Turns out the Centennial High School softball team has more depth than coach Malik Dean anticipated.
The Stars defeated Millersport 18-4 in five innings in their opener April 6 despite missing two starters in left fielder Alex Wells and pitcher/first baseman Natalie Thies, both of whom were out of town. In addition, another starter, shortstop Alyah Dean, left the game in the third inning after spraining her left knee.
Later that day, Centennial beat Wellington 13-8 in eight innings despite missing four starters in Dean, Thies, Wells and first baseman Aryn Brnusak, who did not play because of other obligations.
"We had only five starters there that first weekend, so I was really shocked with the way we came out and won both of those games," said coach Dean, whose team opened City League-North Division play April 8 with a 17-0, five-inning win over Columbus East and improved to 2-0 in the league by beating Mifflin 21-0 in five innings April 10. "We expected to beat East and Mifflin the way we did, but I couldn't believe how well we played in those first couple of games since we were missing seven girls that day. We're hoping we can get my daughter back healthy again soon, but I feel better about our depth and our team's ability to overcome obstacles after the way we played in those first two games."
The offensive leaders for Centennial through four games were utility player Vanessa Vargo (.667 batting average, 5 RBI, 4 runs), catcher Molly Brumfield (.533, 10 RBI, 12 runs), second baseman Emilija Erenpreiss (.500, 1 home run, 9 RBI, 5 runs), Brnusak (.500, 1 home run, 3 RBI, 4 runs), pitcher Haylee Carter (.467, 5 RBI, 9 runs), right fielder Micaela Roper (.462, 6 RBI, 7 runs) and center fielder Maya Robertson (.417, 8 RBI, 7 runs).
In the circle, Carter was 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 18 innings.
"We're swinging our bats well and scoring a lot of runs for this early in the season," coach Dean said. "Our pitching has been good, too, even though our defense needs improvements. I wouldn't be surprised to see us keep run-ruling teams until we see some better pitching."
Centennial expects to face a stern test Monday, April 22, when it plays host to Whetstone in a league game. The Stars lost both of their league contests against the Braves last year, falling 9-2 and 2-0.
Among the key players for Whetstone is pitcher Briana Clemens, a left-hander who went 16-7 with a 1.81 ERA last year.
"Whetstone's got a good pitcher and they are always a strong team overall," coach Dean said. "We'll need to keep swinging the bats with confidence and we'll need some timely hitting. We'll also need to play much better defense. We can't give Whetstone extra chances."
Boys tennis team set to face Braves
The boys tennis team will play host to Whetstone in a key City League match on Monday, April 22.
Centennial beat Whetstone 3-2 last year on the way to finishing 10-2 in the City to tie Beechcroft and Whetstone for second in the league standings, behind Columbus West (12-0).
But the Stars didn't advance to the City championship match because it had won the title more recently than Beechcroft or Whetstone. West captured the league title by beating Whetstone 3-2 in the final.
"Our match with Whetstone always ends up determining who advances to the City League championship match, so we're looking forward to playing them," coach Barb Stevenson said. "A group of Whetstone's players played year-round together, so they're going to be good.
"How we do against Whetstone really could depend on the lineup that day. I'm going to study their lineup and see if I can find the right matchups to beat them on at least three courts. I want our guys to play to win. We need to be aggressive and go to the net before they do."
Centennial opened April 9 with a 5-0 loss to Buckeye Valley but defeated Mifflin 5-0 in its league opener April 10.
The lineup against Mifflin included Ben Oatney at first singles, Slobodan Zecevic at second singles, Weston Clarke at third singles and Ben Bendolph and Martin Yzeiri at first doubles.
"Ben Oatney played tennis all summer with his dad and I've been surprised with how well he's played so far," Stevenson said. "Slobodan doesn't have a lot of experience, but he's a natural athlete."
Baseball team wins City-North opener
The baseball team was 3-4 overall and 1-0 in the City-North before playing Brookhaven on April 15.
The Stars defeated Columbus East 17-8 in their league opener April 8 and were leading Mifflin 7-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning before the league contest was suspended because of bad weather. It will be completed April 26.
Centennial was swept in a doubleheader April 13 at Worthington Christian, losing 10-3 and 10-0.
"We've played well for the most part, especially in our doubleheader wins against Grandview (10-4 and 4-1 on April 6)," coach Scott Kirby said. "We've won the games we were supposed to win and we've been competitive in our losses."
The Stars will play host to Whetstone on Monday, April 22.
Last season, Centennial was swept by the Braves, losing 14-2 and 6-2 en route to going 11-3 in the City-North and tying Northland for second behind Whetstone (14-0).
Among the offensive leaders for the Stars through seven games were third baseman Matt Brownfield (.429, 6 RBI) and second baseman Blake Harrington (.411, 3 RBI).
Kirby said Harrington, utility infielder Christian Cumberlander and first baseman Andrew Swisher have been his team's top defensive players and that Gus Ricksecker has been the top pitcher.
"Whetstone's always a big game, but we still need to take care of business in the rest of our league games because the other teams are improving and could give us problems if we aren't focused," Kirby said.