The Whetstone High School softball team is optimistic about its chances of earning a third consecutive City League championship.
"The experience the seniors bring will be our strength," eighth-year coach Larry Peck said. "We are very flexible with many players able to play two or three positions. We also look to be very fast and we have a great freshman class. As the season goes along, the freshmen may be challenging for playing time and at-bats in critical games. We also could be an excellent defensive team."
Last season, Whetstone finished 19-8 overall and finished first in the City League-North Division at 14-0, ahead of runner-up Centennial (12-2). The Braves beat Briggs 6-2 in the City championship game.
Expected to lead the way this season are six seniors, including five returning starters in Mara Diaz (C), Katie Elekes (RF/CF), Liz Jackson (1B/3B), Maddy O'Malley (OF/SS) and Val Vokac (3B/SS). The other senior is Emily Tuttle (DP/1B).
"They have all done a great job to date and will all be in key positions in the batting order with expectations of getting on base, scoring runs or driving in runs," said Peck, whose team opened March 31 with a City-North game against Columbus East.
Other returning letterwinners are juniors Rita Knasel (2B/OF/DP), Maddie Wilming (P/SS/LF) and Katherine Wilson (2B/3B/OF).
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Ryleigh Porter (P/2B) and Ila Boley (LF) and freshman Bailey Waitkus (SS/OF/P).
Peck expects Wilming, Porter and Waitkus to handle the majority of the pitching.
"We're relatively unproven at several positions," Peck said. "We are looking good at pitcher, but that is in the gym and practice, which has to carry over to games. We have to figure out second base and left field. Several players will get a look at those positions early in the season. We also will have to figure out a consistent batting order to maximize our offense."
Baseball team relying on young players
The baseball team is looking to win its third consecutive City championship despite having lost eight starters from last season to graduation.
Whetstone, which finished 17-8 overall and 14-0 in the City-North a year ago, entered its season and league opener against East on March 31 riding a 30-game winning streak against City opponents.
"Seven of eight returning lettermen have some varsity experience as a pitcher, so that will be very important," said 21st-year coach Tim Broskie, who entered the season with a 360-163 career record with the Braves. "The key thing will be how they handle being an every day starter instead of a backup or spot starter."
The lone returning starter is senior John Jannazo (P/LF/3B), who was 4-2 on the mound with a 2.17 ERA in 33 innings and batted .262 with 10 RBI and was named second-team all-league a year ago.
Other returning letterwinners are seniors Jason Bigam (P/OF), Chris Hutchings (CF/P) and Justin Stern (1B/P), juniors Quentin Pruneau (P/3B) and Jacob Sebetich (C) and sophomores Nick Hall (2B/P) and Sam Price (P/SS).
Last season, Price hit .444 with 11 RBI and was honorable mention all-league, and Pruneau (.400), Hall (.333) and Sebetich (.300) also were among the team's leading hitters. On the mound, Stern was 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 16 innings, Hutchings was 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 12 innings and Bigam was 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA.
Also vying for playing time are senior Shane Johnson (P/3B), juniors Eric Kainsky (1B/P) and David Stern (C ) and sophomore Zach Barnum (2B/P).
"The (players) worked very hard over the summer, fall and winter and have accepted every challenge that the coaches have given them," said Broskie, who has guided the Braves to 11 City-North titles and eight City championships during his tenure. "They aren't using the inexperience issue as a crutch. ... They want to continue to build on the success we've had the past two seasons."
Among the 2013 graduates were Ozzie McMahon (.529, 26 runs, 18 RBI, 24 stolen bases), Jonathon Griebel (.521, 34 runs, 28 RBI, 30 stolen bases), Steven Foster (.471, 31 runs, 35 RBI, 27 stolen bases), Cameron Thompson (.431, 20 runs, 23 RBI) and Robert Everetts (.396, 19 runs, 17 RBI).
Last year, Griebel was 8-2 with a 1.90 ERA, 63 strikeouts and 20 walks in 48 innings. He limited Briggs to two hits in the Braves' 5-0 win in the City championship game.
"Even though we are young and inexperienced, our goals remain the same -- win the North Division, win the City League (championship), earn a good seed (in the Division I district tournament) and advance far in the postseason," Broskie said.
Boys tennis team aiming for City title
The boys tennis team is taking aim at the City championship after having to settle for being runner-up to Columbus West the past two seasons.
Whetstone, which opened March 31 with a City match against Northland, lost only one of its top players from a year ago in 2013 graduate in Tyler Weisent, who played second singles.
Seniors Matthew Ray and Drew Gabalski are expected to be the top two singles players, with sophomore Winfield Slocum playing third singles.
Junior Quentin Pruneau and sophomore Akeem Adesiji are expected to play first doubles, and junior Alex Embaie will be paired with senior Tonny Michel or sophomore Eoghan Dempsey at second doubles, according to 11th-year coach Bucky Walters.
"We have good balance and team chemistry and the boys are hard workers who love the game," Walters said. "We want to win the close (matches) and stay focused despite the ups and downs in terms of our strength of schedule. We want to play to our ability and not to our opponent's ability."
Last season, Whetstone finished 12-4 overall and 10-1 in the City. The Braves beat West 4-1 during the regular season but lost to the Cowboys 3-2 in the City championship match.
Whetstone did not have any Division I district qualifiers a year ago.