With the Licking Heights High School softball team in the hunt for the MSL-Cardinal Division championship, coach Bo Ramsey is focusing on two contests this week that could determine the Hornets' fate.
Games at West Jefferson on Tuesday, April 23, and against visiting Liberty Union on Friday, April 26, figure to be crucial in deciding the league title.
The Hornets lost their first meeting with Liberty Union 14-3 on April 10, as the Lions scored nine runs in the first inning off junior pitcher Kelsi Wilson.
"It was rough," said Ramsey, whose team improved to 4-1 in the MSL-Cardinal with a 10-4 win over Millersport on April 17. "But it wasn't that we weren't making any plays, they were just hitting the ball in the gaps. Anytime you play Liberty (Union), you're playing their history. This time we're going to be playing at home and, hopefully, we won't be slow out of the gate. We're going to have to match their runs."
Before playing Fisher Catholic on April 19, the Hornets had won four in a row following back-to-back losses to Liberty Union and Heath (7-4 on April 13). Licking Heights was 10-2 overall after wins over Centerburg (7-4 on April 18), Millersport (10-4 on April 17), Berne Union (5-0 on April 15) and Watkins Memorial (5-3 on April 13).
Ramsey has been pleased with his team's offensive production. The Hornets were batting better than .300 as a team and averaging 8.4 runs through 11 games.
"We've had some games where we've had 15 to 17 hits," he said. "The girls are really fitting into their roles and we don't have a single batter we'd have to hide in the lineup."
Through 10 games, sophomore catcher Georgeanna Pendexter was leading the way at the plate, batting .484 with five doubles and a team-best 12 RBI. Senior shortstop Alyssa Stanley was hitting .474, with four doubles, a triple, eight RBI and 12 runs, and she also led the team in stolen bases with eight.
In the circle, Wilson was 6-2 with a 4.06 ERA.
"We are really playing together as a team this year," Ramsey said. "We don't have any bad attitudes and everybody knows where they fit."
Baseball team builds pitching depth
Baseball coach Jeff Boyer knew he would begin the season with an untested pitching staff. Two junior left-handers are proving they have the ability to help the Hornets make a run for a third consecutive MSL-Cardinal championship.
Luke Langkamp, who is more of a power pitcher, improved to 3-0 with Licking Heights' 11-1, six-inning victory over Millersport on April 17, as the Hornets moved to 4-1 in the league.
Jacob Brandwein, who relies on off-speed pitches, was 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 12 1/3 innings.
"They're both getting better each time out," said Boyer, whose team was 8-2 overall after defeating Fairfield Union 8-7 on April 18. "Last year, they were pitching the second game of a doubleheader. This year, they're the horses we're depending on. We want them to continue to improve each game, and we're going to need that if we want to win the league. We knew if we could find some pitching we'd be around."
The other key contributor on the mound has been senior Drew Griffin, a standout a year ago who was 2-1 this season before April 18.
The Hornets have a potent offense that includes senior second baseman Ronnie Dawson, an Ohio State signee who was the MSL-Cardinal Player of the Year last season. He was batting .571 with a team-best six home runs and 18 RBI through eight games.
Senior shortstop Jake Foley was hitting .600 with 11 RBI and 14 runs. Senior third baseman Andrew Bailey (.500, 11 RBI) and senior outfielder Steven Clum (.476) have been the other top contributors.