DeSales High School softball coach Julie Barber admits she takes different approaches with her teams every year.
This year, the Stallions showed a reserved personality early on, so Barber had to make sure that she challenged her players to take risks at every opportunity. That approach has worked, as DeSales was 10-6 overall and 4-0 in the CCL before playing Ready on May 5.
The Stallions were scheduled to play Hilliard Darby on May 6 before closing league play May 7 against Hartley.
"Every single pitch is a learning experience for us," Barber said. "This group is a little bit more laid-back and conservative, so we're trying to teach them to think out of the box and kind of go a little bit beyond themselves. I think they've done that."
One example came in a 9-4 win at Hartley on April 29. Leading 5-4 in the fifth inning, Taylor Bishop laid down a two-out, two-strike bunt that fell into the dirt less than a foot from home plate. The throw to first base was off-line -- one of seven errors by the Hawks -- and a run scored to increase the Stallions' lead.
"We have to be aggressive and take some risks if we're going to win this year," Barber said. "It's been working out some of the time."
DeSales, which last won the CCL in 2012, has had its share of emotional wins and tough defeats, including two wins over defending Division I district champion Grove City, 10-6 on April 5 and 12-7 on April 24.
In addition, the Stallions scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat Watterson 7-5 on April 23, and rode grand slams by Leah Roten and Cameron Barber in an 8-5 win at Ready on April 16.
DeSales entered this week with three losses by eight or more runs, including run-rule defeats against Olentangy (13-3 in five innings April 22) and Elyria (12-2 in six innings April 26).
"We might not achieve (success), but if we're not aggressive and we don't take risks, how will we know what's going to happen? You never know what you're capable of if you don't try," catcher Maddie DeMuesy said. "You stand in the field and you want (the opponent) to hit the ball to you. You have to say to the other team, 'You're not crossing that plate. We're the best team out here.'"
That's the attitude Barber wants her players to carry into the Division I district tournament. DeSales is seeded 17th of 45 teams and will play host to 44th-seeded Walnut Ridge in a first-round game Tuesday, May 13. The winner plays at 14th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a second-round game May 15.
The Stallions has not played Walnut Ridge this season.
"We're not worried about our record right now," Barber said. "If we lose a few games but get better, I'm fine with it. And that's really where we are. Our goal is to peak in May, then keep on going."
The Stallions were a Division II district runner-up last year. They won Division II district titles in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and advanced to a state semifinal in 2011.
"We're playing the best teams and competing with all of them, and we know we can beat them," outfielder Taylor Freeman said. "We think we'll do really well in the tournament."
Girls lacrosse team closes in on CIL title
The girls lacrosse team entered the week needing one win to clinch the program's first Central Independent League championship.
DeSales was 9-2 overall and 5-0 in the CIL before playing Columbus Academy on May 6, a game that had been postponed April 3 because of bad weather.
The Stallions closed in on the title with a 17-4 win at Wellington on May 1, getting six goals from Jennie Finotti and two goals and a program-record eight assists from Cayman Nebraska.
"We might have had 10 assists (against Wellington) considering what Cayman did, and that's what makes me really proud," coach Joe Finotti said. "We're sharing the ball and we're not being selfish. These girls have meshed really well together. Everyone cheers for everybody. They're a very selfless team, and we've preached that from day one.
"We've met our first goal in competing for the (CIL) championship, and now we have other goals in mind, too, with the postseason coming up."
DeSales is seeded fifth in the Division II South/Central Region tournament and has a first-round bye. It will play host to Hartley or Watterson in a second-round game May 15.
Goldsmith leads boys track team at Olentangy
Not that he's looking ahead, but track and field coach Ben McGinnis is well aware that he has a few athletes who could excel in the postseason.
According athletic.net, Myron Goldsmith entered the week with the state's 10th-best throw in the shot put in Division II after winning the event in 51 feet, 4.5 inches in the Olentangy Invitational on May 2.
The 800-meter relay of Adam Acquista, Taz Collins, Jacob Gilmore and Brandon Krietemeyer also finished first (1 minute, 32.67 seconds) in the Olentangy Invitational and had the ninth-best time in the state in Division II. Krietemeyer placed second in the 100 (11.56) in the Olentangy Invitational but had the eighth-best time in the state (11.21) in Division II, having achieved that time in the Newark Invitational on April 5.
"These are some of the hardest-working kids I've ever seen in the sport," McGinnis said. "Brandon and Myron, especially, have really made their presence felt. We have some high hopes for the team (in the district meet May 20, 21 and 24 at Heath)."
DeSales finished seventh (42 points) of eight teams in the Olentangy Invitational behind champion Olentangy Liberty (134).
Led by third-place finishes from Ashli Pope in the 100 (13.43) and Katya Barrett in the long jump (15-0), the girls team finished eighth (17) of nine teams in the same meet behind champion Liberty (155).
Baseball team to open postseason at home
The baseball team is seeded ninth of 26 teams in the Division II district tournament and will play host to 22nd-seeded Eastmoor Academy in the first round Tuesday, May 13.
The winner will play fifth-seeded Licking Valley or 25th-seeded Beechcroft in the second round May 15 at the home of the higher seed.
DeSales has not played Eastmoor this season.
The Stallions were 10-10 overall and 2-3 in the CCL before playing Hartley on May 5. They split two league games last week, losing to Hartley 4-3 on April 29 and defeating Ready 3-1 on May 2, were swept in a doubleheader at Pickerington North on May 3, losing 7-2 and 5-4 in nine innings.