One of the best seasons in the history of the Licking Heights High School baseball team came to an end May 16 when the Hornets lost 7-1 at second-seeded Bexley in the second round of the Division II district tournament.
The Hornets finished 20-5 overall, falling three wins short of the program record, according to coach Jeff Boyer.
"We don't judge ourselves by win totals, though," he said. "Great seasons are when you win championships, league or district."
Unfortunately for the Hornets, those are two things they were unable to produce this season.
After winning MSL-Cardinal Division titles the past two seasons, the Hornets tied Fisher Catholic for second (11-3) in the league behind Liberty Union (12-2) and lost to Bexley in the second round of the tournament for the third consecutive season.
Bexley scored five times in the second inning and Josh Shapiro limited the Hornets to four hits. Licking Heights also made four errors.
Although disappointed, senior second baseman Ronnie Dawson, an Ohio State signee, said he was proud of what the Hornets accomplished the past four years.
"It's been tremendous to be a part of this with guys I love playing with and working out with," he said. "We've had great times and won some championships."
Still, Dawson is eager to move on to his next challenge of becoming an outfielder for the Buckeyes.
"This is bittersweet," he said. "I don't want this to end because I love playing for Licking Heights. On the other hand, I am really excited to start working hard and preparing to play at the Ohio State University."
Dawson will turn his attention to lowering his time in the 60-yard dash.
"My best in the 60 is 6.58 (seconds) and my goal is to be around 6.4," he said. "I played center field or first base my entire life until my freshman season here. There was an open spot at second base on varsity and I told them I could play there. So that's what I did."
Boyer knew Dawson could make the change to second base.
"He can do just about anything he sets his mind to," Boyer said. "He'll be successful at whatever you ask him to do because he's a tremendous worker. He's the best hitter I've ever coached and one of the best high school hitters I've ever seen."
Dawson said he will miss the close bond he has with his Hornets teammates.
"What I really love about them is that they're always pushing me to be better," he said. "They're always telling me not to settle (for just) being the best at Licking Heights."
The Hornets were seeded eighth for the district tournament and opened by beating 24th-seeded Eastmoor Academy 18-0 in five innings May 14. Junior starter Jacob Brandwein retired all nine batters he faced, six on strikeouts.
Dawson homered twice, a three-run shot to center field in the first and a line drive to right in the fourth. He also had an RBI double.
Andrew Bailey added a three-run homer and scored four times and Jacob Kayser homered and drove in two runs. Brandwein tripled, doubled and drove in three runs, and Jake Foley and Eric Strubhar also added two hits apiece.
Softball squad falls in second round
The softball team, seeded sixth in the Division II district tournament, lost to visiting seventh-seeded Jonathan Alder 13-2 in the second round May 15 to finish 20-8 overall.
"This isn't the way we wanted to go out because we obviously didn't play well," coach Bo Ramsey said. "But we had 20 wins and it was just the second time we've ever reached that number. The program record is 23."
The Pioneers took advantage of four errors in the first two innings to lead 2-0. They added three runs on three hits in the top of the third against junior starter Kelsi Wilson.
Licking Heights threatened to make it a game, scoring twice in the fourth. First baseman Emily Wander singled and scored on a double by center fielder Kelsey Hoar, who later scored on a grounder by left fielder Caitlin Aitken.
But Jonathan Alder got those runs back, plus more, scoring four in the fifth for a 9-2 lead. The Pioneers added four runs in the seventh.
"They put a lot of pressure on us," Ramsey said. "They used their speed to put some bunts down on us like few teams were able to do on us all season. They earned the win and their pitcher (Maddy Watson) is one of the top two or three pitchers we saw this season."
Senior shortstop Alyssa Stanley had two hits and the Hornets' other seniors, Cassidy Cochrum (3B), Brynna Fetter (2B) and Wander, all had one hit. Hoar, a sophomore, had the team's other two hits.
"We're losing four seniors who make up most of our infield and they also were the top four hitters in our lineup," Ramsey said. "They're all four-year starters. Stanley and Fetter played over 100 games for us up the middle and Cochrum and Wander didn't crack 100 because of injuries. But that's a lot of history and experience we have to replace."
Licking Heights went 10-4 in its last season in the MSL-Cardinal, placing third behind co-champions Liberty Union and West Jefferson (13-1).
Stanley and Cochrum were first-team all-league, Wander and Wilson were second-team all-league and Fetter, Hoar and sophomore catcher Georganna Pendexter were honorable mention.
Other expected returnees are sophomore outfielders Myrissa Stalter and Kayla Myrthil and freshmen Aitken and Mackenzie Storts (designated player). Myrthil missed the season with a foot injury, but was an expected starter.
"We've got some serious talent coming up from the eighth grade," Ramsey said. "Hopefully it won't take us long to retool, but we've got to put the pieces of the infield together for sure."
Track teams begin postseason
The boys and girls track and field teams compete in the Division I, district 1 meet Tuesday, May 21, Thursday, May 23, and Saturday, May 25 at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional May 29 and 31 at Pickerington North.
Last season, the girls team placed 12th (17) behind champion Reynoldsburg (116.5) in district 3 and had one regional qualifier in 2012 graduate Kayla Velasquez (discus and shot put).
The boys had no regional qualifiers and finished 16th (1) in district 1 as Hilliard Davidson (104) won.
The Hornets played host to the MSL-Cardinal meet May 14 and May 17.
Six events were contested the first day. Alexis Sanidad won the long jump (16 feet, 2 1/4 inches) for the girls team and A.J. Velasquez won the discus (134-4) for the boys team.
Season concludes for boys volleyball team
The boys volleyball team finished 1-14 overall after losing to DeSales 25-8, 25-11, 25-13 in its Division II East Region tournament opener May 11 at Watterson.
The Hornets' lone win was 25-22, 24-26, 25-10, 23-25, 15-13 over Whetstone on May 2.
Licking Heights did not compete in a league this season.