Despite losing its first five games and eight of its first 10, the DeSales High School baseball team saw progress and bided its time waiting for a turnaround.
The Stallions still have a losing record, but two lopsided wins last week have the two-time defending Division II state champions confident that they still will be a force to be reckoned with in the CCL and postseason by season's end.
DeSales was 5-12 overall and 2-2 in the CCL before playing St. Charles on April 29.
"We've gotten a lot better defensively and we've been swinging (the bat) well," senior pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Bryan Stopar said. "We weren't doing those things at the beginning of the year, and that's why we started 0-5. The guys are coming out here, playing a lot more confident and comfortable out there."
Coach Tom Neubert admitted his team's statistics aren't eye-popping. Through 14 games, the only regular starters who were hitting better than .300 were junior first baseman Nicolas Danner (.346), junior outfielder/pitcher Aaron Kienzle (.333), senior pitcher/infielder/outfielder Alex Perrine (.333) and Stopar (.306), and the Stallions were averaging only 3.8 runs through 17 games.
Neubert is quick to point out, however, that his team's situational hitting and composure are noticeably better than they were a few weeks ago.
"We're playing at a much higher level now," he said. "It didn't help during our slow start that the kids were young and timid and, at times, sort of scared to be out there. It's gotten to the point where we're coming together as a team and really enjoy being around here and enjoying going out and playing every night."
The start of league play coincided with DeSales' rebound. The Stallions lost their league opener to St. Charles (6-2 on April 16) but recorded lopsided victories over Hartley (12-4 on April 22) and Ready (11-1 in six innings April 25).
Against Ready, DeSales scored seven runs with two outs in the bottom of the second inning and added four runs in the sixth.
"We've been hitting the ball hard in important situations and, even when we make outs, they've been productive outs," Stopar said. "Everybody was throwing their aces against us because they want to beat us because we've been the state champions the past two years. It was hard in that respect."
Kienzle and Stopar, who are second and fourth, respectively, in the batting order, each entered the week with one home run. No Stallions pitcher entered the week with more than one win and Stopar had a team-leading 16 strikeouts on the mound through 14 games.
"We still have our moments at times,' Neubert said. "But we're a young group and we're working hard."
Track teams being tested by schedule
One of the ways first-year track and field coach Ben McGinnis is putting his stamp on the program is putting his teams in meets they haven't attended in recent years, most of which are loaded with Division I teams.
Entering the week, the Stallions had yet to finish higher than sixth in an invitational. But as long as that changes in the CCL meet and the postseason, McGinnis will view the regular-season tests as a success.
The boys team will be competing in Division II in the postseason and the girls team will be competing in Division I.
"Coming to these big Division I OCC schools, the kids kind of get down on occasion because the competition is at such a higher level than they're used to," McGinnis said. "I'm just encouraging them to focus on their PRs, their bests, and finish the race we put them in.
"Ultimately, that's what will make us successful in the CCL, when we go back and see the teams they're more used to competing against. They'll be used to performing at this level and, hopefully, that will pan out."
DeSales earned its best finishes as a team in the Freedom Relays on April 26 at Olentangy Liberty. The boys placed seventh (27 points) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (116) as eight teams scored and the girls finished sixth (30) behind champion Liberty (96) as seven teams scored.
The girls' highest finish was turned in by the 800-meter relay, which finished second (1 minute, 48.9 seconds). The boys placed second in the 1,600 relay (3:31.6) and third in the 800 relay (1:32.7).
Softball team falls out of CCL title chase
The softball team's hopes for a fourth consecutive CCL championship ended April 25 with a 7-1 loss to visiting Watterson.
Watterson clinched at least a share of the league title with the win.
DeSales took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when freshman outfielder Taylor Freeman walked, advanced to third on a single by junior outfielder Allison Rodri- guez and stole home on a throw trying to prevent Rod-riguez from stealing second base.
However, Watterson broke through against senior pitcher Kate Miltko late in the game, scoring three runs in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh.
The Eagles totaled 12 hits against Miltko.
Entering the week, Watterson was 4-0 in the CCL, two games ahead of Ready (2-2) and three ahead of DeSales (1-3) and Hartley (1-3).
The Stallions, who went 1-2 in the Prebis Memorial Classic on April 26 and 27 at LaGrange Keystone and entered the week at 7-8 overall, concluded CCL play May 1 at Hartley.