The way Northland High School softball coach Mike McDaniel sees it, how his team does against Centennial and Whetstone is a good barometer in determining how much it has improved from a year ago.

The way Northland High School softball coach Mike McDaniel sees it, how his team does against Centennial and Whetstone is a good barometer in determining how much it has improved from a year ago.

Although the Vikings lost to the Braves 5-0 on April 14 and to the Stars 2-1 on April 16, those results are significantly better than last season when they lost their four matchups against those two teams by a combined 66-9.

With seniors Renee Obert (P), Juanita Johnson (C), Mallory Washington (SS) and Kayla Hickman (3B) all returning as starters, Northland was expected to take a step forward after going 8-14 last season.

There have been, according to McDaniel, other reasons as well for the improvement.

"We've got some work to do, but we're doing a good job," the second-year coach said. "Our all-around basic fundamentals have improved a lot. They're listening a lot better and performing a lot better."

In addition to the strong group of returning seniors, senior Nandi Brown has settled in at center field and freshman Janelle Tyler has taken on a key role at the plate and defensively at first base. Tyler is also the No. 2 pitcher.

McDaniel also believes Obert has taken a step forward in the circle.

After finishing tied for fifth at 6-8 in the City League-North Division last season, Northland could be in line for a top-three finish in the conference.

"Against Centennial and Whetstone, we were right there but just had some mental mistakes," McDaniel said. "There's been a big-time improvement from last year."

•Baseball coach Dean Washington knows it will be tough for his team to get back into contention for the City-North title after it lost to Whetstone (12-2 on April 14) and Centennial (12-0 on April 16) in the first round of league play.

Still, he has significant goals for the remaindr of the season - including having some of the members of a young roster gain experience.

Sophomore Manthony Brown, freshman Wade Beightler and freshman Clayton Pea likely will see significant action on the mound behind senior Chris Mitko.

Mitko struggled pitching in Northland's losses to Whetstone and Bexley (22-2 on April 20), but has remained a leader in the dugout and with his bat.

"We just don't have a lot of kids who understand baseball, but they're willing to learn and they're all pretty good students," coach Washington said. "We're going to go through some growing pains, but we've just got to keep fighting and scrapping."

On April 19 in a 13-7 win over Columbus East, Northland scored nine runs in the sixth to rally from a 7-4 deficit.

"I'm not sure we're a league contender because of the depth of our pitching staff," coach Washington said. "We're not giving up hope on this year, but we do have a bright future."

•The boys tennis team also is facing an uphill climb in its hope of contending for the City title after losing conference matches to Centennial (5-0 on March 29) and Briggs (3-2 on April 13).

Alejandro Nunez and Daniel Smith, who are playing first and second singles, respectively, have been the Vikings' most consistent players according to coach Allen Jarrett.

Northland has just one senior in Mark Moody, who has seen some action at second doubles.

"I think we've definitely improved from day one," Jarrett said. "My No. 1 and 2 players are both playing very well. I've just got to get my doubles teams together."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Northland softball team:

*April 14 - Lost to Whetstone 5-0

*April 16 - Lost to Centennial 2-1

April 17 - Lost to Reynoldsburg 11-3 and 11-2

*April 19 - Defeated East 19-2

April 20 - Lost to Jonathan Alder 13-0

*April 21 - Def. Mifflin 16-6

*Last Friday - Def. Brookhaven 13-3

Last Saturday - Def. Independence 14-6 and lost to Bexley 13-5 in Northside Classic

*Last Monday - Game against Beechcroft postponed

*Last Wednesday - Played Linden

*Friday - Home vs. Whetstone

*Monday - Home vs. Centennial

*Wednesday - Home vs. East

Of note: The Vikings were 9-8 overall and 6-2 in the City-North before last Wednesday.

*City contest

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Northland baseball, boys tennis and boys and girls track and field teams:

BASEBALL

*April 14 - Lost to Whetstone 12-2

*April 16 - Lost to Centennial 12-0

*April 19 - Defeated Columbus East 13-7

April 20 - Lost to Bexley 22-2

*April 21 - Def. Mifflin 17-7

*Last Friday - Def. Brookhaven 11-10

Last Saturday - Lost to Tree of Life 10-1 and lost to Grove City Christian 16-1 in Northside Classic

*Last Monday - Game against Beechcroft postponed

Last Tuesday - Played Wellington

*Last Wednesday - Played Linden-McKinley

*Friday - Home vs. Whetstone

*Monday - Home vs. Centennial

*Wednesday - Home vs. East

Of note: The Vikings were 6-7 overall before last Tuesday and 6-2 in the City League-North Division before last Wednesday.

BOYS TENNIS

*April 13 - Lost to Briggs 3-2

*April 14 - Def. Walnut Ridge 5-0

*April 19 - Def. Marion-Franklin 4-1

*April 21 - Def. Independence 5-0

*Last Monday - Match against Brookhaven postponed

*Last Wednesday - Played Beechcroft

*Friday - Home vs. Columbus West

*Wednesday - At Mifflin

Of note: The Vikings were 4-2 overall and in the City before last Wednesday.

TRACK & FIELD

April 17 - Boys: Finished second (121) in eight-team Stallion Invitational at DeSales behind Olentangy Orange (136). Tequan Hale won the 1,600 (4:54.9) and 3,200 (10:44.9); Girls: Finished second (115) in eight-team Stallion Invitational behind Orange (115.5). Andrea Madison won the discus (116-11), Ebony Mundy won the long jump (16-11 1/2) and Lena Collins won the 400 (1:01.38).

Last Saturday - Boys: Finished fifth (73) in six-team Division I meet of Mount Vernon Rotary Yellow Jacket Relays behind champion Mount Vernon (109). Northland won the 440 shuttle hurdles (1:05.05); Girls: Finished fourth (73.66) in six-team Division I meet of Yellow Jacket Relays behind champion Mount Vernon (109). Andrea Madison was second in the discus (128) and third in the shot put (31-3 3/4), Delisa Sanford was second in the long jump (16-2 1/2) and Northland won the 800 sprint medley (1:55.91).

Last Wednesday - Boys, girls: Competed at Braves Invitational at Whetstone

Saturday - Boys, girls: At Gary Smith Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Wednesday - Boys, girls: At Red Devil Relays at Marion-Franklin

*City contest