DEFIANCE, OHIO - The Defiance College Yellow Jackets notched a third place finish last season in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference action and will look to remain among the top in 2018 returning a wealth of experience. The Purple and Gold return 12 letter winners from last season's squad that finished 25-17 overall, 10-5 in conference action.
"Last season we had key players step in and perform in huge ways for us at the plate and we will definitely need that momentum to continue to this season. We return an incredible amount of offensive production at the plate and we have some newcomers that look promising through this preseason. The key, as always, is staying consistent and that's where our experience we return will be huge," stated head coach Jodie Holava.
The Yellow Jackets will look to be led this season by junior Jordan Osborne (Delaware/Rutherford B. Hayes), senior Sarah Kaya (Lorain/Clearview), senior Libby Leach (Cheshire/River Valley), junior Michaela Bauer (Hicksville), senior Haley Patty (Bradford), junior Jackie Hartman (Parma/Padua Franciscan) and HCAC Freshman of the Year Brooke Gostomsky (Dayton/Covington).
The Yellow Jackets return six outfielders, including four of their top performers in Osborne, senior Kaity Kuhn (Celina), sophomore Arianna Richards (Covington), and sophomore Jessica Mello (Vermilion).
Osborne, a Second Team All-HCAC and Tournament Team selection, appeared and started in 36 games for DC. The junior finished the season ranked second in plate appearances (124), hits (48), stolen bases (6) and batting average (.387). She tallied a team-best 33 runs with 57 total bases. The Tom Bohlsen Academic All-HCAC award recipient has recorded 74 putouts, while posting a career .975 fielding percentage.
Kuhn played in 42 games with 41 starts for Defiance last season. She tallied 34 hits in 116 at-bats with five doubles and nine runs scored. The senior had 12 RBI, 16 sacrifice bunts and recorded 39 total bases for a .336 slugging percentage. The two time All-Academic selection has seen action in 110 career games with 54 putouts.
Richards and Mello will also look to play a much larger role in 2018. Richards appeared in 24 games with 10 at-bats and six runs, while Mello saw action in 36 games with 52 at-bats. The outfielder tallied 14 hits, four runs and ranked first on the team in stolen bases with five.
"Any time you return all but two starters in a group you set the standard to do some pretty great things early. We made some huge strides last season defensively and people adapted very well to being in some new unfamiliar positions," said Holava. "In our championship years, we prided ourselves on our defense and we know that's ultimately where games are won."
The Purple and Gold welcome a veteran squad to the infield returning seven top performers. At first base, Defiance will look to Bauer and sophomore Mariah Huff (Galloway/Mogadore). Bauer saw most of the action for DC last season appearing in 41 games with 40 starts. She tallied 281 putouts and 22 assists for a .990 fielding percentage. Bauer also found success at the plate recording 23 hits, five doubles and two homeruns.
Patty and Hartman will look to lead the middle infield this season. Patty saw action in all 42 games as the starting short stop. The Tom Bohlsen Academic All-HCAC selection recorded 84 putouts and 82 assists for a .883 fielding percentage. The senior tallied 29 hits, 18 runs, 10 RBI and four stolen bases.
Hartman will look to take a majority of the reps at shortstop appearing in 42 games for the Purple and Gold. The Second Team All-HCAC selection had 104 putouts during the 2017 campaign with 100 assists for a .981 fielding percentage. She also deemed clutch at the dish recording 37 hits, seven doubles and a team-best nine homeruns tying the school single-season record. The junior also led the team with 41 RBI and 71 total bases.
On third base, Defiance will look to HCAC Freshman of the Year Gostomsky. The First Team All-HCAC and All-Tournament team selection played in 41 games with 38 starts for DC. Gostomsky finished the season ranked second on the team in runs scored with 25, second in doubles with nine, tied for first in triples with three, and second on the team in home runs with two. She led the team with a .571 slugging percentage and tallied nine sacrifice hits. Defensively, the sophomore earned 28 putouts and 44 assists for a .947 fielding percentage.
Freshman Emma Perry (Bowling Green/Otsego) will look to pilot the defense from behind the plate, joined by senior Libby Leach (Cheshire/River Valley) and junior Rebekah Groden (North Olmsted). Leach saw action in 23 games with 29 at-bats with six hits and three RBI, while Groden made one appearance recording one hit.
The Yellow Jacket pitching staff returns in full force led by senior Sarah Kaya (Lorain/Clearview). Also returning for the Purple and Gold are sophomore Sydney Zeuch (Mason/Mount Notre Dame), junior Jamie Kimbler (Huber Heights/Wayne), junior Rachel Wehrman (Fort Loramie/Minster), and senior Sydni Smith (Jackson, Mich./Lumen Christi).
"Returning every member of an already deep pitching staff is definitely exciting," added Holava. "All of our pitchers bring a little something different to the mound to be able to produce outs. Sarah Kaya has obviously been a serious mainstay in the circle for us and we are looking forward to her last year. Any time you have five pitchers returning with substantial innings you expect big things."
Kaya made 25 total appearances, with 21 starts, including 18 complete games and three shutouts. The senior tallied a team-best 146.1 innings pitched and her 81 strikeouts ranked her fourth in the HCAC. The First Team All-HCAC and Tom Bohlsen Academic All-HCAC honoree surrendered 46 earned runs on 171 hits for a team-leading 2.20 ERA.
Zeuch saw action in 12 games with five starts for DC. The sophomore recorded three wins in the circle with two saves and one complete game. She tallied 44.2 innings of work with nine strikeouts, allowing 27 runs for a 2.82 ERA.
Kimbler, Honorable Mention All-HCAC, made 17 appearances with 12 starts. She posted a 6-2 record through 71.2 innings pitched. The junior threw four complete games, allowing 40 runs, 31 earned for a 3.03 ERA.
Wehrman returns after making one appearance in relief pitching 3.0 shutout innings. The junior earned her first win on Apr. 17 against Calvin (Mich.) College. Smith appeared in six games with 9.2 innings of work surrendering three earned runs.
Defiance will also welcome nine new players to the program in sophomore Madi Baker (Kettering/Fairmont) and freshman Kayla Kuzminski (Kettering/Fairmont), Taylor Biggs (Cincinnati/Oak Hills), Hali Geraci (Springboro), Macy Bowling (Findlay), Jen Nashalsky (Galloway/Hilliard Bradley), Erin Breece (Hamler/Patrick Henry), A.Mia Brewer (Saginaw, Mich./Bridgeport) and Perry.
"Building off a successful season last year has been a lot of fun this preseason. We truly have a very selfless group that makes coming into training every morning a genuine joy," said Holava. "The HCAC is hands down one of the most competitive softball conferences in the country and any team could take the crown on any given year. Our Florida schedule could quite possibly be the toughest we've played in years and that will definitely help prepare us. Our preseason has been extremely productive and that is a true testament to all the hard work the players put in year round."
The Yellow Jackets open the 2018 season with their annual spring break trip to Kissimmee, Fla. where they will compete in the Rebel Spring Games from March 4-9. Defiance will open the season with Illinois College on Sunday, March 4 at 3:45 p.m.