Wellington Roundup: 'Energy, grit' among strengths for Jaguars softball team

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Wellington junior Lexi Robbins is expected to lead the offense for the softball team along with Alexis Burkhalter and Drew Ober.

With six freshmen on the roster, Wellington softball coach Me-Chelle Burkhalter expects her team to go through something of an adjustment period.

That is especially true as the Jaguars begin their first season in the MSL-Ohio Division. 

One thing that should help the season come together quicker is the return of junior Alexis Burkhalter, the coach’s daughter, who will see time at first base, catcher and pitcher. 

She batted .508 with 30 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 2019 when the Jaguars finished 10-12 overall and went 4-8 in the MSL-Cardinal Division. 

“We’re ecstatic to be getting back on the field this spring (after last season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic),” coach Burkhalter said. "Our lack of varsity-level experience will show early, but this team has so much energy and grit, so we’re beyond excited to play. If Alexis Burkhalter can come back hitting over .500, we’ll take that stat.” 

The only senior is Lina Grohovsky, another returnee from 2019 who will pitch and see time at catcher and third base. Junior Ayana Cooper-Stevens pitched 25 innings in 2019 and also figures to play a key role on the mound along with freshman Rowan Hubbard. 

In addition to Burkhalter, juniors Drew Ober (CF) and Lexi Robbins (1B/3B) should be among the team’s top hitters. 

Junior Rex Harvey-Thurston and freshmen Eve O’Sullivan and Charlotte Rost are other candidates at catcher, with Harvey-Thurston also likely to see action in the outfield.  

Sophomore Maya Avery and freshman Flo Oquendo are at shortstop, and Oquendo also will share time at second base with junior Blais Blackburn, sophomore Annabelle Krygier and freshman Natalie Allen. 

Blackburn, Cooper-Stevens, Harvey-Thurston, Hubbard, Krygier, O’Sullivan, Rost and freshman Natalie Allen all should see time in the outfield, with freshman Simone Crosby playing at third base, first base and in the outfield. 

“I’m hoping to compete in a tough conference and to have a strong showing at sectionals and districts,” coach Burkhalter said. 

SOFTBALL 

•Coach: Me-Chelle Burkhalter, ninth season 

•Next game: April 9 vs. Whitehall 

•Key athletes: Blais Blackburn, Alexis Burkhalter, Ayana Cooper-Stevens, Lina Grohovsky, Rex Harvey-Thurston, Drew Ober and Lexi Robbins 

Girls lacrosse team 

growing under King 

New girls lacrosse coach Kailee King has been impressed with how the players in her program adapted over the past year. 

“The return to season after a long unforeseen hiatus has been tough in terms of developing lacrosse IQ and game strategy,” King said. “These girls were heartbroken to not have a season last year, but … they didn’t let it affect their skills and conditioning. The elements of the game that the girls knew they could control they worked on over the course of the year, making the return to this season that much easier.” 

King played collegiately for Indianapolis and Capital and has been involved in the Lucky Lax club program.  

She takes over a team that went 7-22 in two seasons under Katie Hill, including 3-11 in 2019 when it beat Dayton Miami Valley 10-3 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 tournament. 

Senior Lauren Sabol (midfielder) and juniors Jameela Askira (goalie), Macy Croft (attacker), Jessie Seitz (midfielder) and Rhea Singh (defender) all were contributors in 2019. 

Junior Maddie Fahlgren joins Croft at attacker, with sophomores Lilliana Adkinson and Cassidy Chenelle also being key midfielders and senior Noora Rajjoub and freshman Gigi Manley joining Singh on defense. 

Senior Audrey Arman (midfielder), juniors Madeline Paull (attacker), Rachel Scott (defender) and Sara Velasco (attacker), sophomores Kyla Hammond (defender) and Lexy Ruma (attacker) and freshmen Maisy Adams (attacker) and Sophia Kramer (attacker) will provide depth. 

“So far, the team has come a long way from when we began in preseason,” King said. “We have a lot of new players on our team, but they’ve really stepped up and have grown significantly in skill and knowledge.” 

GIRLS LACROSSE 

•Coach: Kailee King, first season 

•Next game: April 8 vs. Lima Senior 

•Key athletes: Lilliana Adkinson, Jameela Askira, Cassidy Chenelle, Macy Croft, Maddie Fahlgren, Lauren Sabol, Jessie Seitz and Rhea Singh 

Baseball team excited 

for return to action 

Six seniors are among the 12 players expected to lead the way for the baseball team as it adjusts to the MSL-Ohio. 

The Jaguars finished 10-14 overall and 5-7 in the MSL-Cardinal in 2019 when they had eight seniors. 

“We’re a small-roster team that’s playing in a very tough division of the Mid-State League,” coach Craig Jones said. “We’re looking for our players to be competitive and grow as the weeks progress.” 

Junior Robert Boyd, who hit .318 with 16 RBI in 2019, is the most experienced returnee and will play at first base and third base. 

Seniors Sky Jackett (LF/3B/SS/P), Rory O’Sullivan (3B/SS/P) and Scout Zaas (CF/1B) and freshman Hank Humbert (SS/2B/P) also should be among the team’s top hitters. 

Others expected to pitch include seniors Avery Rennick and Declan Unverferth, sophomore William Garner and freshman Theo Kosnikowski. 

Senior Matt Reid, Rennick and Unverferth should see time in the outfield, with sophomore Alex Shaver and freshman Tyler Disbrow serving as utility players.  

Kosnikowski joins Garner at catcher and both also will play other infield positions.

“We’re certainly happy to be back on the field,” Jones said. “Most of the boys have played a fall and/or winter sport, so adhering to the COVID-19 protocols has not been much of an issue. The milder temperatures have made practicing outdoors possible and that’s really helping us prepare. 

“This is an inexperienced battery, so early on we’re focusing on keeping the ball down in the zone and hitting the corners of the plate consistently. With such a small roster, the defensive alignment will have a number of different looks. We’re still exploring where all of our guys can be effective.” 

BASEBALL 

•Coach: Craig Jones, 15th season 

•Next game: April 9 vs. Whitehall 

•Key athletes: Robert Boyd, Hank Humbert, Sky Jackett, Rory O’Sullivan, Matt Reid, Avery Rennick, Declan Unverferth and Scout Zaas 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek