The Centennial High School softball team wasn't involved in many close games while earning a 16-4 overall record this season.
The Stars won by 10 or more runs 12 times, and they were outscored 44-8 in their losses.
However, when Centennial had opportunities to rally from small deficits to win crucial games, it capitalized on both chances en route to winning its first City League-North Division and City titles since 2011.
After falling behind 3-0 in a key City-North contest against two-time defending City champion Whetstone on April 11, the Stars scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and another in the seventh before freshman third baseman Katie Conroy hit a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the eighth for a 4-3 victory.
The Stars also rallied from a two-run deficit to beat Briggs 10-2 in the City championship game May 22 at home.
"We weren't involved in many comebacks this season, but the two times we needed to come back to win, our kids came through both times," coach Malik Dean said. "Our kids showed a lot of character in our comebacks against Whetstone and Briggs, and that's what championship teams do."
Against Briggs, junior Natalie Thies pitched a four-hitter with eight strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs. Sophomore right fielder Molly Brumfield went 2-for-4 with three RBI, and Conroy, senior first baseman Aryn Brnusak and sophomore catcher Taryn Wells each had two RBI.
Centennial also won at Whetstone 2-0 on May 7 on the way to finishing 14-0 in the City-North. Thies tossed a four-hitter and sophomore center fielder Alyssa Dean drove in both runs with a double in the top of the second.
Rounding out the City-North standings were Whetstone (12-2), Northland (7-6), Beechcroft (6-5), Brookhaven (5-6), Linden-McKinley (4-10), Mifflin (3-9) and Columbus East (0-13).
In the Division II district tournament, the 10th-seeded Stars beat 17th-seeded Beechcroft 12-10 on May 12 at home before losing at second-seeded Jonathan Alder 15-0 in five innings in the second round May 15.
"Winning the City championship is a big building block for our program," Brumfield said. "Beating Whetstone twice during the season gave us a lot of confidence."
The Stars lose two senior starters in Brnusak and Alyah Dean (SS).
Dean batted .317 with 10 RBI and 16 runs and was second-team all-league. Brnusak batted .469 with 10 RBI and 17 runs and was honorable mention all-league.
Starters expected to return are juniors Emily Erenpreiss (2B), Micaela Roper (designated player) and Thies, sophomores Brumfield, Alyssa Dean and Wells and freshmen Conroy and Alexis Thompson (LF).
Thies, who went 14-3 with a 1.83 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 88 innings, was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league. She also batted .385 with a homer, 20 RBI and 13 runs.
Brumfield (.492, 2 homers, 28 RBI, 30 runs) and Alyssa Dean (.511, 20 RBI, 23 runs) were first-team all-league. Conroy (.375, 15 RBI, 20 runs) and Erenpreiss (.481, 2 homers, 22 RBI, 24 runs) were second-team all-league, and Thompson (.420, 2 homers, 30 RBI, 26 runs) was honorable mention all-league.
"We have most of our team coming back, so I expect more of the same next season," coach Dean said. "We'll just need to develop some of our younger players so that we're deeper next year."
Tennis team produced winning record
The boys tennis team went 6-4 overall and finished third (3-2) in the City-North behind Whetstone (5-0) and Beech-croft (4-1) and ahead of Mifflin (2-3), Brookhaven (1-4) and Linden (0-5).
In the City coaches tournament May 6 at Columbus South and May 7 at Wolfe Park, seniors Weston Clarke and Ben Oatney went 3-0 to capture the doubles title. They defeated Whetstone's Alexander Embaie and Andrew Gadalski 6-1, 6-4 in the final.
Then in a Division I sectional tournament May 16 at Hilliard Davidson, juniors Martin Yzeiri and Sean Perry each went 0-1 in singles and senior Amad Hussain and junior Edmond Shek went 0-1 in doubles.
Junior Ben Bendolph and freshman Sharif Moon had to default their doubles match because Moon wasn't available to play. Coach Barbara Stevenson said she couldn't find anyone to play a third singles position at sectional because the rest of her varsity players had other obligations.
"The biggest highlight of our season was (Oatney) and (Clarke) winning the coaches tournament because that made both of them first-team all-league," Stevenson said. "We're losing our top two players in (Oatney) and (Clarke), so next season will probably be a building year. But we have five players returning (including junior Phillip Wilburn) and most of them are planning on improving their skills this summer, so I'm hoping that we'll have a winning record and be competitive in our league again."