An athletic and experienced team will take to the diamond when coach Jeff Hatfield’s Golden Eagles open the 2014 season with visiting Dublin Coffman on Tuesday, April 1.
Big Walnut returns eight letter winners off last season’s 19-10 squad which placed fourth in the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division with a 9-5 record behind Olentangy (13-1), Delaware Hayes (11-3) and Olentangy Orange (11-3). The fifth-seeded Golden Eagles advanced to the Division II Central District Semifinals where they bowed out in a 1-0, eight-inning loss to fourth seeded Granville.
Seven Big Walnut seniors, led by third baseman Hayley Apple who earned her third varsity letter last season join six two-year letter winners who return, including right fielder Shaye Kuhlman, shortstop Shelbie Borchers, first baseman Brooke Hatfield, centerfielder Katelynn Cheadle, second baseman Leah Shaw and right fielder Sara Apple. Sophomore pitcher Kate Petty, who earned her first varsity letter last spring, rounds out the veteran roster.
Kuhlman, Borchers, Brooke Hatfield and Hayley Apple all received postseason recognition. Kuhlman earned First Team Division II All-Central District, Second Team Division II All-Ohio and Second Team All-OCC Capital honors; Brooke Hatfield Second Team Division II All-Central District and First Team All-OCC Capital honor; Borchers Honorable Mention Division II All-Central District and Second Team All-OCC Capital honors; and Apple Honorable Mention All-OCC Capital Division.
Team awards went to Kuhlman Offensive Player of the Year, Apple Defensive Player of The Year; Hatfield the Most Improved Player; and Borchers the Coaches Award.
“We have a veteran roster with plenty of softball experience,” said coach Hatfield who has a compiled a 118-78 record in his seven seasons leading the Golden Eagles. “We will need all of that experience with a 27-game schedule that has us moving up to Division I this season.”
Hatfield lost three key members of the 2013 squad to graduation. Gone are three-year letter winners in pitcher Allie Walker, catcher Krystin Chadwick and outfielder Stephanie Adkins. Chadwick was the recipient of the coveted Golden Eagle Award for academic and athletic achievements.
“If we have one weakness it is behind the plate with losing Krystin to gradation,” coach Hatfield said.
Hatfield is looking to two newcomers in sophomore Britni Hayes and freshman Jessica Coletta to take over the backstop duties. Hayes handled the catching chores for Big Walnut’s JVs last season. In the pitcher’s circle, sophomore Rachael Brown and Kate Petty will replace Walker in the pitching rotation. Sophomore infielder Kayley Daniel, up from last season’s reserve squad, will replaced Adkins in the utility role.
Looking to the season, Hatfield, who will be assisted by veteran coaches Jerry Hatcher, Tim Rioux and Frank Turner, pointed to what is without a doubt Big Walnut’s toughest-ever softball schedule.
“We have moved up to Division I with St. Francis DeSales, Westerville North, Westerville South, Westerville Central, Hilliard Davidson, Jonathan Alder and Teay Valley on our schedule,” he said. “Add to that an extremely tough OCC Capital Division schedule that includes Olentangy, Delaware Hayes, Worthington Kilbourne and New Albany — all perennial contenders — and we have our work cut out for us.”
The keys to the Golden Eagles’ success in 2014?
“We have to be competitive on the mound and cut down on our errors if we expected to compete,” coach Hatfield said. “And we have to build on last season’s success.”