Bexley High School baseball coach Tom Marker likes where his team stands, and there's one reason why -- pitching.
"We want to be able to throw three pitches for strikes in any count," he said. "My pitching coach (Erik Williams) is outstanding. He's done a great job with these guys as far as calling pitches. He's had batters guessing constantly."
Before the Lions beat Lakewood 4-3 on April 26 in an MSL-Ohio Division game, Josh Shapiro was 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. Tyler Kondracke was 4-1 with a 4.55 ERA, and Marshall Drewry, Drew Elliott and Tate Hughes also had seen time on the mound.
Drewry went the distance in a 6-5, nine-inning loss to league-foe Heath on April 24, throwing just 89 pitches.
Shapiro has been the ace, facing some tough teams along the way.
"Josh goes out and battles for us," Marker said. "He throws a lot of strikes and allows his defense to make plays behind him.
"He's beaten Licking Valley, Lakewood and Granville. I think he's a bona fide No. 1, and that's what you have to have in the (district) tournament. I think we have that and he's big for us on the mound."
Marker was looking for a second pitcher to step up, and he said Kondracke has been getting the job done.
"He's 4-1 and yes, his ERA is up a little, but that's only because of two outings," Marker said.
Kondracke gave up seven earned runs in two-thirds of an inning against Olentangy Orange on April 13 and eight runs in four innings against Newark Catholic on April 16, but he had allowed one or no runs in every other appearance before April 26.
Marker has used Kondracke primarily in relief.
"What we usually do with him is we'll throw Josh in one game and Kondracke in relief," Marker said. "(Drewry), our No. 3, starts the next game with Kondracke in relief.
"Our goal is to have (Kondracke) throw two innings or less a game. Against (Sparta) Highland (in a 9-7 win April 23), we had to pull our pitcher (Elliott) after a third of an inning, so (Kondracke) had to throw six innings and then he couldn't pitch for a week."
Shapiro believes the pitching staff has grown collectively to the point where the individual members can help one another.
"We understand each other and if somebody has an off night we know how to pick them up," he said. "We know a lot about pitching, so we understand if there's something we need to fix we can help each other."
Every good pitching staff seemingly throws to a solid catcher, and Marker said he has one in junior Will Davis.
"His first year catching was last year, and he's lights out back there," Marker said. "The kids don't even call him Will, anymore. They call him 'Wall' Davis. He's been huge for our pitchers because they know they can bury that curveball or changeup and it won't get past him. He's a huge part of what we do."
"I have a ton of confidence in him back there," Shapiro said. "His blocking ability is unbelievable. He's like a brick wall back there."
The Lions were led in hitting before April 26 by outfielder Jimmy Kahan, who was batting .333, while Shapiro led with 16 RBI and 16 runs.
Bexley was 13-5 overall and 7-3 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Newark Catholic on April 29.
Strode leaves for Kilbourne
After four years coaching the girls basketball team, Jim Strode has taken the same position at Worthington Kilbourne.
Strode led the Lions to a 41-46 overall record, including 10-13 this past season. His lone winning season came in 2010-11, when the Lions went 13-8.
"I went through the process and interviewed with the athletic director (Jeff Todd) and a search committee and was offered the position (April 19)," said Strode, who lives in Worthington. "I wasn't looking to leave Bexley, but the opportunity to coach in the school district you reside was important to me."
He also is looking forward to working alongside Kilbourne boys basketball coach Tom Souder.
"He's been kind of a mentor to me since I moved to Columbus (from Wisconsin) in 2002," Strode said. "To have the opportunity to coach the other team there is appealing, as well."
Strode met with his former and future teams April 22.
"I think when you look at what we did as coaches (at Bexley), first and foremost it's always about building relationships, and I think those will be maintained," he said. "The kids who graduated through the program, or were up and coming, are still kids we hope to see play and stay in contact with. I think that the impact that we left with the program is going to be that we did everything we could to revitalize the program.
"I know the new coach, whoever that is, will have a table set for a successful run. The cupboard isn't bare."
Strode was the girls basketball coach at Centennial for five seasons before taking the Bexley job.
Kilbourne went 5-18 this past season under Steve Palmer.
Boys tennis team to face Academy
The boys tennis team won its first four MSL-Cardi-nal/Ohio matches before facing Fisher Catholic on April 30.
The Lions play host to Columbus Academy on Thursday, May 2, to close the league's regular-season schedule.
The league tournament is Saturday, May 4, at Academy.
A year ago, Bexley went 6-0 in the league in the regular season before losing to Academy in the league tournament to finish second in the overall standings behind the Vikings, who went 5-1 but had 36 points to the Lions' 35.
Boys lacrosse squad picks up two victories
Behind junior midfielder Cole Keny's seven goals, the boys lacrosse team earned its second win of the season with a 17-9 home victory over Wellington on April 24.
Two days later, the Lions won their third game with a 9-8 overtime victory over visiting Hilliard Darby. Senior midfielder Ethan Knisley scored four goals.
The Lions were 3-5 before playing Gahanna on April 29.