DEFIANCE, OHIO -- The Defiance College Yellow Jacket softball finished sixth in the conference last season and will be looking to improve upon a year ago with a lot of returning experienced players this spring.
DC returns 11 players with starting experience from last year and will be led by five seniors in Megan Warren (Mason), Emily Denhard (Troy, Mich./Kolbe Academy), Kayla Clute (Onsted, Mich./Onsted), Marisa Guyton (Powell/Worthington Kilbourne) and Jill Schneider (Botkins).
The Yellow Jackets outfield crew will return five players, with two whom hold starting experience in Denhard and sophomore Jordan Osborne (Delaware/Rutherford B. Hayes). Joining them will be Clute, junior Kandee Manson (Paulding), and sophomore Paige Sickmiller (Leipsic). New to the outfield will be junior Kaity Kuhn (Celina) who will be moving from the infield.
Osborne started and played in 38 games and had a batting average of .336 (38-of-113). She scored 29 runs and had four runs batted in. Osborne also tallied a team-high 21 walks and had a .444 on-base percentage to go along with a .354 slugging percentage. In addition, she led the team in stolen bases with six (six-of-six). As a defender, Osborne finished the season with a .946 fielding percentage with 32 putouts, three assists and committed just two errors. Following the season, she earned honorable mention accolades.
Denhard played and started in 37 games on the season with a .337 batting percentage (32-of-95). Her 32 hits were third most on the team. She was second on the team in runs scored with 26 and tallied two RBI. Denhard ended the year with a .373 on base percentage to go along with a .337 slugging percentage. She led the team, and the HCAC, in sacrifice hits with 18 and averaged .49 sacrifice hits which was tops in NCAA Division III. In the field, she had a .957 fielding percentage with 64 putouts and two assists.
Kuhn played in 35 games, with 26 starts as the designated hitter. She recorded a .325 batting average (27-of-83) and was third on the team in doubles (eight). She also had one home run, scored 10 runs and drove in 21 runs. Kuhn recorded eight walks and had a .387 on base percentage.
Clute, Manson and Sickmiller will look to compete for increased playing time in the outfield.
The infield is returning five players with starting experience, led by Warren. Also back are juniors whom hold starting experience include third baseman Keri Hupp (Louisville) and shortstop Haley Patty (Bradford). The sophomore class includes second baseman Jackie Hartman (Parma/Padua Fransican) and first baseman Michaela Bauer (Hicksville).
Warren played in and started all 38 games last spring and ended the season with a .354 batting average (40-of-113). Her 40 hits led the team and she also led the team in homeruns (five), doubles (10), RBI (37) and was tied for first in at-bats (113). Warren recorded six walks and had a .374 on-base percentage, including a .593 slugging percentage. Defensivley, Warren had a .957 fielding percentage with 105 putouts and 28 assists as the team's starting catcher.
Hupp also started all 38 games and had a .273 batting average (24-of-88). She ended the season second in homeruns with four and fourth in doubles with six. In addition, she scored seven rusn and batted in 20 runs. She was second in walks (13) and had a .413 on base percentage to go along with a .477 slugging percentage. Defensively, she posted a .893 fielding percentage for the season with 30 putouts and 73 assists.
Patty played and started in all 38 games for the Jackets. She had a .258 batting average (25-of-97) and recorded four homeruns, one triple, and two doubles. Patty was amongst the team leaders in runs scored (17) and RBI (10). She posted a .287 on base percentage and a .429 slugging percentage. In addition, Patty was part of a three-way tie on the team in steals with three (three-of-four overall). In the field, Patty recorded a .917 fielding percentage with 71 putouts and 105 assists.
Hartman ended her "rookie" season with a .231 batting average (24-of-104) in 38 games played. She hit one home run, four doubles, scored 13 runs had 12 RBI. Hartman posted a .245 on-base percentage and a .298 slugging percentage. Hartman was also part of a three-way tie for second in stolen bases with three (three-for-three overall). Defensively, she posted a .956 fielding percentage with 98 putouts and 76 assists.
Bauer saw playing time in 24 games, including 11 starts, and had a .273 batting average (12-of-44) with three doubles, scored one run and five RBI. Bauer posted a .319 on-base percentage and a .341 slugging percentage. Defensively, she recorded a .952 fielding percentage with 78 putouts and one assist.
The Jackets will also be returning four other members of the infield who are all competing for playing time this season. These players include seniors Marisa Guyton (Powell/Worthington Kilbourne) and Jill Schneider (Botkins), junior Libby Leach (Cheshire/River Valley), and sophomore Rebekah Groden (North Olmstead).
Defiance will be returning its main pitching rotation this spring, led by junior ace Sarah Kaya (Lorain/Clearview). Also back are sophomore Jamie Kimbler (Huber Heights/Wayne) and junior Sydni Smith (Jackson, Mich./Lumen Christi).
Kaya led the team in every statistical category. She made 30 total appearances, including 20 starts, with 12 complete games, five shutouts and one save. Kaya posted a 10-13 record with a 2.86 earned run average. She tallied 74 strikeouts in 125.0 innings pitched, including a career-high 12 "K's" against Beloit (Wisc.) on March 10. Her 74 strikeouts ranked fourth highest in the HCAC.
Kimbler made 19 appearances in the circle and had 15 starts with five complete games. She posted an 8-6 overall record and pitched 84.2 innings.. She allowed 56 runs against, 45 earned, and posted a 3.72 ERA. Kimbler allowed 120 hits against 396 batters faced and recorded 14 strikeouts on the year.
Smith made 11 appearances with three starts and pitched 28.1 total innings. She posted a 0-1 record and had two saves on the season. She allowed 28 runs against, 19 earned, for a 4.69 ERA. Smith gave up 50 hits in 142 batters faced and tallied four strikeouts with only two walks given.
Defiance will return sophomores Ely King (Mechanicsburg/Northeastern), Rachel Wehrman (Fort Loramie/Minster) and Allison Barron (Ypsilanti, Mich./Heritage) who could battle for playing time at pitcher this season.
In addition to its returning players, the Yellow Jackets will also welcome eight new players to the program in freshmen Sydney Zeuch (Mason/Mount Notre Dame), Arianna Richards (Covington), Jessica Mello (Vermilion), Jennifer Deneau (Cement City, Mich./Addison), Brooke Gostomsky (Dayton/Covington), Mariah Huff (Galloway/Mogadore), Holley Heard (Akron/Springfield) and Jada Lopez (Leipsic).
The Yellow Jackets will open the 2017 season down in Kissimmee, Fla. where they will compete in the Rebel Spring Games from March 5-10. The first game will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, Mar. 5 against Montclair State (N.J.) University.