The Whetstone High School boys tennis team's quest to return to the City League championship match was still alive entering the week.
The Braves defeated Centennial 3-2 on April 22 and were 7-0 in the City before playing Walnut Ridge on April 29 and defending league champion Columbus West on May 1. The match against West had been scheduled for April 24 but was postponed because of bad weather.
West, which was 6-0 in the league before playing Northland on April 29, defeated the Braves 3-2 in the City final last season.
"Because we went to the City championship (match) last season, we lose any three-team tiebreaker this year," coach Bucky Walters said. "So we've got to basically go unbeaten this year to assure ourselves of getting back there."
Posting victories against Centennial were senior Tyler Weisent at second singles, sophomore Quentin Pruneau at third singles and freshmen Akeem Adesiji and Winfield Slocum at second doubles.
According to Walters, Weisent has gotten stronger as the season has progressed.
"He's our only senior starter and he's starting to come into his own right now," Walters said. "He has really picked up his game these past few weeks. He's making intelligent decisions and has become more of a leader. He's been a real bright spot for us.
"Tyler started the season at first doubles, but the light turned on and his confidence clicked. He's practicing better and playing harder and his game disrupts his opponents. He was down 2-1 in the first set against (Centennial's Slobodan Zecevic) and won 6-3, 6-3. We wrapped (the win over the Stars) up before the results on first singles and first doubles."
Walters also has been pleased with the play of Adesiji and junior Matthew Ray at first singles.
"Matthew has been very steady and Akeem is showing great enthusiasm and effort," Walters said. "Akeem had never played tennis before, but he's picking it right up and loving it. Those two guys, well a lot of our guys, are always over at the Park of Roses (tennis courts) on off days and weekends getting extra work in.
"Quentin Pruneau is a perfect fit for us as well. He's our utility guy and he has been solid at singles and doubles and does whatever we ask him to do. I expect (junior) Drew Gabalski to step up his game shortly, too. We're in a good spot and we're playing well. I just love the fact that these guys are willing to work and put in the extra time. That dedication is beautiful to see as a coach."
Softball team bounces back from slow start
After losing its first four games, the softball team won 12 of its next 14 and was 8-0 in the City League-North Division before playing Brookhaven on April 29.
"The slow start was a combination of a few things, including little practice outdoors, no indoor hitting, people playing out of positions because of (spring break) and we also were playing tough games against non-league opponents," coach Larry Peck said. "We've been playing very well since then."
One of the Braves' goals was to have a winning record against non-league opponents. They were 4-6 in non-league games after beating Westland 12-1 in five innings and losing to Dublin Scioto 3-2 in the Westland Classic on April 27.
Whetstone played another non-league opponent, Dublin Coffman, on April 30.
"Considering the first four non-league games were losses and we were playing with a jumbled lineup without our shortstop Lauren Peck, we didn't do too bad with that goal," coach Peck said. "We're hitting much better since that first week and our defense has been better with everyone back in their normal positions."
Whetstone had outscored its first eight league opponents 104-3, with all but one game ending by way of the mercy rule. The exception was a 5-3 win over Centennial on April 22.
"Our pitching has been outstanding, especially in the City League," coach Peck said. "Briana Clemens is 9-5 overall and Audrey Bollas has been phenomenal when she pitches, but we haven't used her much because she can't grip the ball in the colder weather. Madison Wilming also has done a nice job when she's been in the circle."
Through 14 games, outfielder Maddy O'Malley had a team-high .561 batting average, followed by second baseman Ali Adelsberger (.559), outfielder Katie Elekes (.395), catcher Mara Diaz (.368), outfielder/designated player Brenna Feltz (.348) and Clemens (.346).
Adelsberger had two home runs through 14 games.
"I think as a team we've done a much better job entering the batter's box with a hitting plan," coach Peck said. "I still think we'll get even better offensively when the temperatures warm up a bit. Defensively, I think the outfield has been doing really well and the infield has stabilized. Jasmyn Kennedy, Wilming and Elekes have all done well sharing time in left field. Kennedy made three very good plays in the doubleheader against Watkins Memorial (a 10-6 win and a 6-4 loss on April 20)."
Baseball team faces busy week in City
The baseball team reached the midway point of its City-North schedule without a loss, but it should find out how deep its pitching is this week.
Because of postponed and rescheduled games, Whetstone was expected to play league contests five days this week.
The Braves were 7-0 in the City-North before playing Brookhaven on April 29, Beechcroft on April 30 and Northland on May 1. They will play Thursday, May 2, at Columbus East and Friday, May 3, at Mifflin.
"We've finally got every one of our seven suspended players back from their five-game suspensions for curfew violations," coach Tim Broskie said. "We're getting back into the swing of things and we're really beginning to hit the ball very well.
"What happened during the suspensions was that we got a lot of young guys some good, quality playing time and two of them, Robert Everetts and Mike Lipster, took advantage and have stayed in our starting lineup. I can't say enough about how well they have stepped up and played."
Everetts (OF/DH) and Lipster (OF) are seniors who bat left-handed. Everetts was hitting .464 with 12 runs and 10 RBI through 11 games and Lipster was hitting .414 with seven runs, seven doubles and 11 RBI.
Seniors Steven Foster (1B) and Jonathon Griebel (SS/P), both of whom are three-year starters, have been leading the way for the Braves. Foster was hitting .419 with 15 runs, 19 RBI and 14 stolen bases and Griebel was hitting .645 with 16 runs, 15 RBI, 16 stolen bases, six doubles and two home runs.
"Foster just does such a great job of hitting the ball where it's pitched," Broskie said. "He's a terrific opposite-field hitter. Griebel just hits line drive after line drive. Both of them are in a groove right now.
"Griebel also is 4-0 on the mound, has a live arm and a good curveball."
The Braves won five of their first seven City-North games by the mercy rule. The exceptions were against Northland (8-7 on April 15) and Mifflin (9-0 on April 8).
Because Whetstone had to reschedule several postponed league games, it had to cancel non-league games against Watterson, Westerville South and Olentangy Orange.
"We'd like to get some non-league games in because those are challenges for us and we want to see how we stack up," said Broskie, whose team lost to Dublin Scioto 12-1 and 8-1 on April 27 in a non-league doubleheader.
The Braves' only remaining non-league game will be played May 10 at Worthington Kilbourne.
Volleyball team aims for strong finish
The boys volleyball team earned its first win April 23, beating Licking Heights 25-17, 25-21, 25-17, and coach Errole Rembert thinks the confidence that his players gained from the win and the remaining schedule should help the Braves conclude the regular season on a high note.
"Beating Licking Heights was a big confidence boost for the boys," Rembert said. "It didn't matter that both teams were winless. Because of our lack of experience and an early schedule that included some of the top OCC teams, we struggled at the start. But we should have a chance to win a few more matches and be competitive in almost every match from here through the end of the regular season."
Walters said his team has had trouble maintaining a consistent lineup because of injuries, illness and spring break.
"We've only had two matches where both of our setters (seniors Christian Cabreja and Caleb Christian) have been there and it's been tough for one of them to run the offense," he said. "So we're looking forward to finishing strong since we've taken some lumps early. I can't honestly say that we've played real bad. It's just that our lack of experience showed up against some of the good teams we were playing."
Rembert has been particularly pleased with the play of senior middle hitter N.D. Maston and senior outside hitter Martin Jesenko.
"N.D. is doing well with his blocking and hitting and Martin has played well all the way around and has been doing great at serving," Walters said.
Other key contributors have been middle blocker Edwin Amagnoh, outside hitters Ty Hamilton and Mitchell Tijerina and back-row specialist Akhmed Mongush, Walters said.