Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders softball team excited, optimistic about season

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Reynoldsburg's Aiden Elston participates in baserunning drills during practice March 16. The senior will play left field and pitch for the Raiders, who play host to Columbus Academy on April 3.

In between coaching travel softball last summer and getting ready for the 2021 Reynoldsburg softball season, coach Tony Rettke has stayed busy fixing a drainage issue on the varsity field and completing work that began in November 2019 on the junior varsity field. 

Not having a season last spring because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic delayed some of those projects but hasn’t taken away from the overall construction of a program that has come a long way since he took over in 2016. 

“It’s (enjoyable to do the field projects), but you get tired of doing it after a while,” Rettke said. “You’ve got to keep grass off the field.” 

The Raiders snapped a 101-game league losing streak during Rettke's first season and were a Division I district runner-up in 2018. 

Rettke figured Reynoldsburg would have “probably been a rebuilding team” last spring after losing a five-member senior class that included one of his daughters, 2019 graduate Olivia Rettke. 

Another of his daughters, junior Madelyn Rettke, is expected to play a key role as Reynoldsburg looks for more success in a realigned OCC-Buckeye Division after going 0-10 in the OCC-Ohio in 2019. The OCC-Buckeye also includes Central Crossing, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark and Pickerington Central. 

The Raiders, who open league action April 15 at Groveport, are planning to use a pitching staff by committee that includes senior Paige Coey, who was the No. 2 pitcher in 2019, senior left-hander Kaylie Lott, senior Kayli Soublet and sophomore Abi Pursell. 

Madelyn Rettke could play several positions, including first base, where Lott and Soublet also are options. 

Juniors Alexis Romero (SS) and Olivia Elston (2B/OF) both were on the team in 2019 as well, and seniors Carson Barry and Sierra Coey are splitting time at catcher. 

Junior Makayla Brooks is a left-handed slap hitter who will play center field, and junior Kiaira Whatley will see time at third base and outfield. 

Freshman Marley Smith could be one of the team’s top hitters, according to coach Rettke, and could see time at shortstop, third base and in the outfield. 

Freshman Allison Wodzisz (OF) is another looking to contribute. 

“We don’t have a super dominant pitcher, but by the time the other team gets them figured out, we’ll throw something different at them,” coach Rettke said. “I think we’ll be a lot better (offensively) and our defense will be great. All of these girls are pretty fast.” 

SOFTBALL 

•Coach: Tony Rettke, fifth season 

•Next game: April 8 at Hartley 

•Key athletes: Carson Barry, Makayla Brooks, Paige Coey, Sierra Coey, Madelyn Rettke and Lexi Romero 

Baseball squad 

has young lineup 

Of the 17 players who came out for the baseball team, only three have previous varsity experience, and that includes one player – senior Corey Brafford (SS/P) – who is expected to miss the season with an injury.  

Brafford, who was one of the team’s top hitters in 2019 when Reynoldsburg went 9-16 overall and was last at 3-12 in the OCC-Ohio, has committed to Heidelberg, where he’s expected to be a pitcher. 

Senior Justin Barko (OF/1B) and junior Preston Allen (3B/P) should lead the way, with Allen possibly serving as the No. 1 pitcher after logging seven innings as a freshman. 

“We’re going to be young, which is not a bad thing,” coach Bob Benjamin said. “We’ve got a good freshman class. We have quite a few pitchers, so I’d say pitching right now (will be our strength).” 

The other seniors are Aiden Elston (OF/P), Tim Jones (2B/OF), Danish Qudeer (2B/OF), Salmon Qudeer (OF), Mekhi Stevens (OF) and Ben Wilson (C/3B/P). 

Sophomore shortstop/pitcher Gabe DeJesus is expected to bat leadoff, with freshman Nate Eckstein (3B/C/P), Mitchell Trace (P/C) and Wilson all in the mix to see time at catcher. Eckstein also could share time at third base with junior Evan Litton, who also will pitch. 

Elston will be in left field, with freshman Cody Martin in center field and Barko in right field. 

Junior Bishop Patton (utility/P) did not play as a freshman but could contribute particularly offensively according to Benjamin.

Lancaster won the OCC-Ohio two seasons ago at 12-3. 

“I think we can be really competitive, I really do, with this young group and knowing a little bit about the new teams in this league,” Benjamin said. “The one to gun for is Lancaster, but they were the team to beat in our old league. We have a few question marks and I’ve got about six kids that might bounce up and down (between j.v. and varsity) and three or four freshmen that might come up.” 

BASEBALL 

•Coach: Bob Benjamin, fifth season 

•Next game: April 3 vs. Columbus Academy 

•Key athletes: Preston Allen, Justin Barko, Gabe DeJesus, Aiden Elston, Tim Jones and Ben Wilson 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek