The Hartley High School baseball team has been out to prove that its lack of recent CCL success and its poor start to this season aren't going to continue.
After struggles on the mound and poor defense caused them to lose their opener 16-2 to Newark on April 2 and after falling 12-9 to Dublin Scioto the next day, the Hawks found their rhythm heading into league play.
Hartley was 7-3 overall before opening league action April 22 against DeSales and playing league-foe Ready on April 23.
"We're better than we were last year," said coach Morgan Assmann, whose team went 6-15 overall and 0-8 in the CCL last season. "We've shown signs of greatness and shown signs of weakness. We've got a chip on our shoulder after going 0-8 last year. We will definitely win a league game this year. Our motto is that we're 'all in.' We are putting everything on the table."
Part of the turnaround has been sparked by senior Luke Heinmiller.
Although he started and picked up the loss against Newark, he was 3-1 before the DeSales game. He pitched a four-hitter in an 8-1 win over Marion Harding on April 18.
Now in his fourth season on varsity and the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, Heinmiller plays second or third base when he's not pitching.
"The last few games we've been pretty happy," Heinmiller said. "We've been playing well and hitting the ball. I feel like we're more confident this year. We like to have fun, but we keep it serious at the same time. We're all good friends and that helps us play better.
"I feel like the first game was rough, but I've found it since then and have thrown strikes. I just have to make sure I'm being smooth with my delivery and throwing strikes."
Junior Andrew Gilliland has been another key starting pitcher. He bats leadoff and also plays second base.
Senior Caleb Lowell (C) bats cleanup, followed by sophomore Cameron Macioce (3B) and senior Sam Montgomery (OF).
Sophomore Adam Lowe (SS) has been another key offensive contributor while batting ninth.
"Defensively, with Sam Montgomery in center, (junior) Drew Onega in left and (senior) Alex Rupert in right, we've been solid," Assmann said.
Close losses, injuries hurting softball team
The softball team had lost five games by one run and one game by two runs and was 7-7 overall and 1-1 in the CCL before playing DeSales on April 22 and Ready on April 24.
On April 18, the Hawks fell to Pickerington Central 8-7, but they bounced back by beating Whitehall 15-9 and Hilliard Darby 11-5 at home April 20.
In addition to its struggles in tight games, Hartley has two freshmen in its lineup because of injuries.
"We've had some really odd injuries and some concussions," coach Meghan Zuercher said. "(Junior outfielder) Mariah Rock is out of the lineup. Earlier in the season I would have said that we were making way too many errors, but our defense is definitely improving."
Senior Allie Smith (CF) and juniors Kristen Culbertson (3B), Cassie Plageman (C) and Sidney Melton (SS) all have been key contributors on offense.
The Hawks are playing without senior Anna Kirk, an Ohio State signee who has been out all season with a knee injury but could return late in the season as a designated player.
"Allie Smith has had a tremendous start to the year," Zuercher said. "It's really refreshing to see a kid work that hard and be rewarded. She's had a lot of extra-base hits and has made some great defensive plays. Cassie Plageman has had a tremendous year."
Boys tennis team battles low numbers
With just four players out, the boys tennis team knows it will be difficult to win many matches this season.
The Hawks were 0-4 before playing Fisher Catholic on April 22.
"We are short on players," said first-year coach Naveen Das, who was the junior varsity coach at Reynoldsburg last season. "They're all very good kids. The biggest issue is finding guys to play in matches."
Senior Steph Toone is playing first singles, with junior Andrew Nouanesengsy at second singles.
The other players on the team are seniors Stu Burkett and Tyler Shaffer.
The Hawks opened with losses to CCL-foe St. Charles (3-0 on April 9), Grandview (3-0 on April 15), Madison Christian (2-1 on April 18) and Grove City (3-0 on April 19). Their league match against Ready on April 16 was postponed.
Last year, Hartley went 0-12 overall and 0-4 in the CCL under former coach Mike Graham, who stepped down after his 14th season. DeSales was first in the league at 4-0, followed by St. Charles (3-1), Watterson (2-2) and Ready (1-3). The Hawks didn't have any players advance to the Division II district tournament.