2022 Spring Outlook: High School Softball


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The Wilmington High School softball team, from left to right, front row, Keiana Murdock (15), Rylee Oglesby (13), Jena Rhoads (8), Toria Willis (5), Nevaeh Blackburn (3), Zoe Zurface (7); back row, Naomi Sanders (34), Danni Riley (1), Maliyah Burris (44), Jaydin Applegate (11), Madison Hisco (25), Layla Reynolds (12), Bailey Wheeler (14).

The Wilmington High School softball team, from left to right, front row, Keiana Murdock (15), Rylee Oglesby (13), Jena Rhoads (8), Toria Willis (5), Nevaeh Blackburn (3), Zoe Zurface (7); back row, Naomi Sanders (34), Danni Riley (1), Maliyah Burris (44), Jaydin Applegate (11), Madison Hisco (25), Layla Reynolds (12), Bailey Wheeler (14).


Williamsburg and Western Brown have dominated league titles in the SBAAC for a number of years.

Williamsburg has won outright or shared National Division titles for the past seven seasons. Western Brown has been American Division champions the past eight seasons.

Blanchester

The Blanchester softball team was 4-22 last season, 3-9 in the National Division. They lost 15 of their last 16 games.

Rianna Mueller (.341 ba, 29 hits, 97 k as pitcher) was first team National Division as a junior last season.

Grogg, in his 19th season with a 232-215 record, will be assisted by Tom Lee, Matt Sexton, Makayla Graf and Robert Mann.

There are nine returning starters, led by Mueller. Others are Maggie Caldwell, Emma Case, Madison Creager, Zoie Stanforth, Lydia Peters, Olivia Potts, Kyra Renick and Bailey Dawley.

Grogg said newcomes who will contribute are Sarah Pell, Hope Blankenbeckler, Alayna Davenport and Quynn Dawley.

Among those not returning are four-year starter Noelani Tangonan and Sam Naylor.

Grogg said he likes this team’s work ethic and attitude. The team will need to improve its defense and offensive execution. To contend in the league, Grogg said the Ladycats must do the basics on a consistent basis.

Despite losing several top players, Williamsburg is the favorite Grogg said, along with Bethel-Tate.

Clinton-Massie

Kiera Brightman (.379 ba, 7 wins as pitcher) was a first-team all-conference selection last season as a junior.

The Falcons were 9-9 last season, 4-6 in the American Division. They ended the season on a four-game losing streak and lost six of their last nine games.

Kayla Drake, as a junior, hit .443 last season. Natalie Lay, a 2021 graduate, blasted 10 homers and hit .500.

Brandon Lewis is the head coach.

East Clinton

A trio of first-year coaches are taking over the East Clinton softball program this spring.

Aaron Elliott is the head coach while Olivia Wolfe will assist with the junior varsity team and Gabby Boone will volunteer.

Alexis Rolfe, who graduated last spring, was the lone EC player on the first team all-conference team. She hit .310 last year.

The Astros were 0-16 last season and has lost 20 straight regular season games, dating back to an 18-8 win over Blanchester on April 22, 2019.

Lydia Kessler and Josie Runk are three-year varsity players who return while Savannah Tolle, Aubrie Simpson, Megan Hadley and Cheyenne Reed are two-year returnees.

From what he knows to this point, Elliott said newcomers who will help are Taylor Barton, Sydney Beiting and Chloe Scott. “These girls have shown thus far that they are talented, level-headed and prepared to be on the field in all aspects of their game.”

Aside from Rolfe, players from last season no longer with the team are Lanie Clark, Jericka Boggs, Maura Elzey, Haven Bosier.

Kessler, Emily Peacock, Runk, Tolle, Maddie Davis and Anna Lopez have led the team through the off-season and in early workouts this month.

“Each of these girls come with a positive but demanding attitude for both themselves and this softball program and I look forward to working with them throughout the season,” Elliott said.

The coach said he hopes to capture the momentum created by volleyball and basketball this season.

“The thing that peaks my interest the most regarding these young athletes is they all have a drive that goes unmatched,” he said. “Sports for the girls here at EC have been on the rise this year. I anticipate that those accomplishments will want to be achieved as well on the softball field.”

It won’t be easy this spring.

“We’re in a rebuilding stage,” Elliott said. “We need to rekindle a fire that used to burn for this softball program and that includes a multitude of things … communication, team chemistry, a desire to represent the program. These things will come with time and effort but I’m optimistic with what I’ve seen pre-season.”

Wilmington

The Hurricane graduated the SBAAC American Division player of the year in Harlie Bickett (.554 ba, 10 hr, 29 rbi, 11 2b, 34 rs). Bickett is playing for Lafayette College in the Patriot League. Emily Self, Grace Brown and Kaitlyn Partin also graduated.

Wilmington finished 8-15 overall in 2021 and 3-7 in the American. That record is a bit deceiving, coach Brian Spurlock points out, noting the seven one-run losses.

Spurlock is in his fourth season and will be assisted at the varsity level by lacy Myers, Brian Roberts and Sean Earley. Reserve head coach Paige Younker with assistants Gordon Cordell and Kaitlyn Partin. Jericka Boggs is the middle school coach.

Wilmington returns seven letter-winners from last season, led by Northern Kentucky University commit Jena Rhoads who hit .500 with 26 runs batted in and 7 stolen bases last season. Other returning starters include Toria Willis, Nevaeh Blackburn, Keiana Murdock and Madison Hisco.

Newcomers of note, Spurlock said, are Danni Riley, Naomi Sanders, Layla Reynolds, Jaydin Applegate, Zoe Zurface and Bailey Wheeler.

“We have very versatile players who can play multiple positions around the field,” Spurlock said. “We need to improve in every facet of the game. We are a very young team with six sophomores and two freshmen on the varsity team.”

Spurlock is confident, despite the youth.

“Our underclassmen last year stepped up and really helped us become a better team by the end of the year, including a huge win over Milford in the (post-season) tournament,” he said. “We need those players to continue their growth and become leaders of the six newcomers. Our newcomers this year will have to become key contributors for us to be successful.”

The Wilmington High School softball team, from left to right, front row, Keiana Murdock (15), Rylee Oglesby (13), Jena Rhoads (8), Toria Willis (5), Nevaeh Blackburn (3), Zoe Zurface (7); back row, Naomi Sanders (34), Danni Riley (1), Maliyah Burris (44), Jaydin Applegate (11), Madison Hisco (25), Layla Reynolds (12), Bailey Wheeler (14).
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/03/web1_WHSsoftball2022WEB.jpgThe Wilmington High School softball team, from left to right, front row, Keiana Murdock (15), Rylee Oglesby (13), Jena Rhoads (8), Toria Willis (5), Nevaeh Blackburn (3), Zoe Zurface (7); back row, Naomi Sanders (34), Danni Riley (1), Maliyah Burris (44), Jaydin Applegate (11), Madison Hisco (25), Layla Reynolds (12), Bailey Wheeler (14).

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