After his team fell out of contention for the MSL-Buckeye Division title last week, Canal Winchester High School softball coach Randy Hinton challenged his players to step up their play.
The Indians lost league contests to Logan Elm (4-3 on April 30), Teays Valley (15-5 on May 1) and Circleville (2-0 on May 2) before bouncing back to beat Hamilton Township 17-3 in five innings in a league game May 3 and defeat Hartley 9-3 and West Jefferson 8-0 on May 4.
"We held a meeting after our loss to Teays Valley and talked about how our team seemed lackluster and how we needed to play with more intensity," Hinton said. "I told our players that we had to make a choice of whether we were going to pack it in or finish our season playing our best softball.
"The girls were still down (against Circleville), but they came to play against Hamilton Township and sometimes you just need one game where your offense explodes like that to get everyone's confidence and enthusiasm going in the right direction."
Against Hamilton Township, shortstop Kaleigh Whitlatch went 4-for-4 with 10 RBI, a grand slam, a two-run home run and a double and catcher Alyxis Moore hit a three-run home run and a solo home run.
"That win really picked our spirits up," Hinton said. "We were a different team after that."
Whitlatch went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and three runs against West Jefferson and drove in two runs against Hartley. Outfielder Raven Hamilton had two RBI against Hartley and West Jefferson and Moore had two RBI against Hartley.
"Kaleigh's having a great season and she had a big week," Hinton said. "Hartley was ranked sixth in (the) Division II (area coaches poll) and West Jefferson was ranked second in (the) Division III (area coaches poll last week), so those wins gave us a boost of confidence and got everyone back on a positive track."
The Indians have turned their focus toward trying to win their first Division I district title.
Last season, Canal Winchester was seeded 12th in the district and defeated Hilliard Darby 2-1 in the first round, Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 in the second round and sixth-seeded Marysville 5-0 in a semifinal before losing to third-seeded Pickerington Central 4-0 in a final.
The 21st-seeded Indians will open the Division I district tournament May 14 as host to 33rd-seeded Mount Vernon.
"We need to continue to hit with confidence and believe in ourselves," Hinton said.
Girls track team getting healthy
The girls track and field team welcomed back two key members in time for its biggest home meet of the season.
Joscelyn Powell and Julia Bloom both competed in the eight-team Milt Will Relays on May 4 after missing the previous three meets with foot injuries.
Powell and Bloom teamed with Gretchen Rosch and Kayanna Davie to win the 400-meter shuttle hurdle relay in a program-record 1 minute, 6.1 seconds and Bloom teamed with Taylor Smith and Megan Tamasovich to win the long jump relay in 45 feet, 3 inches.
Also placing first for Canal Winchester were Rosch, Rachel Mueller and Davie in the pole vault relay (26-0) and Chloe Palmer, Julia Cook, Cassidy Long and Joelle Zuberi in the 6,400 relay (23:40.1).
The Indians scored 89 points to finish second behind Pickerington Central (108).
"This is probably the healthiest our team has been since the indoor season and this was our best performance of the outdoor season thus far," coach John Bender said. "When you miss so much practice, it's hard to make it up very quickly, so Joscelyn and Julia aren't quite 100 percent yet, but they both did pretty well. And our distance girls are continuing to come on."
The boy team finished fourth (71) of eight teams in the Milt Will Relays, behind co-champions Pickerington Central (110) and Pickerington North (110).
Canal Winchester will conclude the regular season Saturday, May 11, in the Viking Invitational at Teays Valley.
In the event last year, the boys team finished third (121.5) of 11 teams, behind DeSales (167) and Watkins Memorial (130.5), and the girls squad finished first (207) of 12 teams, ahead of runner-up Watkins Memorial (105).
"We had a lot of fun competing in our relay meet, but our team is built to do better in invitationals with individual events, so I'm hoping to see us do even better at Teays Valley," Bender said.
Baseball team falls from league race
The baseball team went 2-5 last week, including three losses in MSL-Buckeye play.
The Indians dropped two league games against Logan Elm on April 30. They finished a contest that had been suspended April 8, losing 13-12, before falling 3-2 in the second game.
Canal Winchester bounced back to defeat Teays Valley 7-2 in a MSL-Buckeye game May 1, but it lost to Circleville 4-2 the next day to drop out of contention for the league title.
The Indians then beat Hamilton Township 6-5 in a league game May 3 before losing two games May 4, falling to St. Charles 9-4 and Hilliard Darby 6-2.
Kevin Ilich (OF/SS) had two RBI against both Teays Valley and Hamilton Township and Matthew Cunningham (3B) had three hits against both the Vikings and Rangers.
"Our hitting cooled off for the most part (last) week and we had a tailspin," coach Jay Bartos said. "We did hit the ball well in our wins."
The Division I district tournament draw was held May 5. The first- and second-round games will be played Monday, May 13, and Wednesday, May 15.