Coach Steve Smith has seen a big difference in the Johnstown-Monroe High School softball team when his players step up to the plate.
The Johnnies averaged 11.3 hits through seven games. They were 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the LCL before playing Licking Valley on April 11.
"I would say 95 percent of the difference this season has been the way we have been hitting the ball,"said Smith, whose team had 14 hits while defeating league-foe Utica 13-0 in five innings April 10. "We have been crushing the ball.
"We devoted most of the winter months to hitting. They did a lot individually, doing 50 to 60 (repetitions) per night and 20 on bunting."
The Johnnies had eight hits in a 7-4 win over Northridge in LCL play March 31 and 11 hits in a 9-0 win over Sparta Highland on April 1.
Johnstown continued its solid hitting while sweeping Centennial in a doubleheader April 5. In the opener, Natalie Carpenter led an 11-hit attack in an 11-0 win in five innings with a two-run home run and three RBI. Erin McConnell tripled and doubled twice, and Jordan Dingess had a double, single and three RBI.
In a 9-6 win in the second game, Dingess had a three-run homer and Sydney Stefanick had a double and two RBI. Johnstown had six hits total.
McConnell had a two-run homer and drove in five to lead the Johnnies' 16-hit performance in an 18-1 win over Newark Catholic in five innings April 8. Maddi Lusk had a double and three RBI and Carpenter also had a double.
"I told the girls that they could have the best defense in the world, but you need to hit and score runs to win games," Smith said. "Hitting is contagious and all of a sudden it has become fun to hit."
Despite having 13 hits, the Johnnies lost to Granville 7-6 in 13 innings April 9. Anna Torres had three singles and two RBI, Stefanick had three singles and Dingess had two singles and two RBI.
"Our pitching and defense weren't as sharp as they had been in the first five games," Smith said. "We had one of those games that was hard to watch. I don't think either team was playing their best.
"I think we grew up a lot from that (loss to Granville). I told them they needed to get back to work because it was only one game and we have a lot of games left."
The LCL schedule should make the Johnnies better as they progress toward the Division III postseason. In the past week, they faced defending Division II state champion Licking Valley, Division II state semifinalist Granville and Division IV regional finalist Newark Catholic.
"That's a tough week," Smith said. "That's a great schedule because playing teams like that will only make you better.
Baseball team starts 2-2
The baseball team was 2-2 overall and in the LCL before playing Licking Valley on April 11.
Josh Kirkpatrick earned a complete-game victory in a 3-2 win over Granville on April 9.
The Johnnies lost to Newark Catholic 2-1 on April 8. Ryan Torres scored on a Brendan Barasch squeeze bunt.
Johnstown also lost to Utica 10-4 on April 10.
"This has been a hard-working group," said coach Justin Richards, whose team also played Richmond Edison and Toronto on April 12. "They have built relationships on and off of the field, they trust one another, and have built great chemistry. The kids are growing into leaders and have been having a lot of fun."
Boys lacrosse team loses first two games
The boys lacrosse team was 0-2 after losing to Licking Valley 6-3 on April 9.
Hunter Alley, Isaia Jacob and Steven Thiel all scored and A.J. Napier had 14 saves.
The Johnnies lost their opener 5-1 to the Westerville South j.v. team April 7. Alley scored and Napier had 14 saves.
"They have shown a lot of potential despite the losses," coach Stephanie Alley said.
"We still are focusing on our fundamentals because that will help them come along."