Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Believe it or not, the end of another school year is near, and that means softball season is back in full swing — pun intended.
After a long winter, the girls of spring are ready to take the field once again and we expect big things from an array of clubs in Southern Ohio.
As we get reacquainted with the softball diamond, here’s a list of 10 players in our coverage area, and in no particular order, to keep an eye on this spring if they get the chance to compete.
NOTE: This certainly does not mean there aren’t other players who will have great seasons. This is simply a list of 10 players we’ve randomly compiled.
Jenna Johnston, Wellston
Wellston’s do-it-all shortstop was named the TVC’s Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .554 with 11 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 41 runs scored and 27 RBIs — all team-highs. She causes all kinds of havoc at the plate and the Rockets reap the benefits. As she begins her last go-around at the high school level, she’ll be expected to lead Wellston to another conference title and a lengthy tournament run.
Abbie Bickenheuser, Westfall
For whatever reason, Bickenheuser is often overlooked when it comes to naming the area’s best pure hitters. But let it be known that she deserves to be near the top of that list. The senior hit nine home runs last spring and turned in a team-high 35 RBIs. That helped the Mustangs clinch an SVC championship and a district title. She’s dangerous with the bat in her hands.
Kiera Williams, Adena
With the glove and with the bat, Williams is smooth as silk. She was instrumental in the Warriors’ first district final appearance in over a decade last spring and helped her teammates win 16 games — a drastic improvement from an 8-12 mark the year before. You can expect more good things to come in Frankfort and Williams is a big reason why.
Gwen Sparks, Notre Dame
Dominant. That’s what Sparks is in the circle. She led the Titans to a 23-1 mark and a district championship while striking out 44 hitters in the team’s four tournament games. Did we mention that she did that as a freshman? There’s no telling what she can accomplish this spring. She’s a Division I college softball talent with three years left to terrorize the majority of Southern Ohio.
Lexie Lockwood, Southeastern
The numbers that Lockwood put up during her junior campaign are simply astounding. The Panthers’ leadoff hitter batted .683 and stole 53 bases — a single-season record. As you can tell, she was always on base. The only question left is how she’s going to follow that performance up. If history indeed repeats itself, she’ll find a way to be even more productive.
Harmony Henneberger, Huntington
Lost in the shuffle last season was how well Henneberger played in the Township. She covers ground well in the outfield and showed the ability to consistently get on base. She’ll be a big part of what newly hired head coach Brian Smith is trying to build. You can bet her teammates will lean on her and her classmates to continue steering the ship in the right direction.
Sydney McDermott, West
Fresh off a season where she broke the school’s single-season strikeout record with 295, the Senators pitcher now looks to put that mark further out of reach. McDermott was the centerpiece to a team that won 16 games last year and one that expects to win more this spring. She’s one of the region’s best flamethrowers and she’ll continue to prove why as a junior.
Alexis Book, Unioto
Book is the perfect mix of speed and power with a glove that does the talking for her. She left no doubt that she’s one of the area’s premier softball talents. If you’d like to know how bright her future is, as a freshman, she was an all-state selection. That type of production should continue. She’ll lead a talent-jammed lineup into the always tough to win in Scioto Valley Conference.
Macee Eaton, Wheelersburg
Eaton is the area’s best all-around hitter and there isn’t a doubt about it. The University of Virginia-bound first baseman was the SOC II’s Player of the Year and a first-team All-Ohio honoree as a sophomore. She also helped the Pirates win 26 games and reach a state semifinal before a season-ending loss to Fairview. This season? It’s Akron or bust again.
Caitlyn Quickle, Fairfield
Within a program that’s used to winning, Quickle has helped it continue that trend. As a freshman, she battled through injuries but still hit a tick below .650 while driving in a team-high 43 runs. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, you can expect those numbers to stay the same or rise as the Lions search for a deep tournament run — a standard at Fairfield.