There were moments during the City League championship game when the Centennial High School softball team could have given up.
But according to junior pitcher Natalie Thies, the Stars never lost hope when they fell behind visiting Briggs by two runs, and their perseverance paid off as they erupted for nine runs in the bottom of the fifth inning en route to a 10-2 victory May 22 for their first City title since 2011.
"We were definitely concerned when we couldn't get our bats going for so long, but we never lost faith in ourselves or each other that we were going to come back to win this game," Thies said. "We knew that we could hit their pitcher (Randi Chalfant), so it was just a matter of staying aggressive and finding the gaps. Once the ball started falling for us, the hits and runs just kept coming."
Centennial finished 16-4 and Briggs, which lost in the City championship game for the eighth consecutive season, finished 16-12.
"This means a lot to all of us because we've wanted to be City championships the past three years," Thies said.
Thies limited Briggs to four hits, no walks and no earned runs and had eight strikeouts.
Briggs scored one run in the top of the first inning and the other in the top of the third to take a 2-0 lead. The Stars scored their first run in the bottom of the third.
"Natalie stayed focused and pitched a great game, but we kicked the ball around to put ourselves in a bad position," coach Malik Dean said. "Their pitcher kept us off balance and their defense made plays behind her, but we stayed aggressive at the plate and hit the ball hard until we started to find some gaps."
In the fifth inning, Centennial had six hits and scored four unearned runs on two errors by Briggs.
Molly Brumfield led the Stars at the plate, going 2-for-4 with three RBI, and Katie Conroy, Aryn Brnusak and Taryn Wells each had two RBI.
"We knew we just needed to get our bats going and we were confident it was going to happen at some point," Brumfield said. "Once we started hitting the ball, we got excited and even more confident and we were able to blow the game open."
Baseball team posted winning season
In its first season under coach Mitch Fleisher, the baseball team finished 14-7 overall and went 11-3 in the City-North, placing second behind Whetstone (14-0) as Northland (10-4) and Brookhaven (9-5) rounded out the top four.
Seeded 16th of 27 teams, Centennial lost to 17th-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek 7-4 in the first round of the Division II district tournament May 13 at home.
"We had a very successful season," Fleisher said. "I'm real happy with how we competed. We played our hearts out and we played at a high level for most of the season.
"Our best game was the way we played at Whetstone (a 9-8, eight-inning loss May 7). We came back to tie it (with five runs in the top of the seventh inning) and we had our chances to win the game."
The Braves lose two senior starters in Blake Harrington (2B) and Justin Taylor (P/CF).
Taylor batted .364, with 18 RBI, seven doubles and four triples and was honorable mention all-league.
Key players who are expected to return include juniors Luke Burton (LF/1B), Adam Eberly (RF/C), Cole Murray (C), Phil Pezzatta (3B) and Gus Ricksecker (SS/P), sophomores Gimmy Martinez (P/1B) and Elgin White (3B/OF) and freshmen Jacob Palmer (SS/P) and Jackson Rudoff (P/OF).
Ricksecker hit .440,with a home run, eight doubles and 29 stolen bases and was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league. Martinez batted .462 with 26 RBI and was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league, Rudoff hit .420 with 22 RBI and 24 runs and was first-team all-league, and Murray batted .375 with 33 runs and was honorable mention all-league.
White hit .406, Burton batted .358 with 15 stolen bases, Eberly had 11 RBI and 17 runs and Pezzatta hit .370. Palmer was 2-0 on the mound.
"I'm very excited about next year because we have some big contributors coming back and our j.v. team had a good season," Fleisher said.
Ifedi, Williams advance to regional in track
Chisom Ifedi of the boys track and field team qualified for the Division I regional meet that began May 28 and concludes Friday, May 30, at Pickerington North in two field events.
The junior won the high jump (6 feet, 5 inches) and placed second in the long jump (22-7) in the district 2 meet held May 20, 21 and 24 at Hilliard Darby, as the top four finishers in each event advanced to regional.
Ifedi was the lone regional qualifier for the boys team during the first two days of district competition.
Qualifying for regional for the girls team in the first two days of district was freshman Jazille Williams, who placed fourth the high jump (5-2).
The top four finishers in each regional event advance to state June 6 and 7 at Ohio State.