It took until the program's sixth season, but finally the day has arrived when the Central Crossing High School softball team will play Grove City.
At 1 p.m. Saturday at Westland the Comets and Greyhounds will face each other as two of six teams competing in the Westland Classic, which starts Friday.
"I think that will be great," Grove City coach Ted Williams said. "It's something we tried to put together a couple of years ago."
In previous years this weekend had been reserved for the Ready Spring Classic, but the Silver Knights will spend Friday and Saturday at Ohio State competing in the Stellar Classic. Both Central Crossing and Grove City were regulars at Ready's event, but never played each other.
During Central Crossing's first five years, Grove City has been the South-Western City School District's best team, having won a Division I district title last year and finishing as a district runner-up in 2003. The Comets, on the other hand, consistently have finished with a winning percentage near .500 with a program-best 14-13 record in 2006 -- and they've never advanced past a district semifinal.
But after a 7-2 start, aided by the record-setting pitching of senior Carolyn McIntosh and the combination of senior shortstop Kristen Atzenhoefer and junior third baseman Whitney Fullen, both in the field and at the plate, the Comets are on pace to shatter their 2006 win total.
But as good as the Comets have been, this isn't an average year for the Greyhounds, either. This year's team is being recognized throughout the state. With sophomore pitcher Paige Myers, who pitched three no-hitters during a 10-0 start, and a lineup that can hit for consistency and power, the Greyhounds were ranked second when the Division I state poll debuted last week.
With McIntosh providing pitching consistency, the Comets have been able to lean on their offense. They reached double figures in hits in five of their first 10 games. The only argument that could be made against the offense's production in that stretch was a 4-3 loss to Westerville Central in which the Comets were credited with three hits. The Warhawks pitched senior Olivia Wamsley in that game. Wamsley had a 1.47 ERA last year, helping the Warhawks earn the OCC-Central Division championship.
After his team got 14 hits in a4-1 win over Pickerington North on April 16, Comets coach Rick Wemlinger said his team will bring a lot of confidence to the plate against Grove City.
"Paige is the best apparently in this area," he said. "We can hit the ball. We're not going to get 14 hits (against Myers), but we're going to hit. We feel our pitcher can do very, very good against them. We're not going to be scared. We've played the best teams around in our area."
Williams expects teams like Central Crossing and everyone else on the schedule to come at Grove City hard now that it has been named the second-best Division I team in the state behind North Canton Hoover. The Greyhounds were10-0 when the state poll was released, not even halfway through the season. That's why he doesn't put much stock in it.
"It's nice to be ranked, but to look into it anymore than that (is meaningless)," Williams said. "I think other teams would say 'Hey, Grove City's two. Let's beat the second-ranked team in the state.' It kind of works against us in terms of that."
The Greyhounds found that out when they played an Upper Arlington team April 16 that was 6-3 at the time. The game was called because of darkness before starting the ninth inning of a scoreless tie. Whatever Myers did to stop UA's lineup, UA's Audrey Plant matched against Grove City's batters.
The key to the Greyhounds' undefeated start, Williams said, was that they've had different players make key plays to win games. In addition to Myers' pitching, junior catcher Courtney Coleman hit a grand slam in a 6-1 win over Dublin Coffman on April 7 and sophomore Maci Haughn had five of Grove City's 11 hits in a 7-1 win over Reynoldsburg on April 14. He also said sophomore Kelli Zuefle had a strong showing in Akron, where Grove City won games over Massillon Perry (3-0 on April 5), Massillon Jackson (7-0 on April 6) and Solon (11-4 on April 6).
Before they play each other, Grove City will open play at 6:15 p.m. Friday against Delaware. At that same time Central Crossing will play Westland. After the two teams play, Grove City will play at 3 p.m. Saturday against Westland and Central Crossing will play at the same time against Westerville North. Piqua also is scheduled to be there.
"We want to take care of the South-Western schools first," said Wemlinger. "And then we'll worry about Westerville North."
At a glance
Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Central Crossing and Grove City softball teams:
*April 14 -- Lost to Westerville Central5-4
April 15 -- Game vs. New Albany canceled
April 16 -- Def. Pickerington North 4-1
April 17 -- Def. Jonathan Alder 7-6
Last Saturday -- Lost to Groveport 6-5
*Last Monday -- Lost to Delaware 2-1
*Last Wednesday -- Played Thomas Worthington
Today -- At Dublin Scioto
Friday-Saturday -- At Westland Classic
*Monday -- Home vs. Marysville. The Comets lost 10-6 on April 9.
*Wednesday -- At Westerville Central
Of note: The Comets were 7-4 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Central before last Wednesday.
*April 14 -- Def. Reynoldsburg 7-1
*April 16 -- Game vs. Upper Arlington suspended because of darkness after eight innings of a scoreless tie
April 17 -- Lost to Hilliard Darby 4-3
Last Saturday -- Def. Worthington Kilbourne 5-1
*Last Monday -- Def. Davidson 5-1
*Last Wednesday -- Played Dublin Coffman
Friday-Saturday -- At Westland Classic. The Greyhounds will play Delaware at 6:15 p.m. Friday, Central Crossing at 1 p.m. Saturday and Westland at 3 p.m. Saturday.
*Monday -- Home vs. Westerville North. The Greyhounds won 2-0 on April 9.
*Wednesday -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
Of note: The Greyhounds were 12-1 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before last Wednesday.