The Centennial High School softball team was better in the field this spring than it was last season.
The statistics prove it, as the Stars allowed 53 unearned runs in 21 games this season after giving up 105 unearned runs in 23 games last year.
Centennial finished 16-5 overall after losing to 13th-seeded Bexley 17-3 in five innings in the first round of the Division II district tournament May 13 at home. The Stars were seeded 12th of 27 teams in the district.
"We got a lot better defensively this year, but we still need to improve to become a championship team," coach Malik Dean said. "We hit and pitched well all season. My only concern was our fielding, and that's what beat us in our five losses. We're still giving up way too many unearned runs to beat the better teams on our schedule and win in the tournament."
The Stars won their first eight games, including an 18-4 win over Millersport in their opener April 6.
"When we opened the season by jumping on Millersport, we knew we were going to be formidable when we hit the ball like that," Dean said.
Centennial lost both games against Whetstone, however, and had to settle for second place in the City League-North Division. The Stars lost to the Braves 5-3 on April 22 and 7-6 on May 7 and finished 12-2 in the City-North, behind Whetstone (14-0).
"Both of our games with Whetstone could have gone either way," Dean said. "We just made a few too many defensive mistakes in each game."
The Stars lose two seniors in Haylee Carter (P) and Mary Gardner (C/LF). Both were starters.
Carter went 8-4 in the circle with a 2.99 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 68 innings and had a .493 batting average with 41 runs. She was named first-team all-league.
Gardner batted .302 with two home runs and 22 RBI.
The Stars expect to return seven starters in juniors Aryn Brnusak (1B), Alyah Dean (SS) and Maya Robertson (CF), sophomores Emilija Erenpreiss (2B), Micaela Roper (RF) and Natalie Thies (P/1B) and freshman Molly Brumfield (C/LF). Junior utility player Vanessa Vargo also is expected to return.
Brumfield batted .508 with two home runs, 37 RBI and 37 runs and was first-team all-league, and Brnusak hit .527 with two home runs, 20 RBI and 26 runs and was second-team all-league.
Erenpreiss batted .429 with two home runs, 32 RBI and 33 runs and Thies hit .368 with 22 RBI and 21 runs. Both were honorable mention all-league.
Robertson hit .338 with 28 RBI and 29 runs and Roper batted .346 with 12 RBI and 14 runs.
Dean injured her left knee in the game against Millersport and missed the rest of the season.
"If we can develop their softball IQ a little bit and improve our defense, I think we could win every game before playing in the tournament next year because we have a very talented group of players coming back," coach Dean said.
Baseball team had winning season
The baseball team finished 14-11 overall after losing to 18th-seeded Buckeye Valley 7-1 in the first round of the Division II district tournament May 14 at home.
Centennial, which was seeded 14th of 26 teams in the district, went 12-2 in the City-North to place second behind Whetstone (14-0). The Stars were swept by the Braves, losing 16-3 on April 22 and 10-1 on May 7.
"We wanted to win (the City-North) and the City championship, along with a few games in the tournament, and we fell short of those goals," coach Scott Kirby said. "But I'm pleased with how hard our kids worked every game and we were definitely a better team by the end of the season than we were in the beginning."
The Stars lose four senior starters in Christian Cumberlander (1B/OF/3B), Josh McFann (OF/P), Matthew Puhlick (CF/SS/P) and Andrew Swisher (1B).
Cumberlander hit .368 with a home run, 25 stolen bases and 32 runs and was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league. McFann went 3-0 on the mound with a 4.20 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 15 innings.
Six starters are expected to return in juniors Matt Brownfield (3B/P), Blake Harrington (2B) and Jimmy Martinez (RF/P) and sophomores Luke Burton (LF), Cole Murray (C) and Gus Ricksecker (SS/P).
Ricksecker batted .366 with 21 stolen bases and 31 runs and went 4-5 on the mound with a 3.96 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 46 innings. He was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.
Brownfield batted .365 with two home runs, 26 RBI, 20 stolen bases and 32 runs and was honorable mention all-league. Martinez had a home run and 18 RBI and went 3-1 on the mound with a 2.63 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 24 innings, and Murray had a home run and 27 RBI.
"We'll miss our seniors and we have some holes to fill, but I'm really excited about who we have coming back for next year," Kirby said.
Ifedi wins high jump in district meet
The boys track and field teams competed in the Division II, district 1 meet May 21, 22 and 25 at Westerville South.
The top four finishers in each event advanced to the regional meet Thursday, May 30, and Saturday, June 1, at Lexington. The top four finishers in each regional event qualify for the state meet June 7 and 8 at Ohio State.
Qualifying for regional during the first two days of the district meet were Chisom Ifedi, who won the high jump in 6 feet, 4 inches, and Devante Brown, who placed fourth in the long jump (18-8 3/4).
The girls team competed in the Division I, district 3 meet May 22, 23 and 25 at Hilliard Darby.
The top four finishers in each event advanced to the regional meet, which began May 29 and concludes Friday, May 31, at Pickerington North.