Softball: Westerville Central Warhawks working to reach 2019 level

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Central coach Brian Wamsley (left) and assistant Chip Linkhorn talk before the Warhawks' district final win in 2019. That season ended in a Division I state semifinal, and Central is working to again reach that level after the loss of numerous key players to graduation.

Despite losing the nucleus of a team that advanced to a Division I state semifinal in 2019, Westerville Central softball coach Brian Wamsley believes his players have the potential to make another state tournament run. 

Making their first state appearance, the Warhawks lost 4-3 to Liberty Township Lakota East to finish 28-3. 

Central again had high hopes last spring, but the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“I really feel like we had a golden opportunity to get back to where we were and hopefully beyond,” said Wamsley, who is in his 11th season. “I’m not saying we can’t do that this year, because I think we can, but we’ve lost a lot of kids in the last two years who are pretty good ballplayers.” 

The Warhawks, who opened by beating Mount Vernon 10-8 on March 29 and Westerville North 14-8 on March 30, begin their OCC-Ohio Division schedule April 15 against visiting Pickerington North. 

Other teams in the league are Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany and Westland. 

A key loss to graduation was Emily Ruck, who is a freshman pitcher at Ohio State. Wamsley will look to senior Lexi Recinella and junior Laken Hendricks to help fill the void. 

“Pitching-wise, we’re inexperienced,” Wamsley said. “Lexi is a senior, but she hasn’t thrown many innings since she was a freshman at the j.v. level. Laken is a junior and she has no varsity experience.” 

Recinella batted .392 and was special mention all-OCC-Buckeye in 2019. 

Another key returnee is senior Emily O’Dee (SS), who batted .451 with a team-high 51 runs and 13 stolen bases and was second-team all-league as a sophomore. 

Senior Hanna Hunt (3B/OF) was special mention all-league in 2019. Also back are senior Sydney Zuelzke (OF) and junior Kiersten Stepp (1B). 

INSIDE THE WARHAWKS 

Coach: Brian Wamsley, 11th season 

Next game: April 8 at Bexley 

Key athletes: Hannah Hunt, Emily O’Dee and Lexie Recinella 

Young Warriors

looking to grow

North has only one returning varsity player from 2019 in senior center fielder Zsofia Kacsandi, who moves over from left after batting .299 with 15 RBI and 12 runs as a sophomore.

“Zsofia is our only player back, so we’re about as young as you can be,” second-year coach Brian Anderson said. “Our largest class is our sophomores, and we have 10 total in the program with some varsity and some j.v. We have three freshmen on varsity and all of them will start.

“Our freshmen have a lot of travel-ball experience, but that’s different than coming into high school and playing against juniors and seniors. Once they get a few games in and get used to it, their skills will start to take over.”

One key freshman is Sophie Minister, who will share pitching duties with senior Emily Jones. The others are right fielder Ryanne Wilson and Anna Williams, who will play at second base when Minister pitches and also will catch and play third.

“Sophie Minister will probably be our ace,” Anderson said. “She throws really well and she’ll be a really good pitcher down the road. She’s still working through some nerves, though.”

Also behind the plate is junior Caitlyn Meier, and she will share time at first base with Jones. Senior Sabrina Hernandez-Krause is at shortstop and sophomore Natalie Pyke is at third, while senior Riley Farrell will be in left field.

“Our biggest asset is we’re very athletic,” Anderson said. “A lot of kids can play multiple positions, and we have a lot of team speed and run the bases well.

“We’re growing up offensively and defensively. We love our talent and we’ll have something in the next couple of years. Now we need to see how fast we can grow up.”

The Warriors started 2-2, defeating Reynoldsburg 11-1 and losing to Watkins Memorial 13-0 on March 27 before defeating DeSales 6-2 on March 29 and losing to Central 14-8 on March 30. 

North opened OCC-Capital play April 7 against Franklin Heights. Other teams in the league are Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne. 

INSIDE THE WARRIORS

Coach: Brian Anderson, second season 

Next game: April 8 at Delaware

Key athletes: Riley Farrell, Sabrina Hernandez-Krause, Emily Jones, Zsofia Kacsandi and Sophie Minister

—Scott Hennen

South coach Emily Swank-Kavanaugh and her players are working to improve on a 5-17 finish from 2019.

Coach optimistic

about Wildcats 

Third-year South coach Emily Swank-Kavanaugh hopes her team can improve on its 5-17 record from 2019. 

“We had some really good reps in our scrimmages,” she said. “The team is looking strong. Our hitting is looking stronger. I’m very optimistic.” 

South rebounded from an 8-0 loss to Thomas Worthington on March 29 to beat DeSales 17-0 in five innings March 30. 

Senior Megan Shoemaker (P) batted .362 as a sophomore and also was the Wildcats’ top pitcher.

“Megan has been our No. 1 pitcher since I became the coach at South,” Swank-Kavanaugh said. “We came in together. I look for her to have some success this season.” 

Also back are seniors Trinity Cole (OF/utility) and Maddie Faulkner (OF/1B) and juniors Jada Orr (1B), Allison Porta (utility), Maggie Price (OF) and Kayti Williams (3B/SS). 

“Kayti will probably be one of our top hitters,” Swank-Kavanaugh said. 

Sophomore Lauryn Swanson will play second base and bat leadoff, sophomore Savannah Mays and freshman Maddie Millington are expected to split time at catcher and sophomore Cierra James will start in center field.  

Sophomore Cece Stoever (utility) should provide depth for the Wildcats, who opened OCC-Capital play April 7 against Scioto. 

“We’re traveling as north as Delaware Hayes and as south as Franklin Heights, so we’re all over Columbus seeing teams that we haven’t seen before,” Swank-Kavanaugh said. “We have teams in our league that we’ve played before. Dublin Scioto has been on our schedule in the past. Big Walnut has been on our schedule and now we play them in league games. We keep Westerville North.” 

INSIDE THE WILDCATS 

Coach: Emily Swank-Kavanaugh, third season 

Next game: April 8 vs. Big Walnut 

Key athletes: Jada Orr, Megan Shoemaker and Kayti Williams 

—Frank DiRenna

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports