The spring season at Wilmington College is underway. The track and field program was the final program to take the field, so to speak, as the men and women opened with the two-day Emory Invitational in Georgia on Friday.
The baseball, softball and men’s and women’s lacrosse programs have played several games and here is as look at each team as the 2018 season unfolds.
With a solid group of standout performers, the Wilmington College men’s and women’s track and field teams will make a mark at both the Ohio Athletic Conference and, possible, the NCAA Division III national championship.
However, as a team, the Quakers will likely be relegated to a bottom-half finish in the conference. Ron Combs, in his 21st season coaching track and field, knows the team must grow its numbers in order to compete for a conference title.
But he likes the work ethic and improvement his squad has shown as they prepare for the 2018 season. The Quakers will host a meet April 7 at the Beckett Track facility.
Kyle Wolf, Wayne Stacy, Eric Hansen and Tony Goodrich will assist Combs.
Among the 10 letters winners returning, the top athletes are Pierce Burnam, Antone Truss, Kal Butts, Lauren Stacy and Emma Burke.
Mckenzie Hamm and Joe Holcomb – a pair of Blanchester High School graduates – are among the top newcomers for the Quakers. Both had solid first seasons during indoor competition. Gage Clemens also was listed as a top newcomer by Combs.
Both men’s and women’s team began the outdoor season Friday at the two-day Emory Invitational.
Taylor Martin, first-year head coach, is looking to turn around the fortunes of the women’s lacrosse program at WC. With 12 letterwinners gone from last year’s team, that won’t be an easy task.
But the 2014 Berry College (Ga.) graduate is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m really excited to see what the team has to offer,” she said. “They are working very hard and looking for a lot of success this season.”
Becca Petra (Lakota East), Hannah Gratsch (Milford) and Megan Wieloch (Plymouth [Mich.] HS) are the top returning players. Wieloch is the goalie while Petra and Gratsch both scored 14 goals in 2017.
”They are realizing each other strengths and weaknesses and utilizing every player on the field,” Martin said. “The team needs to improve on our basic skills as well as keeping a level head throughout the games. We are also working on building confidence in our team.”
Top newcomers are Kadie Grundy (Harrison), Katie Hill (Milford) and Emily Smith (Bellbrook).
WC is 2-5 on the year.
Jeff Arneson, a Wilmington High School graduate, is in his first year as the men’s lacrosse coach at WC.
“It has always been a dream of mine to come back to Clinton County and contribute to the development of lacrosse in the area,” he said. “We have an uphill battle this season, but we are going to improve consistently and get better every week. I’m looking forward to the challenge and won’t be surprised if we shock some teams in conference.”
Tanner Diment (Midland [Mich.] HS), Conner Judge (Dublin Scioto) and Jhordan Lang (Big Walnut) are the top returning players from last season’s 5-11 team. Lang had 44 goals, 23 assists and 67 points.
”The focus and work ethic is there; we just need to develop our overall lacrosse IQ,” Arneson said. “With a handful of new players and players moving from defense to offense, we knew coming in that would be our biggest challenge, but the guys are focused on developing every day.”
Arneson was head coach at Thiel College (Pa.) for six seasons. He was named Presidents Athletic Conference coach of the year in 2014.
Wilmington is off to a 3-3 start.
Off to a 6-2 start, the softball team has high hopes for a strong finish.
“I’m very excited about the upcoming season, these young ladies are playing with confidence and with passion,” WC head coach Beth Floyd said.
Savannah Hooper (Wilmington HS), Jillia Cook (Canton Glen Oak) and Beth Periscano (Turpin) are the top returning players from a team that went 7-33 last season. WC won 3 Ohio Athletic Conference games, which has been its average during Floyd’s 10-year run.
Hooper was a first-team All-OAC player last year. Hooper led WC in batting average (.325), hits (38), runs scored (23), bases on balls (14 and stolen bases (26) last season.
Newcomers to make an impact include Grace Shell (Sidney), Alicia Kemp (Little Miami) and Ali Dixon (Triad).
Becca Carpenter graduated and with her more than 100 innings on the mound are gone. Periscano and Shell look to be the primary hurlers for WC.
”I really like how well our team is playing as a collective unit,” Floyd said. “These young ladies believe in our team. They always put the team first and they’re playing extremely hard.
”We have a very young team overall. The key will be playing with consistency (and) having the ability to string several hits together.”
After 15 games, the baseball team is off to an 8-7 start. Dan Cleaver, a 1997 graduate of WC, is just three wins away from matching the team’s overall win total of the past two seasons.
With 21 letterwinners returning, you have to like the Quakers chances of besting 11 wins in 2018.
”We have some talented (junior and seniors) leaders who are determined to play well and compete with anyone on the schedule,” Cleaver said. “We have six seniors all of whom were recruited to campus. They are my first recruiting class and I am very proud of each of them.”
Josh Chua (Lancaster, England), Jake Hyatt (Madeira) and Matt Oney (Carlisle) are the top returning players. Newcomers of note are Ian Brinker (Riverview), Ryan Gravett (Grove City) and Luke Kleindel (Goodrich [Mich.] HS).
Chua hit .320 last season and led the Quakers in average, doubles (13), homers (6), runs batted in (29) and slugging (.544). Hyatt came in at .319.
Oney is the top returning pitcher with three wins in 53 innings.
”We need to pitch better, be around the plate and let our defense make plays,” Cleaver said. “We have to cut the walks and hit-by-pitches by at least (a third) from last your to win games.”