The Licking Heights High School baseball team started the season strong and will have reached the midway point of the MSL-Cardinal Division schedule by the end of this week.
The Hornets won four of their first six overall and were 2-1 in the league before playing West Jefferson on April 12. The two-time defending league champions will play home league games Monday, April 15, against Berne Union and Wednesday, April 17, against Millersport before playing at Fisher Catholic on Friday, April 19.
"We're hitting well throughout the lineup, our pitching has given us a chance to win and our defense has been solid in all but one game," coach Jeff Boyer said.
The Hornets' hot bats were chilled in a 5-3 league loss to Liberty Union on April 10. Licking Heights will play host to Liberty Union on April 26.
"Our seniors are playing well," Boyer said. "Our leading hitter in the first week was (senior right fielder) Steven Clum in the eighth spot in our order. He leads us in runs and average."
Other offensive standouts have been seniors Ronnie Dawson (2B) and Jake Foley (SS) and junior Jacob Kayser (1B/C).
Dawson hit two home runs and drove in six runs and Foley had five RBI in a 20-8 win over Heath on April 3. Dawson also homered the next day in an 8-7 loss to Licking Valley.
"We battled back several times against (Licking) Valley and we were down to our last out with the tying run on second and they elected to pitch to Ronnie and he homered to give us a 7-6 lead," Boyer said. "Unfortunately, we made consecutive errors to begin the bottom of the seventh and they cost us.
"But our defense was great (in the opener April 1) against East Knox when we won 3-2, and we also had two late errors against Heath but we had built a huge lead by that point."
On April 8, the Hornets trailed Grandview 10-0 in the third inning but Kayser hit a three-run homer in a five-run fourth. The Hornets trailed 12-10 entering the bottom of the seventh, but made it 12-11 and had the bases loaded when Kayser ended the game with a grand slam for a 15-12 win.
Seniors Drew Giffin, Tyler Sims and Foley and junior Luke Langkamp have all pitched well, Boyer said.
The Hornets opened league play with a 65-0 win over Harvest Prep on April 5.
"After the first inning, we didn't run on passed balls or wild pitches," Boyer said. "We had a bases-loaded single that could've been a triple, but we stopped the runners after one base. We used a pinch-hitter in the third inning that got three at-bats.
"We thought about trying to bunt and put our foot on the plate to get outs, but the umpires said not to do that and make a travesty out of the game. We got hit by 16 pitches and Dawson got hit five times. I've never felt that awkward in a game before."
Softball team wins first six games
The softball team also started strong, winning its first six games.
The Hornets scored three times in their first at-bats this season and rode that to a 4-1 win over East Knox on April 1.
Senior shortstop Alyssa Stanley was 3-for-4 and senior first baseman Emily Wander singled, doubled and drove in two runs the next day in a 7-5 win over Dublin Jerome. Freshman left fielder Caitlin Aitken also drove in two runs.
Licking Heights then beat Harvest Prep 17-0 in five innings April 5 to open league play.
More run-rule victories followed April 6 and 8. The Hornets topped Utica 15-5 behind an 18-hit attack April 6 and beat Grandview 13-1 on April 8.
Licking Heights broke open a tight game against Watkins Memorial on April 9 by scoring the final six runs to win 9-2 as junior pitcher Kelsi Wilson improved to 5-0.
Senior third baseman Cassidy Cochrum hit her first career home run, a solo shot. Wander and Aitken had three hits apiece, Wilson had an RBI double in a two-run sixth and catcher Georganna Pendexter had a two-run double in a four-run seventh.
"We're hitting the ball like crazy," coach Bo Ramsey said. "(We) had 15 or more hits in four of the first six games and (we were) hitting .470 as a team. Every starter (was hitting) at least .350 (through six games). Defensively, we've had one bad game, against Jerome."
The Hornets were limited to four hits in a 14-3, five-inning loss to defending MSL-Cardinal champion Liberty Union on April 10.
"They're the champion until somebody takes it away from them," Ramsey said. "Entering the season, they were the favorites to win again, with probably West Jefferson next and then us third."
Ortiz leads girls track team at Newark
The girls track and field team finished eighth in the 14-team Newark Invitational on April 6, scoring 42 points as Westerville Central scored 114.5 to win.
Junior Skyler Ortiz was runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles (15.85 seconds) and joined senior PyLynne Myers, junior Alexis Sanidad and freshman Mykala Suggs on the second-place 400 relay (52.75).
Myers, Ortiz and Suggs were joined by junior Justice Stegall to finish third in the 800 relay (1:53.21). Stegall also tied for third in the high jump (4 feet, 10 inches). Sophomore Angel Allen was fifth in the discus (89-11) and seventh in the shot put (28-10), and Sanidad was sixth (13-9 3/4) in the long jump.
The boys team was 12th (18) at Newark behind champion Independence (80) in a 16-team field. Junior A.J. Velasquez was fourth in the discus (122-7). The 400 relay also placed fourth (45.33).