Katie Conroy of the Centennial High School softball team felt an extreme amount of pressure as she stood in the batter's box with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning of a City League-North Division game April 11 against Whetstone.
The score was tied at 3, and there was a runner at second base.
The freshman third baseman fell behind in the count 1-2 before she hit a ball into deep center field to drive in Alexis Thompson with the winning run.
"I felt butterflies in my stomach and my hands were shaking because I felt like I needed to hit the ball or we were going to lose," Conroy said. "I was very nervous because I knew this was our most important game of the season so far, and it felt so good to get a hit in that situation."
As Thompson crossed home plate, the Stars stormed the field to celebrate, having ended a four-game losing streak against the Braves.
Coach Malik Dean said it was the biggest victory in his three years at Centennial.
"We've had some other big wins, but this was huge because Whetstone swept us each of the past two seasons on their way to winning the (City-North)," Dean said. "We knew that we needed to beat Whetstone to put ourselves in a position to win our league."
The Braves scored two unearned runs in the top of the fifth and scored again in the sixth for a 3-0 lead.
But the Stars rallied to force extra innings, as Alyssa Dean and Thompson both had RBI singles in the bottom of the sixth and Emily Erenpreiss drove in Molly Brumfield with a double in the seventh.
"Last year, when we'd have a bad inning, we'd fall apart and lose the game," coach Dean said. "This year, our players are more experienced and we were able to finally complete one of those two-out rallies against a good team. This should give us a big lift moving forward."
The Stars, who are 5-3 overall and 5-0 in the City-North, wrap up the first round of league play Tuesday, April 22, at Columbus East and Wednesday, April 23, at Brookhaven.
Coach Dean expects both opponents to have relatively slow-throwing pitchers but said the Stars need to get out to a better start than they did in their 15-0, five-inning league victory over Mifflin on April 10.
Centennial didn't score in the first two innings before scoring 11 runs in the bottom of the third and four in the fourth.
"We can't lose our focus at the plate the way we did against Mifflin," coach Dean said. "When we play teams with slow pitching, we need to come out swinging the bats well to avoid getting upset because we're in first place now and everyone's going to be targeting us."
The Stars have a .361 team batting average with Alyssa Dean (.471, 10 RBI), Aryn Brnusak (.444, 10 runs), Erenpreiss (.400, 11 RBI), Thompson (.400, 11 RBI, 10 runs), Conroy (.357), Brumfield (.333, 10 runs) and Natalie Thies (.333) leading the way.
In the circle, Thies is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA.
Centennial has a .870 fielding percentage, led by Alyah Dean (SS) and Erenpreiss (2B).
"We're a better hitting team this year and we've been playing better defense, too," coach Dean said. "Natalie's carrying the load for us in the circle and Emily and Alyah are making some really good defensive plays."
Baseball team out to strong start
The baseball team won its first four City-North games before losing to Whetstone 3-0 on April 11.
The Stars opened March 31 with a 5-2 victory over Northland before defeating Beechcroft 11-1 in five innings April 2, routing Linden-McKinley 21-0 in five innings April 9 and beating Mifflin 11-1 in five innings April 10.
Gus Ricksecker pitched a complete game against Northland, Gemmy Martinez was the winning pitcher against Beech-croft and Justin Taylor pitched a three-hitter against Mifflin.
Ricksecker also pitched a four-hitter against Whetstone.
"Our pitching has been amazing," said coach Mitch Fleisher, whose team also beat Grandview 7-5 on April 12 and was 5-1 overall before playing Danville on April 15. "We've barely given up any hits and we've had a lot of strikeouts, even against Whetstone. Gus pitched really well against Northland and Whetstone.
"We still have a ways to go with our hitting when it comes to playing teams with better pitching like Whetstone. I'm really proud of how hard we've played so far, though."
Tennis team starts 3-0
The boys tennis team opened with three wins, beating Mifflin 5-0 on March 31 and Brookhaven 5-0 on April 9 in City-North matches and defeating Hilliard Davidson B 4-1 on April 11.
The Stars were 3-0 overall before playing Fisher Catholic on April 14 and 2-0 in the City-North before playing Linden on April 15.
Ben Oatney (first singles), Weston Clarke (second singles) and Sean Perry (third singles) each won his first three matches.
The Stars play a key league match Wednesday, April 23, at Whetstone.
Last year, Centennial finished third (9-2) in the league behind Columbus West (10-1) and Whetstone (10-1) after losing to Whetstone 3-2.
"The kids are doing great," coach Barbara Stevenson said. "I didn't expect us to beat Hilliard Davidson's B team because they have 40 kids (in their program). We're going to put 15 hours of practice in during spring break and hopefully everyone will improve for the second half of the season."