By Ben Stroup firstname.lastname@example.org
March 30, 2014
The Olentangy Liberty softball team has already won two straight OCC titles … might as well go for a third.
The Patriots, who return 10 experienced players from last year’s 21-5 squad, certainly have the pieces to contend for a three-peat.
Senior returners include two-year captain Madison Kadlic, an Elon University signee who will anchor what promises to be a steady defense from the shortstop position, and the duo of Allison Linn and Erin Hamilton, a pair of role players who will be looking to expand their productivity. Linn is vying for an outfield position while Hamilton will start the season as the squad’s backup catcher and part-time third baseman.
The strength of the team, meanwhile, lies within a loaded junior class highlighted by the likes of pitcher Kristen Adkins — the Central Division’s Co-Player of the Year last spring — and catcher Bailey Ankrim, another all-league performer.
Liberty coach Bob Lee said the two standouts give his team a solid battery to build around.
“It’s nice because they’ve played together for awhile and are very familiar with each other,” he said. “Kristen is one of the top pitchers in the area … she has really improved her control … and Bailey is solid behind the plate. They’re also two of our top hitters.”
Juniors Meredith Bates and Keri Kelly, a pair of speedy outfielders, are also back, while sophomore infielder Randi Noday, a second-team all-league player who hit just under .400 last season, sophomore designated player Kaylin Lee, sophomore utility player Rylee Kashmiry, sophomore infielder Kylie Reed and sophomore third baseman Tiffany Hart will also contribute.
Newcomers include sophomores Sara Eschleman and Ashley Stevenson.
Overall, Lee said his team’s strength is up the middle.
“We are solid up the middle with our pitcher-catcher combo and a four-year starter at shortstop,” the coach said. “The only place we are searching a little is at center field, but we should have a solid infield and experienced outfield overall.”
The key will be making sure everyone on the field is on the same page … that, and stringing together hits at the plate.
“We are going to have to improve our communication between the infield and outfield,” Lee said. “We lost a couple good hitters from last year’s team, too, so hitting is a question mark.”
If the squad can stay organized, though, and swing the bats consistently, Liberty should be in good shape to contend for another title.
“I think the league is up for grabs,” Lee said. “Marysville will be good, Thomas Worthington has a pair of good pitchers, Hilliard Davidson came on strong last year and Upper Arlington is usually tough. It’s all about which team stays healthy, peaks at the right time and stays consistent.”