From her constant smile and overall glow, it's easy to tell how much senior Katy Watson of the Bexley High School softball team loves playing and talking about her sport.
In fact, not being able to play last season has made her appreciate even more the opportunity she has this spring.
Watson found herself in a dilemma last year as a student at Columbus Academy, which does not have a softball program. She played her first two years of high school softball at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix before moving to the Columbus area with her family during her junior year. Although she was able to play travel softball, she quickly realized that working out on the side with her father and lifting weights were not as fun as playing high school softball.
Things started to change for the better when John Wuorinen, the director of admissions at Academy, approached Watson at the beginning of this school year regarding a new bylaw passed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The bylaw allows a student enrolled in a non-public school that does not offer his or her extracurricular activity the opportunity to participate in that activity at the public school the student would otherwise attend.
The Watson family lives in Bexley, which created the unusual circumstance of an Academy student participating on a sports team at its rival.
"I knew that (Academy didn't have softball). I chose Academy because of the education. My parents have raised me that it is education first and softball second," Watson said. "When we looked at schools, we didn't know where we were going to live yet. ... So the problem was if we don't find a house in Bexley and we want to send my siblings and me to Bexley, we're kind of in trouble. We picked Academy because you can live anywhere and it's a phenomenal education."
Watson's addition to the Bexley softball program has been a perfect match so far. The 5-foot-6 right-hander had led the Lions to a 16-4 overall record, which also was her pitching record, entering an MSL-Ohio Division game May 5 against Grandview. The Lions were 7-3 in the league.
Bexley earned the third seed for the Division III district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Lions play host to seventh-seeded Northridge on Wednesday, May 14.
Through 18 games, Watson had a 1.46 ERA with 166 strikeouts in 115 innings. She also was batting .382 with 19 RBI.
"It has gone a lot better than I had expected. I've never been the kind of pitcher who starts a bunch of games and strikes a lot of people out," Watson said. "I have always been the relief pitcher who comes in to close out the game. I think stepping into this new role kind of scared me at the beginning, but after the first couple of games, I adjusted to it and have been loving it."
Watson also has dealt with some good-natured ribbing from classmates.
"If it's an away game, I'll leave class early and go and change," she said.
"I'm walking through the senior parking lot in my Bexley uniform and I get some looks and some people are like, 'Oh, you play for Bexley. I forgot about that.' One of my friends booed me. It was very funny for her."
Lions coach Rick Wemlinger knows how fortunate he is to have Watson on his team.
"She is just a good kid and she has got the work ethic," said Wemlinger, who announced before the season that he is retiring from coaching.
"This has been a very successful season for us. ... We would have competed out there, but her falling in our lap, we've enjoyed it."
It's worked out well for the Lions and for Watson, who plans to be a walk-on the softball team at Holy Cross.
"I'm so happy that this rule was put into effect. It's made my senior year so much better," she said. "I have lucked out teammate wise, competition wise (and) coach wise, definitely.
"I really owe it a lot to my teammates and to my coaches for making it such a phenomenal season."
Baseball team wins 11 consecutive games
The baseball team entered the week on an 11-game winning streak, its longest under fifth-year coach Tom Marker.
The Lions were 16-4 overall and leading the MSL-Ohio at 10-2 before their final two league games May 5 against Grandview and May 7 at Worthington Christian.
Bexley was seeking its first league title since 1999.
"Our guys have really bought into the process. We haven't talked much about the streak because the next team doesn't care about what you've done in previous games so we don't either," Marker said.
"I'm happy that we've been able to stay in the moment and the guys are really picking each other up and pulling on the same side of the rope.
"It's been fun."
Through 20 games, Marshall Drewry was 5-0 with a 2.94 ERA. Josh Shapiro was 3-2 with one save and a 2.57 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings, and he was hitting .338 with 16 RBI.
Tommy Bruning was 4-0, and Drew Elliott was 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA.
Ethan Bredemeier was batting a team-best .373 with 13 RBI and Alex Eikenberry was batting .340 with 16 RBI.
Bexley earned the third seed for the Division II district tournament and opens by playing host to 12th-seeded Granville or 13th-seeded Heath in the second round May 15.
Girls lacrosse team wins seven of eight
The girls lacrosse team picked up wins over Hartley on May 1 and Cincinnati Seton two days later and carried a 9-3 record into its game with Gahanna on May 6.
The Lions also finished 6-1 in the Central Independent League and had won seven of eight before facing Gahanna.
In the 17-7 league victory over Hartley, Samantha Bolon scored seven goals and Sarah Dawley had five.
Through 12 games, Bolon has 43 goals and Dawley had 41.
In a 12-6 win over Seton, Leslie Janco and Grace Rosenthal each had three goals and Grace Maley had two. Mimi Nahem stopped 13 shots.
The Division II South/Central Region tournament draw was held May 4.
The Lions play host to Chillicothe in the first round of the Division II South/Central Region tournament Monday, May 12. The winner plays host to Cincinnati McAuley or Cincinnati Wyoming in the second round May 15.
Boys lacrosse team on six-game skid
The boys lacrosse team has dropped six in a row and is 2-9 entering its home game Friday, May 9, with Gahanna.
The Lions fell 12-11 at Hilliard Bradley on April 30 and 15-5 at Hilliard Darby on May 2. Taylor Farthing had three goals in each of the games and Zach Welsh made 15 and 12 saves, respectively.
Girls basketball team to have new coach
When the girls basketball team starts the 2014-15 season, it will be under the direction of its third coach in as many years.
John Callahan guided the Lions to a 9-13 overall record and 9-5 mark in the MSL-Ohio in his only season.
"In Ohio, all coaches are hired on a one-year contract and every year the school board ... either renews your contract or they don't," he said.
"The school board decided not to renew my contract."
Before taking over at Bexley, Callahan was an assistant boys basketball coach at Hartley for 12 seasons.
He replaced for Jim Strode, who after four seasons left for Worthington Kilbourne.
"I would have liked to have had more than one year to work with the girls to get them to the next level," Callahan said.
"I think they can compete for the MSL-Ohio title next year."
The Lions lose just one senior from a team that won six of its final 10 games.
"I am thankful for the one year that I did have coaching the girls," said Callahan, who teaches at Davis Middle School in Dublin.
"They're a great group of young ladies to work with that have unlimited potential.
He said he plans to coach again "sometime in the future when the right situation presents itself."