Pitching and defense go hand in hand in softball, and the Delaware Hayes High School team learned that last week.

Pitching and defense go hand in hand in softball, and the Delaware Hayes High School team learned that last week.

The Pacers, the defending OCC-Capital Division champions, lost to visiting Olentangy Orange 8-2 on April 18. Sophomore pitcher Mikayla Cooper struggled with her control and the defense struggled with its gloves.

Orange improved to 16-1 overall and 7-0 in league play. The Pioneers managed only two hits, but they used seven walks, two hit batters, five sacrifices and five Pacers errors to grab sole possession of first place in the OCC-Capital.

"Two years ago, we let a loss like this carry over and magnify, and we can't do that this season," said coach Mark Thomas, whose team fell to 6-1 in the OCC-Capital. "It's disappointing, but it's just one game and we have to go to their place to close league play (May 4). We have to bounce right back and get things going again. I don't think it will hurt our confidence much if we can bounce right back."

Delaware went 14-0 in the OCC-Capital last year to win its first league title since 2000. Hilliard Bradley (11-3) was runner-up and Orange (8-6) was third.

The Pacers had won seven in a row before losing to Orange.

After beginning the season 0-2, Thomas said the Pacers started to get comfortable as Cooper settled in.

"I think the first few games, we had girls in new positions in the infield and Coop thought a little too much about having to strike out every batter," Thomas said. "But as the defense began to relax and Coop began to relax, we started to turn things around and trust one another."

After that, Delaware surged. The Pacers allowed three or fewer runs in five consecutive games before playing Orange.

"We were playing a lot better defensively because we were just relaxing and playing," Thomas said. "Their instincts took over and they were having fun. I think Rebekah Hire has been solid at third base, Alaina Manor has been strong at shortstop and Lindsay Blair has been strong at second base. They were all making big plays behind Coop.

"For some reason, we played like the team with all the pressure (against Orange) instead of playing like the reigning (league) champions."

The team batting average was .406 through nine games, and the Pacers were averaging 8.3 runs over that span.

Cooper led the team in average (.678), home runs (3), runs (17), RBI (10), doubles (5), triples (2) and stolen bases (7). Center fielder Abbey Frey was hitting .600 with nine runs, nine RBI, three doubles and four stolen bases.

Others hitting well included Kaitlyn Woerner (.545, 8 RBI, 3 doubles), Chandler Fields (.370, 9 RBI) and Manor (.360).

"Abbey Frey and Chandler Fields have done a really nice job offensively," Thomas said. "They have really added some production to the lineup, adding to what Cooper and Woerner give us."

•After opening 7-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital, the baseball team has struggled.

The Pacers lost five of their next six, including a 10-4 decision to Big Walnut on April 18 to fall to 3-4 in league play before those teams met again April 20.

"We made six errors and (Big Walnut) took advantage of them," coach Mike Yinger said. "We're not pitching well and we're not playing well defensively, and that's a bad mix. What's frustrating is that this is the best team I ever had here physically. They can throw it, pick it and hit it. But they need to play to win as a team. This is the most frustrated I've been."

The Golden Eagles scored in every innings except the first and sixth. Both teams had nine hits, with Jacob Bosiokovic leading Delaware with a triple, home run and three RBI. Austin Terry singled, doubled and drove in a run in three at-bats.

"These guys know baseball inside-out, but they don't execute what they know," Yinger said. "There are times that they don't look like they know what they're doing. Until we decide we have to play to win and play the right way, it's going to be tough to snap out of this."

Through 15 games, Bosiokovic was among central Ohio leaders in average (.548), runs (14), RBI (19) and home runs (4). Connor Ulmer (.357, 13 runs, 4 doubles) and Noble Moore (.300) also were hitting above .300 for the Pacers, whose team average had dropped to .284 through 15 games.

Tyler Miller (2-1, 2.19 ERA) and Jake Wright (2-2, 3.04 ERA) led starting pitchers, with Moore (2-0, 0.00 ERA in 7 innings) and Bosiokovic (1-2, 1 save, 1.75 ERA in 8 innings) leading relievers.

It has been a difficult adjustment for the girls lacrosse team as it has gone from playing club and junior varsity teams to playing an all-varsity schedule in its second season.

The Pacers were 0-9 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Central heading into a non-league game against Columbus School for Girls on April 23. Delaware was 3-9-1 in its inaugural season.

"We realized this would be a rebuilding year for us," coach Brian Mollenkopf said. "We're going through growing pains right now. It's a little frustrating, but we're the new kids on the block going against experienced teams."

There have been good moments for the Pacers, but they have been unable to carry momentum through an entire game.

"We led Dublin Coffman in the first half (before losing 21-5 on April 16)," Mollenkopf said. "We pretty much held our own for a half, but then things fell apart. Coffman had superior defense and turnovers killed us. The Coffman coach told me afterward that we put a scare into them and their girls were somewhat flustered at halftime.

"Our girls are playing their hearts out and coming off the field tired, and that's a great sign. We're working real hard on fundamentals."

Mollenkopf said Jacquelene Mitchell, Emily Burkhart and Harlee Mollenkopf have played well recently.

"Mitchell has been phenomenal. She's averaging about 15 saves a game," coach Mollenkopf said. "Emily is our leader and gives it her all every time she touches the field. Harlee has become very aggressive, which is a surprise since she's usually quiet and reserved.

"I'd say that our program will be competitive in another two years when we have the girls from the youth program coming up into their junior seasons. That will mean that most of the girls by that time will have experience."