The Olentangy Liberty High School softball team that was young and inexperienced at the start of the season appears to be coming of age.

The Olentangy Liberty High School softball team that was young and inexperienced at the start of the season appears to be coming of age.

The Patriots, who lost seven starters from a year ago and have no seniors on the roster, won just two of their first 10 games. However, they entered their OCC-Capital Division game against Big Walnut last Wednesday having won four of their last five, including 5-3 in eight innings over league-rival Watkins Memorial last Monday.

"We definitely have improved," coach Kate Ross said. "The maturity of the girls as players has improved a ton. They're making fewer mistakes. I feel that the girls have turned it around."

Trailing Watkins Memorial 3-1 in the top of the seventh inning, the Patriots rallied to score two runs on singles by outfielder Maria Fortunato, first baseman Amanda Hatfield, designated hitter Nikki Muntean and outfielder Allyson VanGundy. The hits by Hatfield, Muntean and VanGundy came with two outs.

The Patriots then scored two runs in the eighth on a single by outfielder Kristen Wisecarver, a walk by third baseman Caitlin Adkins, a sacrifice bunt by Fortunato and RBI-singles by shortstop Kirstie Fehrenbach and second baseman Lillie Norris.

"It's a great come-from-behind win," Ross said. "I'm proud of the girls for battling through the game. It would've been easy to quit, but they didn't. They buckled down."

Cara Hunsinger limited Watkins Memorial, which had defeated the Patriots 4-2 on April 9, to three hits and didn't allow an earned run.

"We didn't give up," Fehrenbach said. "We followed through. I think this win will set the mood for the rest of the season. I think it will get us on a roll. Watkins has a really good program, so this win was a big confidence-builder.

"This game was definitely a team effort. We wouldn't have won if everyone didn't do what they were supposed to and played their hardest."

Liberty will be looking to put forth the same effort at 7 p.m. today when it plays at Olentangy. The contest originally was scheduled for last Tuesday but was postponed because the Braves had to make up an OCC-Cardinal Division game against Westerville South.

The Patriots won the first four meetings -- 4-2 last season, 1-0 in 2006, 1-0 in 10 innings in 2005 and 6-5 in 2004.

"We would love to keep the streak intact," Fehrenbach said. "We've lost so many players (from last season), so it will be a challenge. But I think we can do it. (Beating Olentangy) is a school tradition. We want to keep it going for the sake of the seniors before us.

"You know the girls from the other team. You want to be friendly, but it's such a big game. My advice to (the players new to the rivalry) is to play your heart out and have fun."

A win over Liberty undoubtedly would provide Olentangy with a boost of confidence. The Braves entered their game against South last Tuesday having lost eight of their last 11. The last three of those losses came in the Worthington Classic last Saturday -- to Thomas Worthington 16-0 in six innings, to Worthington Kilbourne 11-2 and to Dublin Scioto 12-8.

"We've had our ups and downs," Olentangy coach Marty Mearhoff said. "We are a very young team and it shows from time to time. But when we play good defense and have good pitching, we can compete basically with just about every team we play."

Olentangy played in the Worthington Classic without starters Meghan Mahoney (SS), Sarah Wojta (OF) and Addie Welch (DH), all of whom were out of town on a school trip.

Through 16 games, Mahoney had a .340 batting average and a .415 on-base percentage. Welch was batting .289 and Wojta was at .275.

"Not to take anything away from those teams, but we were missing three solid hitters from our lineup," Mearhoff said.

Making matters worse for the Braves, starting pitcher Amanda Graham left the game against Thomas with a back injury and did not pitch against Kilbourne or Scioto. She was not expected to play last Tuesday, Mearhoff said.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Liberty and Olentangy softball teams:

LIBERTY

April 23 -- Lost to Dublin Jerome 4-2

*April 24 -- Defeated New Albany 12-3

Last Friday -- Game against Tipp City Tippecanoe in Centennial Stellar Classic canceled

Last Saturday -- Games against Creston Norwayne and Buckeye Valley in Stellar Classic canceled

*Last Monday -- Def. Watkins Memorial 5-3 in eight innings

*Last Wednesday -- Played Big Walnut

Today -- At Olentangy

Friday -- Home vs. Pickerington Central

*Monday -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto. The Patriots won 8-6 on April 16.

Tuesday -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*Wednesday -- At Franklin Heights. The Patriots won 10-2 on April 21.

Of note: The Patriots were 6-9 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Capital before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Capital game

OLENTANGY

*April 23 -- Lost to Jerome 3-2

April 24 -- Def. Delaware 5-3

Last Saturday -- Lost to Thomas Worthington 16-0; lost to Worthington Kilbourne 11-2; lost to Dublin Scioto 12-8 in Worthington Classic

*Last Monday -- Game against Westerville South postponed to last Tuesday

*Last Tuesday -- Played Westerville South

*Last Wednesday -- Played Pickerington Central

Today -- Home vs. Liberty

*Monday -- Home vs. Mount Vernon. The Braves lost 7-0 on April 16.

*Wednesday -- At Kilbourne. The Braves lost 6-3 on April 21.

Of note: The Braves were 8-11 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Cardinal game