. However, we’re close in a few other areas that will be factors going forward.”
Several players vied for starting positions throughout the preseason, including seniors Brenden Bellestri (INF), Logan Kunkel (P/OF) and Ryan Sauline (P/OF).
Gillison is a Cincinnati football commit. His older brother, 2018 Central graduate Trenton Gillison, plays football at Michigan State and once considered also playing baseball for the Spartans.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Max Coffman (P/INF), Daniel Collier (P/OF), Josh Joyce (OF), Kielan LaMarr (INF), Jaiden Matchack (C), Corey Moore (OF) and Trevor Woodyard (P/OF), sophomores Alex Burns (C) and Gavin Headings (P) and freshman Jacob Soha (P/INF).
“We’re expecting to compete for a league title as well as make some noise come tournament time,” said Wilson, whose 2019 team went 6-3 in a nine-game stretch before the district semifinal. “We always set our expectations to get better each and every day.”
•Coach: Colin Wilson, second season
•Next game: April 1, at Dublin Scioto
•Key athletes: Alex Burns, Tyler Gillison, Seth Kogge, Colin Maynard and Brandon Powers