Sam Price singled to right-center field to score Zach Barnum with the winning run, capping a three-run seventh inning as the host Whetstone High School baseball team stunned Briggs 4-3 to capture the City League championship May 22.
It was the Braves' third consecutive City title, and all three have come at the expense of the Bruins. Whetstone won the City championship game 5-0 last season and 17-7 in 2012.
"To win three City titles in a row is amazing and it came against a great team," coach Tim Broskie said. "(Briggs) had eight senior starters back from last season and I think almost all of them were in the lineup as sophomores. They have kept this group together and they've been pointing to this City championship for some time now.
"We kept in the game and then these guys executed when they had to do it or lose it."
With the Braves trailing 3-1, Matt Way led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk and Chris Hutchings followed with a single. Way then scored on the back end of a double steal, John Jannazo drew a walk and Barnum singled to left-center field to drive in Hutchings with the tying run
Then, after the Bruins intentionally walked clean-up hitter Quentin Pruneau to load the bases, Price failed to bunt on a suicide squeeze attempt and Jannazo was out at the plate. However, Price delivered the winning hit on an 0-2 pitch.
"There were over 230 people there I was told," Broskie said. "It was an incredible atmosphere, almost like a football game. I got 26 texts and phone calls throughout the day and most were from former players wishing us well. It was so exciting for these kids and anyone who was here. We've won (44 consecutive City-North) games and I think we've won 48 in a row against City League teams and to keep the streak alive with a finish like that is remarkable."
Whetstone finished 20-4 overall and 14-0 in the City League-North Division. The Braves, who were seeded 19th of 45 teams in the Division I district tournament and lost to 31st-seeded Canal Winchester 7-1 in the first round May 12, lose four seniors in Hutchings (CF), Jannazo (P/3B/LF), Jason Bigam (OF/P) and Justin Stern (1B/P).
"We have four seniors and all of them will be missed big time," Broskie said. "They have all worked so hard in the offseason to improve and to help make this season a success. Jannazo will be very difficult to replace because he had such a great year on the mound. We'll need some pitching to step up next year."
Jannazo was 7-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 52 2/3 innings and had a .320 batting average with 30 runs, 13 RBI and a team-best 27 stolen bases. Hutchings batted .429 with two home runs, 28 runs, 20 RBI and 25 steals. Stern hit .315 with 23 runs and 17 RBI.
Expected returnees include juniors Eric Kavinsky (P/1B), Jake Sebetich (C), Marcus Shaffer (RF), Pruneau (P/INF) and Way (OF) and sophomores Nick Hall (P/2B), Barnum (2B/P) and Price (P/SS).
Price led the team in hitting (.444), doubles (6) and RBI (36) and scored 32 runs. Barnum (.423, 33 runs, 27 RBI), Pruneau (.422, 31 runs, 15 RBI), Shaffer (.405, 5 doubles, 19 RBI) and Way (.404) also were among the team's offensive leaders. Kavinsky (.437), Sebetich (.289) and Hall (.281) also were contributors, but in limited at-bats.
On the mound, Pruneau (2-2, 1 save, 3.17 ERA in 28 2/3 innings) was the team's No. 2 starter behind Jannazo. Other key pitchers were Hall (2-0, 0.87 ERA in 16 innings), Price (3-0, 2.62 ERA in 10 2/3 innings) and Kavinsky (2-0, 0.70 ERA in 10 innings).
"We will return six starters and 13 lettermen (next year)," Broskie said. "We should be solid, but we must continue to improve. Centennial and Northland will both be very good and both return their top two pitchers, which could make them hard to be beaten in league play."
McLemore leaps to regional track meet
Bianca McLemore of the girls track and field team qualified for the Division I regional meet that began May 28 and concludes Friday, May 30, at Pickerington North.
The junior finished fourth in the long jump (16 feet, 6 1/2 inches) in the district 3 meet held May 21, 22 and 24 at Hilliard Darby, as the top four finishers in each district event advanced to regional.
McLemore was the lone regional qualifier for the boys or girls teams during the first two days of district competition.
The top four finishers in each regional event advance to state June 6 and 7 at Ohio State.
Seniors had good run for softball team
Despite finishing with a winning record, softball coach Larry Peck can't help but feel disappointed about the season.
Whetstone finished 12-10 overall and went 12-2 in the City-North to place second behind Centennial (14-0). The Braves, who were aiming for their third consecutive City-North title, were seeded 37th of 45 teams in the Division I district tournament and lost to 25th-seeded Westerville North 5-0 in the first round May 13.
"We weren't able to piece things together to have a chance to defend our City championship," Peck said. "We were competitive in the City-North but did not win a non-league game. I know we were better than that. But for many reasons, we just never got in a flow."
The Braves lose six seniors in Mara Diaz (C), Katie Elekes (RF), Liz Jackson (1B), Maddy O'Malley (CF), Emily Tuttle (1B/designated player) and Val Vokac (3B).
"The senior group has meant so much to our program," Peck said. "I am glad they won the City League championship twice and got to experience that feeling. I wish we would have sent them off as three-time champions. They were great players, the backbone of our team who gave good effort and were integral parts of our team for several years."
Vokac (.431, 4 doubles, 3 triples, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 20 runs) Tuttle (team-high 22 RBI), Diaz (21 RBI) and Jackson (2 HR) were among the team's offensive leaders.
Expected returnees include juniors Rita Knasel (2B) and Maddie Wilming (P), sophomores Ila Boley (OF) and Ryleigh Porter (P) and freshman Bailey Waitkus (SS).
Waitkus batted .411 with three home runs, three triples, 27 runs and 19 RBI. In the circle, Wilming was 7-8 with a 3.89 ERA and Porter was 4-2 with a 2.50 ERA.
"There are some talented players to replace, but we'll have experienced pitching back and Bailey Waitkus should be one of the better players in the district with a year under her belt," Peck said. "We have an outstanding group of freshmen who should make a major contribution if they put in the work during the offseason."
City title highlighted boys tennis season
Highlighting the season for the boys tennis team was its first City championship since 2006.
Whetstone finished 9-3 overall and 5-0 in the City-North and defeated Columbus West 3-2 in the City championship match May 8. The Braves had lost to the Cowboys in the previous two City finals, falling 3-2 in 2012 and last year.
"I am extremely pleased with the season," coach Bucky Walters said. "Our goal was to be City League champs after taking second place the past two years, and the guys got it done."
Whetstone competed in a Division I sectional May 16 and 17 at Upper Arlington. While the Braves didn't have any players finish in the top four to advance to district May 23 and 24 at Hilliard Davidson, all of their competitors won at least one sectional match.
The doubles team of sophomore Akeem Adesiji and junior Quentin Pruneau fell one win shy of a district berth, as it lost to fourth-seeded Tyler Holsopple and Anthony Yang of UA 6-0, 6-0 in a district-qualifying match.
Also competing at sectional were seniors Matthew Ray and Tonny Michel and sophomore Winfield Slocum in singles and the doubles team of senior Drew Gabalski and junior Alex Embaie.
Whetstone loses four seniors, including Jean Pleitz, but expects to return four players who competed in the sectional as well as sophomore Eoghan Dempsey and freshmen Brent Buterbaugh and Alex Park.
"(The seniors) were a group of easy going, fun, responsible, unassuming young men who put forth the effort and offseason training necessary to lead this team to a City League championship," Walters said. "We will need a couple guys to step up and assume the top two singles spots next year, and we need to add more guys to the team in order to continue with a (junior varsity) feeder program."