A tribute to YSHS 2020 senior athletes: softball and baseball
- Published: May 21, 2020
When Ohio school buildings were ordered to remain closed for the rest of the school year on April 20, the 2020 spring sports season for schools was canceled as well.
With the support of the Yellow Springs High School coaches, the News is highlighting all the spring sports senior athletes and their career accomplishments. This week, we complete our athlete profiles with the softball and baseball teams.
The Yellow Springs High School girls softball team was coming off of six victories last year and had a solid player at each position, according to Coach Jimmy DeLong. With a positive attitude and an impressive track record of improvement, the team was poised for a great season.
“Our prospects were looking really good,” Coach DeLong told the News recently. “Last year, we had a young team and to me they way overachieved because of their attitude. This year we were going to improve even more. Next year I’m even more excited.”
Two returning seniors, catcher Rebecca Spencer and third-baseman Zoe Lafferty, were set to have their best-ever seasons, according to DeLong.
Rebecca Spencer was the YSHS softball team’s leadoff batter, playing both catcher and second base since joining the team as a sophomore, and a two-year captain. Spencer’s best season, last year, culminated in being named to the second team of the Metro Buckeye Conference. The then junior was ninth in the conference in batting average with a .452; ninth in stolen bases, with 16; and 10th in the league with a .622 on-base percentage.
Coach DeLong reflected on how Spencer hadn’t played softball before going out for the high school team and didn’t even own a glove, yet immediately volunteered to play catcher, a position that requires mental and physical toughness, confidence and a strong arm, DeLong said. As lead-off, Spencer demonstrated a quick bat, good speed and smart baserunning. “Spencer,” as known to teammates, was “big in heart” and “big in talent,” DeLong said.
Zoe Lafferty was the only four-year senior on the softball team and the last remaining player from the 2017 team that went undefeated in the conference. She’s a three-year varsity letter winner and two-year captain who was selected to the first team in the league after outstanding play last year. She ended the 2019 season second in the MBC in stolen bases, with 27, fifth in the conference in batting average (.532) and sixth in on-base percentage (.645).
Lafferty didn’t play much as a freshman on the championship team, but showed perseverance and dedication to improving her game so that, by the end of her sophomore year, she was starting at third base, according to DeLong. Lafferty ended her YSHS softball career on a high note, in what turned out to be her best game. In an upset of Middletown Christian at Gaunt Park, Lafferty went three of four, scored three runs and had four stolen bases. Recalling a game in which Lafferty made a throwing error before volunteering to be replaced, DeLong said, “she’s that kind of person — she thinks about other people more than herself.”
First-year coach Mitch Clark was looking forward to working with YSHS athletes to improve their skills, and to compete in the league after several rebuilding years.
“As a coach, wins are nice but the most enjoyment I get is to see the development both in the game’s knowledge, skills and abilities but most importantly, in the maturation of the student athletes,” Clark wrote in an email to the News. “I am very disappointed to not have the opportunity to continue to coach these young men in high school baseball, but am thrilled that I had the opportunity to meet and develop a relationship with them. Thanks, seniors!”
JJ Bledsoe was in his second year as a Bulldog baseball player. In his junior year, he had nine at bats in five games. This year, he was determined to identify and work on his areas for improvement, according to Coach Clark. Bledsoe asked for help and showed up for practice early to work on his throwing, Clark added. “He was making great progress in all areas of his game and was a model for his teammates,” he wrote.
Dyllon VanHoose was in his first year on the YSHS baseball team. He joined his two brothers, Noah and Shawn, and was determined to show everyone he could play. VanHoose surprised Coach Clark when he asked to work to become a pitcher, and showed great promise in the position. VanHoose worked hard on the mound and at the plate.
Romel Phillips was primed to be a major contributor to the 2020 version of Bulldog baseball. Phillips is a natural athlete and also a natural leader, Clark reflected. “He led our squad in warmups as one of the captains and the entire team followed his capable lead,” he said. As a senior left-handed pitcher in his second year with the program, coaches had high expectations as he honed his pitching skills with pitching coach Sam Jacobs and his hitting with hitting coach Phil Renfro. In his final season, Phillips was set to improve on his .286 batting average and six games pitched as a junior. “Romel is a genuine and respectful young man with great potential in life,” Clark said.
Colton Bittner was in his fourth season as a Bulldog and in his first as a co-captain. He pitched in nine games over the course of his Bulldog career and was ready to take a lead role as another left-handed senior starting pitcher. Bittner’s hitting improved each year as he played in 13, 17 and 15 games over his first three years, culminating in a .310 on-base percentage in his junior year. According to Clark, Colton loves the game and has played since Yellow Springs Youth -Baseball.
Jasiah Zinger-Mitchell embodies the program’s philosophy of respect, effort, accountability and perseverance, according to Clark. “His is an amazing story of what I would consider to be a non-traditional player,” Clark reflected. “When I first met him, he had long hair, barely spoke, couldn’t throw and didn’t know how to hold the bat. Fast forward a few years and you are looking at a hitter.” Zinger-Mitchell played 13, 15 and 15 games over his three years on the team, improving his average from .000 to .120 to .361. According to Clark, he listened intently to every piece of instruction and went to work applying it. “He has matured into a respected hitter and a truly nice young man,” Clark noted.