Big Walnut High School baseball coach Chris Holly was pleasantly surprised by how things unfolded during the Division II district tournament draw May 5.
The Golden Eagles are seeded fifth of 26 teams and have a first-round bye. They will play host to 15th-seeded Caledonia River Valley or 23rd-seeded Mifflin in the second round Thursday, May 16.
Big Walnut defeated River Valley 6-4 and 5-3 in a doubleheader April 20 but has not played Mifflin this season.
"We weren't expecting (to be seeded that high)," Holly said. "I think it had a lot to do with the league we play in. There's some good teams in (our district bracket). There's (top-seeded) Granville and (two-time defending state champion and 11th-seeded) DeSales, (ninth-seeded Sparta) Highland and (seventh-seeded) Hamilton Township, too.
"If we play well, I think we can get through."
The second-round winner will play Highland, DeSales, 19th-seeded Brookhaven or 20th-seeded Whitehall in a district semifinal May 20 at Hamilton Township. The semifinal winner likely would face Granville or Hamilton Township in a final May 22 at Beavers Field in Lancaster.
Big Walnut, which was seeded third last season and advanced to a district final before losing to DeSales 2-1, wrapped up the regular season with a pair of OCC-Capital Division wins over Franklin Heights.
The Golden Eagles beat the Falcons 16-2 on May 6 and 14-3 in five innings May 8 to improve to 15-11 overall and finish 7-7 in the OCC-Capital.
Senior pitcher Cole Harbin got the win in the first game against Franklin Heights, scattering eight hits with six strikeouts to improve to 4-4 on the mound. Senior Alex Clark allowed only two hits in the second game to improve to 3-3.
Junior outfielder Jeremy Bok and senior infielder Joey Woerner each had four hits and four runs in the two-game series, and senior catcher Kyle Duncan had three hits and three runs.
"It's a good momentum builder for the tournament," Holly said. "It made us .500 in the league and sent some of the seniors out on a good note."
Softball team receives fifth seed in district
The softball team is seeded fifth of 27 teams in the Division II district tournament and will play host to 27th-seeded Columbus South in the first round Monday, May 13.
The winner will play 12th-seeded Centennial or 13th-seeded Bexley in the second round Wednesday, May 15, at the higher seed. The second-round winner will face fourth-seeded Granville, eighth-seeded Hartley or 23rd-seeded Columbus East in a district semifinal May 21 at Pickerington Central.
If Big Walnut advances to a district final May 25 at Pickerington Central, it likely would face top-seeded River Valley or seventh-seeded Jonathan Alder.
"I felt we were going to be a four or five seed going in," coach Jeff Hatfield said of the tournament draw held May 5. "It was interesting to see where the teams went. River Valley went (to the) top (of the bracket). So did Granville. We followed.
"I feel comfortable about our draw. It's been an up-and-down season for us. There are games we've been lights-out and there are games we've given away. But if we play our game, we can play with just about anybody."
Big Walnut, which was seeded eighth last season and lost to third-seeded Licking Valley 10-5 in a district semifinal, has not played South, Bexley, Centennial, Granville, Hartley, East or River Valley this season. The Golden Eagles defeated Jonathan Alder 2-1 on April 20.
Big Walnut was 16-8 overall and 8-5 in the OCC-Capital before playing Olentangy Orange on May 10.
The Golden Eagles defeated Westerville South 4-0 and Thomas Worthington 10-2 on May 4 before losing to Westerville Central 2-1 on May 7. They bounced back to beat Franklin Heights 6-5 on May 8.
Through 23 games, left fielder Shaye Kuhlman was batting .500 with 17 RBI, 26 runs and 10 stolen bases, right fielder Brooke Hatfield was hitting .434 with 25 RBI and 11 runs, third baseman Hayley Apple was hitting .301 with 25 RBI, four home runs and 22 runs, shortstop Shelbie Borchers was batting .385 with 13 RBI and 16 runs, center fielder Katelynn Cheadle was hitting .344 with 12 RBI, 19 runs and six stolen bases and first baseman/catcher Krysten Chadwick was batting .283 with 14 RBI, 18 runs and four home runs.
In the circle, Kate Petty was 8-6 with a 1.93 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 87 innings and Allie Walker was 7-2 with a 3.19 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 62 innings.
Tennis team prepares for sectional tourney
The boys tennis team will play host to Jonathan Alder on Wednesday, May 15, before competing in the Division I sectional tournament Thursday, May 16, and Saturday, May 18, at Hilliard Davidson.
At sectional, juniors Jesse Rines and Scott Bailey and sophomore Isaiah Kolb will play singles, seniors Jeff Tribble and Sean Tribble will comprise one doubles team and juniors Logan Adams and Grant Burks will comprise the other.
In the first round at sectional, Rines will play Hilliard Bradley's Nizam Hussain, Kolb will face Bradley's Will Kolenky and Bailey will play Delaware Hayes' Nathan Bonfiglio.
The Tribble brothers have a first-round bye and will face Marysville's Hunter Cox and Devin Syar in the second round. Adams and Burks also have a first-round bye and will play Bradley's Parker Holland and Prit Patel or Hilliard Darby's E.J. Graf and David Kim in the second round.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 24 and 25 at Davidson.
"We put our top four players together in doubles thinking we'd have a better shot at getting through to districts," coach Ryan Balaz said. "But every other coach had the same idea. It's a really competitive doubles bracket, but I feel confident with our draw. We've got a good chance at making it to the (district-)qualifying round."
Big Walnut's lone district qualifier last season was 2012 graduate Nathan Randall. He went 4-1 and placed third at sectional before losing to Gahanna's Canyon Teague 6-2, 6-3 in the first round at district.
Big Walnut lost to Buckeye Valley 5-0 on May 8 but improved to 6-11 overall with a 5-0 win over River Valley on May 9.
"It was a lot closer than the score indicates," Balaz said of the match against Buckeye Valley. "We lost tiebreakers (on three courts). Buckeye Valley is having a really strong year."
The Golden Eagles finished 3-4 in OCC-Capital matches. They competed in the league tournament May 11 at Olentangy.
"If we can keep playing like we have been, I feel confident we can keep building on it going into sectionals," Balaz said.
Girls lacrosse team ends losing streak
The girls lacrosse team ended a 32-game losing streak and a 34-game winless streak by defeating host Chillicothe 16-14 on May 9.
Big Walnut's previous victory was a 10-9 win over Pickerington Central on May 2, 2011.
Junior attacker Cynthia Grether led the way against Chillicothe with eight goals and sophomore midfielder Kelsey Bowling scored four. Freshman goalkeeper Madelyn Wecker had 13 saves.
The Golden Eagles, who improved to 1-13 overall, will open the Division II North/Central Region tournament in the second round Thursday, May 16, at Rocky River. Both teams have a first-round bye.
The winner plays at top-seeded Chagrin Falls, Bay Village Bay or Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in a regional semifinal May 21, with the winner of that contest advancing to a regional final May 23.
Big Walnut lost to Granville 11-3 on May 7.