Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Let’s go ahead and expose the elephant in the room … absolutely nobody could’ve predicted the situation that spring sports is in right now.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not only delayed the start of the season but it’s also threatened it as a whole, and continues to do so. Having said that, it would simply be unfair to let the Coronavirus take away attention from some of our area’s top talents on the 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 list does not include players from the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. SOSA did not cover the SHAC last spring. However, that will change if there is a season this spring.
Cassie Schaefer, Notre Dame
Schaefer had her best year yet as a junior, going 16-3 with a 0.72 ERA in 116 ⅓ innings. She struck out 158 hitters and allowed 12 earned runs in 25 games. That’s the definition of dominant. At the plate, it was more of the same. She hit .424 with six bombs, 38 RBIs and 28 runs. She’s the complete package and quite possibly the best all-around player in the area.
Haley Holt, Unioto
In a lineup jam-packed with talent, Holt has been a mainstay for three years. The all-SVC selection has power in her swing and a knack for playing the hot corner. She was an imperative piece to a team that finished 20-6 overall and 11-3 in the SVC. Entering her senior year, she’ll be trying to pick up where she left off after hitting .395 with three homers, 32 RBIs, and 15 runs.
Josie Williams, Westfall
There’s a reason why Westfall has won three consecutive SVC championships. This year’s senior class is absolutely loaded and Williams is at the center of that group. The shortstop is a nuisance at the plate and as smooth as silk in the field. Last season, the Mustangs fell to Ironton in a district final contest. Williams and company will be motivated as ever to avenge that loss.
Olivia Smith, Paint Valley
Smith’s freshman year went as planned as she helped the Bearcats win a sectional championship. She batted .355 with eight doubles, 21 RBIs, 23 runs scored and amassed a .467 on-base percentage. The leadoff hitter spent most of her time patrolling center field and was a safety blanket for Paint Valley’s defense. She has a bright future in Bainbridge.
Rylie Hughes, Wheelersburg
At the end of the regular season, Hughes was hitting .456 with four homers and 31 RBIs … and then she was even better in the tournament. In the district tournament alone, she was 4-for-5 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Hughes’ work ethic is unwavering, her drive to be the best is obvious and she’s undoubtedly one of the area’s top players in the class of 2021.
Gwen Messer, South Webster
After emerging as one of the area’s best pitchers last season, Messer must have high hopes for her junior year. She was a huge reason why the Jeeps finished 16-11 and won a sectional championship. Messer tossed 110 innings and struck out 144 hitters with a 2.55 ERA, including single-game strikeout performances of 20, 16 and 15. She hit .368 with 27 runs and 13 RBIs.
Caitlyn Brisker, Oak Hill
Anytime you’re the Player of the Year in your conference, that’s obviously something to be proud of. But Brisker was the Defensive POY in a loaded SOC II, which puts even more emphasis on just how special she is. She was a first-team All-Ohio selection and led the Oaks to 16 wins while hitting .458 with seven homers, seven doubles, 18 RBIs and 37 runs scored.
Zoiee Smith, Waverly
In the biggest moment of Waverly’s season, Smith had the bat in her hands and delivered a dagger. Smith gave the Tigers a 2-1 win over Logan Elm in a Division II district final with a walk-off double in the eighth inning. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Smith. She was a juggernaut at the top of the lineup and was constantly on base. Don’t expect that to change.
Ava Jenkins, Green
Behind Jenkins in the circle and at the plate, the Bobcats finished 13-11 last season. All the while, Jenkins hit .582 as a sophomore alongside 33 RBIs and 38 runs scored. She was the focal point on an offense that seemed to score at will. She also tossed 31 ⅔ innings and struck out 29 hitters. She’ll play an even bigger part on this year’s roster.
Kylee Kellough, Huntington
If you haven’t heard Kellough’s name in local softball circles, then you probably haven’t been paying attention. Now with two full years under her belt, Kellough enters her junior year as a known commodity throughout the region. Last year, while leading the Huntsmen to 17 wins, Kellough tallied nine wins in the circle alongside a 3.92 ERA and 90 whiffs. She also drove in 18 runs at the plate and hit three long balls. Huntington will once again rely on her in 2020.