After losing five key players to graduation a season ago, the Tree of Life Christian School baseball team was in need of a leader. Nick Augustyniak has stepped in to fill that role.

After losing five key players to graduation a season ago, the Tree of Life Christian School baseball team was in need of a leader. Nick Augustyniak has stepped in to fill that role.

Augustyniak, a senior, has emerged at the team's ace and recently was moved to the leadoff position in the batting order.

"He's a mixture of speeds and directions," coach Rick Parcher said. "He has excellent command and he pitches with his head."

The left-hander has helped his team keep its MOCAL title hopes alive.

"This is a whole new team," Augustyniak said. "Every year is different because we have different players, so we don't expect to be the team the year before, we expect to be our own team. We're making our own name for ourselves."

Augustyniak's senior season has been hampered by a hand injury sustained during a 16-6 win over Licking County Christian on April 10. He missed a pair of games and was relegated to a designated-hitter role in a 16-4 win over Gahanna Christian on April 24, as the injury heals on his pitching hand. Augustyniak also plays first base and the outfield.

"I was pretty determined to play through it no matter what happens," he said. "I've messed up my wrist before and I've always been able to push through it. I'm pretty confident that it will be all right."

Augustyniak was the hard-luck losing pitcher in an 8-7 loss to Grove City Christian on April 22. The Eagles scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to pull out the win. It was Tree of Life's first MOCAL loss in three seasons. Augustyniak tripled and singled twice.

"Expectation-wise when you have 12 freshmen, you don't expect to play mistake-free baseball," Parcher said. "I felt bad for Nick because he pitched well enough to win and we made a few mistakes that cost him the ballgame, but all things considered, the freshmen have just played better and better."

Tree of Life will look to avenge that loss today when it plays host to the Eagles.

Augustyniak again was handed a tough loss last Friday as Tree of Life fell to Gahanna Christian 5-4.

"We're making a lot of progress," Augustyniak said after the win April 24. "We fielded a lot better. We played pretty solid and got our hitting going."

Last season, Augustyniak was second-team all-MOCAL, helping his team to a 10-0 mark in the conference and another title.

Augustyniak, a fourth-year varsity player, did not begin playing baseball until seventh grade at Tree of Life.

"Getting to play all around these guys has been great and the coaching has always been awesome, learning more than just baseball," Augustyniak said. "It's about life, being a team, everything."

Augustyniak has a 4.1 GPA and will attend Case Western Reserve University, where he plans on trying out for the baseball team.

"He's an outstanding student and he's very level-headed," Parcher said.

•The softball team will look to avenge an earlier loss in the MOCAL when it plays host to Grove City Christian today. The Eagles beat the Trojans 15-11 on April 22.

"We're looking forward to another chance at Grove City," coach Pat McWherter said. "I'm really confident that we'll beat them, but even if we beat them we're not going to be able to take the championship unless somebody gives us some help. I don't think anybody else in the league can beat them."

The Trojans' other MOCAL loss was to Fairfield Christian 4-2 on April 18.

Today's game against Grove City Christian is the first of six home games in a row.

The Trojans earned a pair of wins in the Centennial Stellar Classic at Beekman Park last weekend.

They defeated Worthington Christian 17-16 in nine innings last Friday and Northland 11-8 last Saturday. Tree of Life dropped its final game last Saturday to Bethel 16-0.

"I like our offense," McWherter said. "We're hitting the ball better than we've hit the ball probably in three years, but the defense is a disappointment. Over the last seven games, we're averaging just under five errors a game."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Tree of Life baseball and softball teams:

BASEBALL

*April 21 -- Defeated Fairfield Christian 10-0. Mitch Shonkwiler pitched a two-hitter.

*April 22 -- Lost to Grove City Christian 8-7

*April 24 -- Def. Gahanna Christian 16-4. Shonkwiler was the winning pitcher. Jonathan Emrick singled twice, doubled and drove in five runs and C.J. Nash had three singles and four RBI.

*Last Friday -- Lost to Gahanna Christian 5-4

*Last Monday -- Def. Madison Christian 12-8

Last Tuesday -- Played Harvest Prep

*Today -- Home vs. Grove City Christian

Tuesday -- At Mount Gilead

Of note: The Trojans were 6-11 overall before last Tuesday and are 5-2 in the MOCAL.

SOFTBALL

*April 21 -- Def. Fairfield Christian 14-4. Lynsey DeWitt had three hits and Elyse Koval had two.

*April 22 -- Lost to Grove City Christian 15-11

*April 24 -- Def. Gahanna Christian 16-6. Megan Miller was the winning pitcher. Miller and Rachel Gray hit home runs.

Last Friday -- Def. Worthington Christian 17-16 in nine innings in Centennial Stellar Classic at Beekman Park. Miller was the winning pitcher. Koval and Emily Durbin had four hits.

Last Saturday -- Def. Northland 11-8; lost to Bethel 16-0 in Stellar Classic. Against Northland, Miller was the winning pitcher and she had two hits.

*Last Monday -- Def. Madison Christian 11-5

Last Tuesday -- Played Briggs

*Today -- Home vs. Grove City Christian

Friday -- Home vs. Wellington

Saturday -- Home vs. Beechcroft (doubleheader)

*Monday -- Home vs. Madison Christian

Tuesday -- Home vs. Licking County Christian

Of note: The Trojans were 8-5 overall before last Tuesday and are 4-2 in the MOCAL.

*MOCAL game